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# Overview of the Study of Matter

By Ron Kurtus (updated 8 February 2022)

A major aspect of Physics concerns the study of matter and how the various forms of energy affect matter.

Matter is defined as anything that takes up space and has mass. The measurement of mass is often done by comparing with a standard mass.

There are several theories about what matter consists of and how it behaves. Also, matter can be broken into particles and even waves. There are different states of matter, depending on temperature and pressure on the material.

Questions you may have include:

• What are the theories of matter?
• What are the particles of matter?
• What are the states of matter?

This lesson will answer those questions. Useful tool: Units Conversion

## Theories of matter

Originally, matter was defined simply as something that takes up space and has mass. It is all the stuff around us.

In an effort to understand matter, scientists came up with several theories about what matter consists of.

On closer examination of matter, at the microscopic level, it was found that matter was not continuous but was made up of tiny particles in motion. This brought about the Molecular or Kinetic Theory of Matter.

The Atomic Theory of Matter states that matter consists atoms that make up the molecules. The Quantum Theory states that the particles of matter can also be in the form of waves. This is also known as the Wave-Particle Duality.

## Particles of matter

Particles of matter start with molecules, which are made up of atoms bound together by electrical forces.

It was thought that atoms were the smallest units of matter and were indivisible. However, further experiments showed that atoms were made up of even smaller subatomic particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons.

It was then found that protons and neutrons where made up of even smaller particles called quarks. Also, a number of other particles were discovered that were not part of the atom.

To add to the confusion, experiments showed that electrons and the other subatomic particles can act as if they were waves. This was called the particle-wave duality.

Finally, although we call them particles, envisioning tiny little balls, there are theories that they exist as strings or clouds.

## States of matter

Certain materials can exist in several different states or phases, provided the molecules do not break down or result in a chemical reaction. These phases depend on the temperature and external pressure on the material. These states are:

• Solid
• Liquid
• Gas

Liquids and gases are considered fluids. They have a number of characteristics in common.

There are also some exotic states of matter:

• Plasmas
• Bose-Einstein condensates

## Summary

In the study of matter, there are theories about what matter consists of and how it behaves. Matter can be broken into particles and even waves. There are different states of matter, depending on temperature and pressure on the material.

## Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

### Websites

Matter - Wikipedia

Matter is the Stuff Around You - Chem4Kids.com

Matter: Definition & the Five States of Matter - LiveScience.com

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Physics Resources

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