Matter & Energy

Matter is composed of atoms or groups of atoms called molecules. The arrangement of particles in a material depends on the physical state of the substance. In a solid, particles form a compact structure that resists flow. Particles in a liquid have more energy than those in a solid. They can flow past one another, but they remain close. Particles in a gas have the most energy. They move rapidly and are separated from one another by relatively large distances.

Weak Force

The weak force lives up to its name—it is much weaker than the electromagnetic and strong forces. Like the strong force, it only acts over a short distance, about .01 fm. Unlike these other forces, however, the weak force affects all the particles in an atom. The electromagnetic force only affects the electrons and protons, and the strong force only affects the protons and neutrons. When a nucleus has too many protons to hold together or so many neutrons that the strong force squeezes too tightly, the weak force actually changes one type of particle into another. When an atom undergoes one type of decay, for example, the weak force causes a neutron to change into a proton, an electron, and an electron antineutrino. The total electric charge and the total energy of the particles remain the same before and after the change.