Starts With A Bang

Throwback Thursday: How stable is matter? (Synopsis)

Image credit: Dreamstime.

“I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility. Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time.” –Robert Browning

You’ve heard it said often that one thing remains true no matter what we discuss: that this, too, shall pass. The stars will eventually burn out, the galaxies will be driven apart, gravitational interactions will unbind everything, and even collapsed entities like black holes will decay away. But at a fundamental level, is that actually the case for matter itself?

Image credit: Super Kamiokande.

We’ve observed plenty of particle interactions and radioactive decays, but particles like the proton (and many other atomic combinations) appear to be truly stable. If that’s the case, we can set limits on how long the proton lifetime is, and constrain exotic hypotheses like Grand Unified Theories as a result!

Image credit: U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Not particularly relevant to this post, but I wanted to put it in anyway.

Come learn what the limits on the stability of matter are on this edition of Throwback Thursday.