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The frontier of knowledge

Human curiosity knows no bounds. We speculate about the evolution of life and our origins. We even ask questions about the birth of the Universe and its ultimate fate.


A region of star formation. Gravity pulls matter together into vast clouds of gas from which stars condense and ignite.
Today, most scientists believe that the Universe began in a Big Bang - a cataclysmic explosion that happened some 15 thousand million years ago. Back then, the whole Universe was no bigger than a single atom. It was an incredibly dense, hot place very unlike the Universe of today. Ever since then, it has been expanding and cooling. Matter has formed itself into galaxies, stars, planets, and eventually life.

All these forms of matter are made from just a few basic building blocks, the fundamental particles, whose behaviour is governed by four forces.

Particle physics is the study of these basic particles of matter and the forces that act upon them. It also looks at how matter evolved in the Universe, especially in the first seconds of the Big Bang, when many of the governing features of the Universe today were established.

Turn to next page for Introduction to Particle Physics
or learn more about
What is CERN ?


Particle Physics Education CD-ROM 1999 CERN