What Particle Are You?

By Sean Carroll | April 25, 2012 8:45 am

A flowchart I put together for The Particle at the End of the Universe. Feel free to spread around, with appropriate attribution.

Sorry for the tiny writing, there are a lot of particles! Click to embiggen and get a legible version.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Higgs, Science, Top Posts
  • Tasha

    Very cool!

  • Bob

    I’m glad to see gravitons on the chart. I hope you will spend a few pages in the book explaining to us non-experts “Who needs them?” General Relativists don’t seem to need them because gravity is not a force, just the realization of spacetime curvature. Field Theorists seem to need them because gravity is a force, so a force carrying particle is needed.

  • AJKamper

    Shouldn’t it specify matter only, not antimatter? I ask because I’m an antineutrino, and gettin’ no love from the chart.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean Carroll

      Just think of yourself as matter, and all those other neutrinos as antimatter.

  • Dilaton

    Hey, that`s not fair I feel discriminated … 😛

    Nevertheless it is a nice and cool picture indeed 😀


  • Joshua

    I’m a positron. I have to say that your -1 = my +1. That’s a little weird.

    Maybe if I switch the charges while holding the entire thing up to a mirror…. hmm…. But then, there’s that weird Kaon oscillation channel I can’t quite understand.

  • Maarten Inklaar

    Looks nice. Just one pet peeve to complain about, for me (and about 5% of your male readers) the green and red letters have the same color.

  • DS4119268002

    Forgive my ignorance if I’m missing something here, but where’s the electron?

  • M. Chen

    It’s in the lower right, under charged leptons.

    +1 to this. I thought the Higgs field was the reason particles express mass, causing space-time curvature, which causes the phenomena we associate with gravity. Am I confused? Where does the graviton fit in?

  • Fred

    Sean, for “gauge boson” you wrote “you reflect a symmetry of nature”. What precisely did you mean by this? Thanks.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean Carroll

      Fred– gauge bosons are “connections” that relate other fields at different points in space, which can be rotated into each other by a symmetry. Yes, by itself that’s almost impossible to understand. I will be tackling the topic in the book, or see this intro on Wikipedia:


  • jemand


    Stop fussing so much. You’re probably Majorana anyway.

  • http://garrettlisi.com Garrett

    Cute. For the starting bubble, maybe the question should be simplified to “How many particles are you made of?” since “smaller” is inaccurate for the singular case. For the neutron, would be fun to add “Enjoy your (approximately) fifteen minutes of fame!”

  • Mario Enrique

    My lord there is room for the antigraviton, just the one who prevents matter antimatter anihilations by means of a repulsive version of gravity. Look beyond please!

  • Scott M.

    Please excuse my ignorance, but why is the baryon described as “a kind of fermion”, but fermions are on the “one particle” branch, while baryons are on the “just a few particles” branch?

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean Carroll

      Scott– I labeled “fermions” those particles that are “elementary,” i.e. not made of other particles. But there are also fermions that are composite, e.g. baryons. Fermions are just particles that take up space. The confusion reflects the fact that the Standard Model isn’t really a flowchart.

      Igor– I don’t know that book, so I can’t say.

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  • Chris

    @12 jemand


  • BGC

    In my geekiness, I read “Do you feel the strong force” as “Do you feel strong in the Force.”

  • http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~sgralla/ Sam Gralla

    I must say that is a very entertaining chart. I love “ignore the haters”.

  • Julien

    Sniff, I’m an exciton and nobody loves me. :-(

  • Julien
  • jh

    Glueballs are hypothetical at best? Come on. Just because they are hard to detect experimentally because of mixing with meson states hardly makes them “hypothetical at best.” There are likely
    candidates in the particle zoo and reasonable estimates of their masses in lattice QCD.

  • Argos

    “I never heard the word embiggen before moving to Springfield.”
    “Why not? It’s a perfectly cromulent word.”

  • Gizelle Janine

    …So what do you have against atoms, Sean? Something you’d like to say? I like how you give us no choice, here. Be ashamed, we’re out to get you, now. *dramatic music*

  • Gizelle Janine

    @BCG: Same here…hehehe.

  • Micke

    I’m curious what you mean by “taking up space?”?
    You seem to be refering to the statistics of particles. Maybe something like “do you like particles of your own kind?” would be better.

