If you¿ve ever wondered what the heck quarks and neutrinos are, or why anyone cares, this is the site for you. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory¿s particle physicists have created an accessible, entertaining primer on, as they describe it, what the world is made of and what holds it together. Nine sections address these fundamental questions and explore related topics, such as how researchers collect and interpret particle data, and how particles decay into other particles. One not-to-be-missed chapter covers unsolved mysteries, delving into supersymmetry, string theory, dark matter and the possible existence of extra dimensions. Other features include particle physics news and a page of links to other particle physics education sites.
Image: SNOW CRYSTALS
A visit to this site might help you appreciate the season's flakes next time you're out shoveling them away. The author, California Institute of Technology professor Ken Libbrecht, explains everything you ever wanted to know¿and then some¿about natural snow, lab-made designer crystals and the physics behind them in a clear, concise fashion. The site also houses a collection of galleries showcasing the fruits of Libbrecht and his colleagues' efforts to develop techniques for growing snow crystals. Photographers can read up on trade secrets for capturing the fast-melting fluff, and amateur scientists can find kitchen-table projects to grow crystals at home.
String theory may well be one of the most important¿and baffling¿concepts in modern physics. And finally someone has put together a site that comes as close to Superstrings for Dummies as possible. The site's creator, John M. Pierre, starts by explaining how string theory relates to the Standard Model and then lays out the basics¿from open and closed strings to perturbation theory. Simple line drawings and animations help clarify the text. Another group of pages details more advanced topics and a summary reviews everything at the end. If at that point you are ready for more the site includes an extensive list of references at different levels, as well as a glossary and related links.
In 1928 physicist Paul Dirac wrote down a mathematical equation that had a revolutionary implication: for every particle, there exists an identical particle with the opposite charge¿an antiparticle. Since then scientists have detected not only antiparticles but also antinuclei and even antiatoms. This site, hosted by CERN, presents a highly readable account of the search for antimatter¿from Dirac's first musings to today's elaborate accelerator experiments¿and puts it in context with sections describing the origins of antimatter and antimatter in everyday life. Other features include a kids' corner, a questions and answers section, and live Webcasts.
We're not kidding. This may be the only site where you can enter the mind of Lucky, a Britney song character, and vote on which semiconductor or telecommunications technology will fill the meaningless void in her angst-ridden adolescent life. And it is definitely the only site that mixes celebrity headshots and hairy equations in a unique melding of physique and physics. In short, this silly site houses a lot of very serious material explaining the lasers that read Britney's CDs. Ms. Spears (and her clearly devoted fans in the Applied Physics Group at the University of Essex in England) should be proud.