Nuclear physics is the study of the composition, behavior and interaction of atomic nuclei and their constituent parts.

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Why does the Sun's (or other stars') nuclear reaction not use up all its “fuel” immediately?

The temperature and pressure everywhere inside the Sun reach the critical point to start nuclear reactions - there is no reason for it to take such a long time to complete the reaction process. Just ...
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Why is there a scarcity of lithium?

One of the major impediments to the widespread adoption of electric cars is a shortage of lithium for the batteries. I read an article a while back that says that there is simply not enough lithium ...
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In the earth's crust, why is there far more uranium than gold?

In parts per million in the Earth's crust Uranium is around 1.8ppm and Gold 0.003ppm. Given that it takes far more energy to create Uranium than Gold, why is this?
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Why can Hiroshima be inhabited when Chernobyl cannot?

There was an atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, but today there are residents in Hiroshima. However, in Chernobyl, where there was a nuclear reactor meltdown, there are no residents living today (or ...
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What practical issues remain for the adoption of Thorium reactors?

From what I've read on thorium reactors, there's enormous benefit to them. Their fuel is abundant enough to power human civilization for centuries, their fission products are relatively short-lived, ...
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Can the solar system really fit in a thimble?

Almost every time somebody talks about atoms, at some point they mention something like this: If we remove the spaces between the atoms and atomic components, we can fit the solar system in a ...
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Can Jupiter be ignited?

Our solar system itself contains two candidate "Earths" One is Jupiter's moon Europa and another is Saturn's moon Titan. Both of them have the problem of having at low temperature as Sun's heat ...
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Why did “tickling the dragons tail” by Louis Slotin not cause an explosion?

I have been reading the excellent Command and Control by Eric Schlosser and discovered more about Louis Slotin's experiment with "tickling the dragons tail" and the infamous Demon Core. What I don't ...
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How do control rods work?

I understand the basic idea of nuclear fission: put a bunch of fissionable material together and let the neutrons fly. An atom gets split, kicking out a few more neutrons, which split other atoms, ...
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Why do electrons occupy the space around nuclei, and not collide with them?

We all learn in grade school that electrons are negatively-charged particles that inhabit the space around the nucleus of an atom, that protons are positively-charged and are embedded within the ...
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Why is technetium unstable?

Is there a simple account of why technetium is unstable? From the Isotopes section of Wikipedia's article on Technetium: Technetium, with atomic number (denoted Z) 43, is the lowest-numbered ...
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How does Positronium exist?

I've just recently heard of Positronium, an "element" with interesting properties formed by an electron and positron, and I was shocked to hear that physicists were actually working with this element, ...
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How can a proton be converted to a neutron via positron emission and yet gain mass?

The mass of a neutron is greater than mass of a proton so how is it possible in positron emission for a proton to form a neutron and a positron?
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Which experiment gave scientists reason to believe nuclear fission/fusion produced energy?

Every piece of knowledge in science has a beginning lying in someone's experiment. I would like to know which experiment gave scientists the reason to believe nuclear fission/fusion existed and was ...
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Why are pear-shaped nuclei possible?

In a recent question, Ben Crowell raised an observation which really puzzled me. I obtained a partial answer by looking in the literature, but I would like to know if it's on the right track, and a ...
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Why is the nucleus of an Iron atom so stable?

Lighter nuclei liberate energy when undergoing fusion, heavier nuclei when undergoing fission. What is it about the nucleus of an Iron atom that makes it so stable? Alternatively: Iron has the ...
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What stabilizes neutrons against beta decay in a neutron star?

Free neutrons are known to undergo beta decay with a half-life of slightly above 10 minutes. Binding with other nucleons stabilizes the neutrons in an atomic nucleus, but only if the fraction of ...
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Is there a sound theoretical argument against inner-shell induced nuclear chain reactions?

There is a claim often made about cold fusion, that it is excluded theoretically. The main theoretical argument is that electronic energies are too low to overcome the Coulomb barrier, since d-d ...
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How many times has the “stuff” in our solar system been recycled from previous stars?

Is there a cosmologist in the house? I've got a basic understanding (with some degree of error) of some simple facts: The Universe is a little over 13 billion years old. Our galaxy is almost that ...
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Turned to steel in the great magnetic field

This is obviously a "fun" question, but I'm sure it still has valid physics in it, so bear with me. How great of a magnetic field would you need to transmute other elements into iron/nickel, if ...
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Phase factors under rotations of strong and weak isospin

The strong isospin raising operator changes a $d$ quark into a $u$: $$ \tau_+ \big|d\big> = \big|u\big> $$ However, for antiquarks, there is an additional phase factor: $$ \tau_+ \big|\bar ...
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1answer
540 views

How come random matrices can predict energy spectra of heavy atoms?

Some of the applications of random matrices is to find the spectra of heavy atoms in nuclear physics which are usually difficult to find otherwise. How can starting from randomness of some kind, ...
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Long time deviations from exponential decay in radioactivity

Are there any examples of common substances whose decay is not exponential? We're used to thinking about radioactivity in terms of half-lives. This is a concept that makes sense only for a decay that ...
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Why do all elements above $\require{mhchem}\ce{Fe}$ not decay to $\ce{Fe}$?

OK, so $\ce{Fe}$ is the most 'stable element'. As such, why do all elements above it not decay into $\ce{Fe}$? In all cases, would it not lead to an increase in binding energy and therefore energy ...
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Age of the Earth and the star that preceded the Sun

One of the great unheralded advances made in the history of science was the ability to determine the age of Earth based on the decay of isotopic uranium. Based on the apparent abundance of uranium in ...
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Why are alpha particles such a prominent form of radiation and not other types of nucleon arrangement?

