A lot of the information below comes from EarthSky.org.

What follows is from my extremely limited and non-scientific perspective.

Today’s eighth grader is learning things about which I am only vaguely aware.

Here’s what I know:

The ancient Greeks had various ideas on the nature of matter in the universe. Then in the 1600’s, and roughly at about the same time, telescopes and microscopes were invented. More recently, but still a long, long time ago, I found myself sitting in a high school science class. The teacher and the book agreed, “The foundational building blocks of all matter in the universe are atoms made up of three constituent parts: Neutrons, Protons, and Electrons. That was pretty good stuff at the time, but apparently, we’ve moved on.

Eighth graders know that we are staring deeper and with much greater focus into the very cosmos with space-based telescopes, and that we are taking a similarly expanded look down into the fabric of the cosmos by colliding particles at high speed in order to study the results.

On that front, scientists are busy engineering high-speed atomic collisions in order to study the resultant sub-atomic debris. Think of a car crash, only much smaller and much, much faster.

How fast? These collision events occur over the span of ten millionths of a billionth of a billionth of a second.

Did you know?

We are beginning to study sub-atomic particles: Quarks and anti-quarks (with the same mass and with the same mass and energy at rest as its corresponding quark, but the opposite charge and quantum number) which sit on a kind of substrate named Gluon. Think of flecks of paint smeared on the asphalt after a car crash.

Why do we care? Because it is all part of filling out the cosmological equation that seems to govern the universe.

From the other end of the cosmological scale, our telescopes are studying Magnetars, which are Neutron Stars with a magnetic field a trillion times stronger than Earth. If one flies within 600 miles of us, our molecular structure would be pulled apart.

So let’s not let that happen!