Students discover the rules of particle transformations using transformation diagrams.
This activity enables students to discover some basic rules of particle transformations and to interpret simple particle transformation diagrams, commonly known as Feynman diagrams. The student guide addresses the class as members of the Student Research Committee (SRC) in the imaginary Particle Decay Observation Facility (PDOF), where they analyze observations of particle transformations (decays) to make conclusions about the rules which govern them. There are three sets of eight interactions in the form of Feynman diagrams. Each set shows transformations of a particular class of particles—gauge boson, meson, or lepton— into other particles. Working in teams and using reference materials, students figure out the conservation rules which govern these transformations. Then, lead a discussion in which students synthesize team conclusions into a system of rules. Students can take their interpretations to the next level with an optional “zoo” set of more difficult but interesting interactions.