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Essential Elements

42 43 thE four forcES holding the universe together All things interact with each other through four universal forces, carried by four types of waveparticles called gauge bosons. The electromagnetic force is carried by photons. Light, xrays, microwaves and radio waves are all wrigglings of electromagnetic fields at different frequencies. This dual force attracts electrons to protons and causes most annihilations between matter and antimatter see below. It is veritably the prime mover of all chemical reactions. Acting over distances the size of a nucleus, the strong force binds quarks by exchanging eight types of gluon, the carriers of colour charge. The strong force only affects quarks and gluons. Particle decay is governed by the weak force, which acts over extremely short ranges. Changing a down quark into an up, for example, would transform a neutron into a proton and hence one element into the next. Carried by W and Z vector bosons, the weak force also allows neutrinos, very light fundamental particles, to perform their rare interactions with everyday matter. Gravity, although the weakest force, works over almost infinite distances, extending its grip over all matter. Finding a quantum explanation for gravity has had its up and downs, though a carrier boson, the graviton, has been tentatively described.
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