Do subatomic particles have a colour?
Try 3 issues of BBC Science Focus Magazine for £5!
Asked by: Matilda Wicks, Brighton
Colour might seem like an inherent property of matter, but it’s actually the result of a process – specifically, how matter interacts with light. In an atom, the electrons orbiting the nucleus absorb the incoming light energy, and jump into higher energy levels.
These so-called ‘excited states’ are unstable, and in returning to their original state, the electrons re-emit certain wavelengths of light, which we see as a specific colour. But a solitary electron – or any subatomic particle – simply mops up the incoming light energy, and thus lacks any specific colour.
Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.
May Half Price Sale
- Save up to 52% when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.
- Stay up to date with the latest developments in the worlds of science and technology.