It is said in many textbooks that alpha decay involves emitting alpha particles, which are very stable. Indeed, the binding energy (~28.3 MeV) is higher than for $Z$-neighboring stable isotopes. But ...
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How often does nuclear fusion occur within the human body?

I'm just curious. I figure atoms fuse occasionally just by chance, like quantum tunneling or rogue waves. Is this true? If so, any idea how often?
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Protons' repulsion within a nucleus

Do the protons inside the nucleus repel each other by the electrostatic force? If they do, why doesn't the repulsion drive the protons apart so that the nuclei get disintegrated?
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Hydrogen as a fuel in Sun

The source of Sun's incessant energy is hydrogen; which is continuously converting to helium through nuclear fusion reaction releasing energy. Why does not all hydrogen convert into helium in one big ...
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1answer
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Spallation neutron generation and pure U-238 reactors

Main question: Is it possible to achieve net power generation based on linear proton accelerator and U-238 target? In the proposed reactor design there is a proton beam with energy ~10 GeV, and on ...
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How do we know that the nucleus isn't a quark-gluon plasma?

The standard picture of the nucleus of atom is that is several distinct nucleons, which themselves are composed of quarks. However, it seems to me like a much simpler picture is that the nucleus is ...
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Nuclear fusion: what causes this “resonance” peak?

Can anyone explain why the $^{11}\mathrm{B}\mathrm{H}$ fusion cross-section has a peak near 150 keV, and why $\mathrm{D}\mathrm{D}$ and $\mathrm{D}\mathrm{T}$ have no such sharp peaks?
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How do we know that some radioactive materials have a half life of millions or even billions of years?

If a radioactive material takes a very long time to decay, how is its half life measured or calculated? Do we have to actually observe the radioactive material for a very long time to extrapolate its ...
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Why does nuclear fuel not form a critical mass in the course of a meltdown?

A BWR reactor core may contain up to 146 tons of uranium. Why does it not form a critical mass when molten? Are there any estimates of the critical mass of the resulting zirconium alloy, steel, ...
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Why are alpha particles made of 2 protons and neutrons?

When experiencing alpha decay, atoms shed alpha particles made of 2 protons and 2 neutrons. Why can't we have other types of particles made of more or less protons?
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1answer
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Why did nuclear testing not result in nuclear winter?

According to Wikipedia over 2000 nuclear tests have been performed since the Manhattan Project. If nuclear war would bring about a nuclear winter, why didn't testing do? Were they too much spread out ...
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Is there any thing other than time that “triggers” a radioactive atom to decay?

Say you have a vial of tritium and monitor their atomic decay with a geiger counter. How does an atom "know" when it's time to decay? It seems odd that all the tritium atoms are identical except with ...
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1answer
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What happens to Protons and Electrons when a Neutron star forms?

What happens to Protons and Electrons when a Neutron star forms? At some point gravity overcomes the Pauli Exclusion Principle ( I assume) and they are all forced together. What happens in the ...
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On the theoretical aspects of the development of the first nuclear bombs

I've just read that 68 years ago Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, which made me wonder about some rather historical facts about the development of the first nuclear bombs; they seem to be several ...
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Nuclear physics from perturbative QFT

Is there a renormalizable QFT that can produce a reasonably accurate description of nuclear physics in perturbation theory? Obviously the Standard Model cannot since QCD is strongly coupled at nuclear ...
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With what probability does nuclear fusion occur at energies far below the Coulomb barrier?

Even at the core of the sun, the temperature of $\sim 10^7$ K only results in $kT\sim1$ keV, which is about a thousand times less than the electrical potential energy of $\sim1$ MeV needed in order to ...
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What does a nucleus look like?

It's a Christmas time and so I hope I'll be pardoned for asking a question which probably doesn't make much sense :-) In standard undergraduate nuclear physics course one learns about models such as ...
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Why some nuclei with “magic” numbers of neutrons have a half-life less than their neighbor isotopes?

It's easy to find the "magic" numbers of neutrons on the diagrams of alpha-decay energy: 82, 126, 152, 162. Such "magic" nuclei should be more stable than their neighbors. But why some nuclei ...
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Pictures of nuclear explosions some milli/nano seconds after detonation

Where I can find photos of nuclear explosions just after detonation (before 5-10 ms, the shorter the better)?
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Having the same number of neutrons

Sorry if this is a silly question. If I understand correctly, for two atoms "having the same number of protons" is equivalent to "being of the same element", while "having the same number of protons ...
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The life of proton

I have two questions regarding protons 1) Wikipedia says Mean lifetime of a proton $>2.1×10^{29}$ years (stable) Obviously this means practically nothing happens to a proton, but what does ...
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1answer
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Are the neutrons in a neutron star on orbitals as in atomic nuclei?

Does the internal structure of a neutron star resemble anything like that of an atomic nucleus? I.e., are the neutrons arranged in a shell like structure with different energy levels, and without a ...
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Are the protons and neutrons in the nucleus arranged in any particular way?

I was wondering this: suppose you have two oxygen atoms. They will both have 8 protons and 8 neutrons in the nucleus (at least if they are the most common isotope). Now, will all those particles be ...
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Why is storage of spent nuclear fuel dangerous?

Just what the title states; there's a good deal of noise made about transport, and storage of spent nuclear fuel. Why all the hullabaloo when the fuel is all spent?
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Why aren't betavoltaics and alphavoltaics batteries widely used?

Betavoltaic batteries are devices which creates electricity from beta radiation of a radioactive material. Alphavoltaics operate similarly, using alpha radiation. The concept was invented roughly 50 ...