What could be tinier than a Proton or a Neutron. Obviously electrons are smaller, but are there anything smaller or as small as the electrons? In the mid 20th century, the answer to this became quite clear. There were many "sub-subatomic" particles that interact with each other. These smaller than small particles are what makes up the Standard Model.
The standard models explains three of the 4 fundamental forces that occur in nature. The Weak Nuclear Force, the Strong Nuclear Force and the Electromagnetic Force. The force of gravity cannot currently be explained by the Standard Model. All matter has these interactions between them and are always subdued to each force (yes light is affected by gravity, hence light cannot escape a black hole).
There are three classifications in the Standard Model: the Lepton, the Quark and the Boson (currently sought after, the Higgs boson). These are the building blocks of the material world. For example a proton is made up of 2 up quarks and a down quark "glued" together by a gluon, which is a boson (or a force particle).
So what is an electron made of? Crazy enough, the little buggers are made of itself! They are their own type of particle. An electron is a Lepton.
The difference in Leptons and Quarks are the interactions that they participate in. Both are interactive and participants of the electromagnetic, gravitational and weak nuclear force. Leptons differ because they do not participate with the strong nuclear force.
So these are the building blocks of all matter, living or non-living. They are quite important in studying how things interact. Maybe one day we will learn how to build the strongest atom, piece together the lightest atom that can be harnessed... or build the most energetic atom and use it as fuel.
**Go Canada Go!**