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Electrons as Elementary Particles

weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force, fundamental forces, electromagnetic force, elementary particles

The electron is one of the most fundamental and most important of elementary particles. The electron is also one of the few elementary particles that is stable, meaning it can exist by itself for a long period of time. Most other elementary particles can exist independently for only a fraction of a second.

Electrons are among the smallest of all elementary particles and have no detectable shape or structure. At the same time, they do have a property that scientists can measure called spin, or intrinsic angular momentum. An electronís spin makes it act as a tiny magnet. Electrons can spin clockwise or counterclockwise.

The electron is affected by three of the four fundamental forces that define the nature and interaction of everything in the universe: gravitation, the electromagnetic force, and the weak nuclear force. Gravitation is the attractive force between every object in the universe that has mass. Gravitation affects the electron because the electron has mass. The electromagnetic force affects objects with an electric charge, so the electronís negative electric charge subjects it to the forces of electromagnetism. The electron attracts positively charged particles, such as protons, and repels negatively charged particles, such as other electrons. The electron is also sensitive to the weak nuclear force, a very feeble force that affects certain types of elementary particles and is only important over very short distances. The one fundamental force that does not affect the electron is the strong nuclear force, which is the force that binds protons and neutrons in the atomís nucleus.

Article key phrases:

weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force, fundamental forces, electromagnetic force, elementary particles, attractive force, gravitation, neutrons, protons, nucleus, electrons, atom, electron, fraction, spin, universe, interaction, long period of time, smallest, mass, scientists, nature, object, structure, property, time

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