What is the smallest particle in the universe? (What about the largest?)

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The universe is a big place, but it’s made out of small pieces. The periodic table includes elements such as oxygen, carbon and other building blocks that make up stars, cats or cups of coffee. But since the turn of the 20th century, scientists have been thinking about and finding smaller and smaller fundamental particles — those tinier than atoms that fill up the universe. So which of these fundamental particles is the smallest? And, conversely, which is the largest?

Don Lincoln, a senior scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), near Chicago, is one of the scientists trying to answer this question. At Fermilab, scientists use a particle accelerator to smash individual particles together and look at the debris — or possible new fundamental particles — that come out. Lincoln said there are two ways to measure the size of particles: investigating their mass and measuring their physical size, like calculating the diameter of a ball.

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