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Physics' Big Theory of Matter and Energy Has 50th Birthday Party in Cleveland

A diagram of the Standard Model is seen outside the CERN research facility in Geneva, Switzerland. The theory, first proposed 50 years ago, predicts the fundamental particles and forces that underlie all of the known matter and forces in the universe.

Eight Nobel laureates are among the scientific luminaries gathering in Cleveland this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the most important theories in science.

The Standard Model of particle physics was proposed in the late 1960’s.

Co-organizer of the  Standard Model at 50 event at Case Western Reserve University, theoretical physicist Glenn Starkman, says the theory provides "a complete working description of how all the fundamental particles of nature, as far as we can tell, interact with one another."

The Standard Model, he says, "is one of the crowning achievements of humankind.”

Starkman says the event honors the theoretical physicists who developed the theory, and those who verified it over the years. 

“This is the work of thousands of people. Thousands of physicists doing these experiments over the course of decades, building these accelerators and detectors and analyzing the data."

"It was a monumental task to test the Standard Model and look for the particles it predicted,” says Starkman.

Under the theory, the familiar protons and neutrons are made up of even smaller particles called quarks.

Starkman says the theory predicts a menagerie of 25 particles that explain everything except gravity.

“Six quarks, six charged and neutral leptons, that’s twelve; the photon, that’s thirteen; the eight gluons, that’s 21; the three weak bosons, that’s 24 and then the Higgs boson which is 25.”

The final piece, the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012.

The Standard Model at 50 event includes a public lecture on Sunday by Nobel Laureate David Gross.