  • Gordon

    Hmmm, will it fit on a T-shirt?

  • Bill

    Great chart. I must say, though, for your hadron branch, you should ask about how many net quarks you are talking about. At any given instant, the average proton has at least about 103 quarks and 100 anti-quarks (see http://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/documents/PUS/dis/hera.htm, http://www.nano.org.uk/news/221/, and http://www.rikenresearch.riken.jp/eng/research/6845, among others). Of course, the whole standard model is much more complicated than you have here, but over all, very cool chart.

  • dbruce

    As an inquisitive Positronium, I would like to know exactly what you mean by weirdo? Is that a personal or scientific remark?

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  • Mandeep

    This is cute and fun and what i love most about it is the incredible positivity (in a psychological sense) throughout — e.g. “You’re a proton – Go you!”


    Nice work, Sean!


  • Chris

    Actually instead of take up space, I suggest “Do you like to be with others exactly like you” Better describes fermions and bosons

  • Ray

    You might want to split up the “what is your charge?” bubble for quarks and leptons. It seems like you can follow the flow chart from the lepton box to the various types of quarks. I trust you don’t want to indicate that neutrinos are quarks and down quarks are leptons.

  • John Dreher

    You show the Higgs field as the only field in empty space, but gravity and EM fields have infinite range, so they permeate all space. Indeed gravity creates space in a sense: no gravity = no space-time.

  • David

    Just saw this at the Compton series lectures at U of C (attributed to you as per request). Great idea!

  • Anna Maria

    Yupeeeehh!! I just discovered my husband is a Fermion. He just takes up space!!

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  • Marsha

    Yes, echo 34. Ray Says comment: the ‘what is your charge’ should be on separate tracks for quarks vs. leptons so it does not appear possible to follow a lepton through to a quark, for example. The value of the charge requires the particles to correctly select, but the visual form of the chart gives the appearance that all 4 charge options are possible states when really they are not.

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  • Leoncefalo

    I am a neutrino – moving at c squared most of the time, but no direction, erratic – but then the speedometer says I am moving less than c squared – how much I don’t know, and then – I have this strange feeling I am something different – something more than I was before -I can even say that I AM something now – I mean something that is ‘solid’ – I feel friction – rubbing I am moving much slower – getting more solid – heavy, is that the word – I can say now that I have a body – yes, I have a body that is slowing down – getting slower and more solid. . . .where I was not before, now I am something. . .something that comes after being nothing. .

    .I think that is the right expression. . . ..something from nothing. . . . .

    you asked me which particle I am. . . . .I am a particle that is the something from the nothing. . .now I have a whole bunch of choices. . .electron, proton, neutron, meson, . . . . . . .

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  • Jim Fowler

    I am really psyched to have some groovy particles since I am 99.99% empty space…

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  • Dano

    Except for one thing………………….doesn’t seem to be as hard to notice to me as unnoticed as it seems to be. But, the problem with understanding the universe is the following: Consider a nut in a in a large tracked dirt moving vehicle, aka cat, etc. What is a nut going to tell you about an 30 ton cat that it is a part of? You see the problem? Btw, you are no where near as significant to our earth, let alone the solar system, milky way galaxy and the entire universe. as the smallest nut is to our biggest earth mover! lol I mean no where near that much significance just compared to the earth alone. You are also made of the same particles as the rest of the universe, including your brain, so anything above what your eyes seem to indicate means you are ASSUMING THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE AND THAT YOU CONTROL THE ELECTRONS IN YOUR BRAIN! Until anyone can even arrive at a single shred of evidence that you actually can control an electron, then most of the above or below is electrons playing games with electrons! Ie SPECULATION!

    The double slit experiment shows electrons start existing ie the wave function is collapsed the instant it suspects you are aware of its possible existence? The polarized pair experiment shows every particle in the universe has instantaneous contact with every other particle in the universe, that means the light waves hitting your retinas are old news to the electrons inside your brain!

    Newtons law that “for every action their is an equal and opposite reaction” excludes any variability in our universe, meaning this whole subatomic thread was set in stone ie predetermined about the same time the universe was “reset” ie started over, “the big bang” so please, if anybody can show me that you can make a decision, that actually changes your future, i would be glad to see that. Yea the bible, right? lol


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


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