Fundamental Particles Collection

It seems like exciting times are ahead for theoretical physicists with the possible discovery of the Higgs boson. Perhaps you have ambitions to follow in the footsteps of Higgs or others like Einstein, Hawking, Green or Witten? Of course, the mathematics involved in the standard model of particle physics, which predicts the Higgs boson is very tricky, and as for the mathematics involved in string and M theory.... (for a fascinating account of strings, visit

Perhaps you hope in the future to make some wonderful discovery in mathematical physics? Or, perhaps you just want to understand more about the details of the way the universe works?

To assist you on your journeys we have collected together a selection of problems on NRICH related to the physics of fundamental particles. These involve a wide range of mathematical techniques and wonderful physical concepts. We hope that you enjoy them.

The Ultra Particle

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Explore the energy of this incredibly energetic particle which struck Earth on October 15th 1991

Universal Time, Mass, Length

Age 16 to 18 Short Challenge Level:

Can you work out the natural time scale for the universe?

Big and Small Numbers in Physics

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

Work out the numerical values for these physical quantities.


Age 16 to 18

Read all about electromagnetism in our interactive article.

Crystal Symmetry

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Use vectors and matrices to explore the symmetries of crystals.

Lennard Jones Potential

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Investigate why the Lennard-Jones potential gives a good approximate explanation for the behaviour of atoms at close ranges

Striking Gold

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Investigate some of the issues raised by Geiger and Marsden's famous scattering experiment in which they fired alpha particles at a sheet of gold.

Cobalt Decay

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Investigate the effects of the half-lifes of the isotopes of cobalt on the mass of a mystery lump of the element.

Which Twin Is Older?

Age 16 to 18

A simplified account of special relativity and the twins paradox.

Scientific Curves

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Can you sketch these difficult curves, which have uses in mathematical modelling?

Escape from Planet Earth

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

How fast would you have to throw a ball upwards so that it would never land?

Earth Orbit

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Follow in the steps of Newton and find the path that the earth follows around the sun.

Operating Machines

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

What functions can you make using the function machines RECIPROCAL and PRODUCT and the operator machines DIFF and INT?

The Real Hydrogen Atom

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Dip your toe into the world of quantum mechanics by looking at the Schrodinger equation for hydrogen atoms