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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Why didn't the Big Bang create heavy elements?

In the case of a supernova explosion it is possible to create heavy elements through fusion. Supernovae have a tremendous amount of energy in a very small volume but not as much energy per volume as ...
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Do pear-shaped nuclei really have anything to do with time travel?

Recently (in the last week or two), various articles about pear shaped nuclei have appeared, such as this one from Science Alert and this from the BBC The Science Alert article includes the quote ...
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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 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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Cause for spikes in trinity bomb test

In Richard Rhodes' book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, I was reading about the Trinity nuclear test. High speed photos were taken and this one is from <1ms after the detonation. The book mentions ...
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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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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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Why do all the atoms of a radioactive substance not decay at the same time?

Why does the substance decay at a rate which is proportional to the amount of the substance at that moment? As all atoms are in hurry to become a stable atom and as their decay do not depend on any ...
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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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Is there any aspect of an explosion resulting from a nuclear weapon test that cannot be simulated using super computers?

This Washington Post news article states that with the advent of computer simulation of nuclear tests, live tests are no longer needed. Generally speaking there are 3 aspects of an explosion ...
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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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Help! An 8 year old asked me how to build a nuclear power plant [closed]

I would really like to give an explanation similar to this one. Here's my current recipe: (i) Mine uranium, for example take a rock from here (picture of uranium mine in Kazakhstan). (ii) Put the ...
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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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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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Why is boron so good at neutron absorption?

Why is boron so good at absorbing neutrons? Why does it have such a large target area compared to the size of its nucleus?
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Why can't a nucleus become a black hole?

A nucleus is very small and very dense. Its density is approximately $2.3 \times 10^{17}~\mathrm{kg/m^3}.$ So why can't a nucleus itself become a black hole?
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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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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 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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Is the speed of sound almost as high as the speed of light in neutron stars?

Have you ever wondered about the elastic properties of neutron stars? Such stars, being immensely dense, in which neutrons are bound together by the strong nuclear force on top of the strong gravity ...
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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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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 that'...
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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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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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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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In the Iranian nuclear deal, how can IAEA detect nuclear activity after 24 days?

This is a question related to current events, but I want to ask about the physics, which are not explained in any news article that I can find. Ernest Moniz and John Kerry wrote an op-ed in the ...
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Could we make things out of newly discovered particles?

Right now, all of the "stuff" that has been created in the world is made of protons, electrons, and neutrons. I'm aware that particles other than these have much shorter lifetimes. But I've also heard ...
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Why is Iron the most stable element? [duplicate]

Iron has the highest binding energy per nucleon in the entirety of the known elements. But why Iron specifically? What makes it have the highest binding energy per nucleon?
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How to detect a secret nuclear detonation here on the earth?

How can we know that North Korea and Iran (to name a few) are exploding nuclear weapons if no inspectors have ever been granted access to suspected nuclear sites in these countries? How can we ...
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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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Weak contribution to nuclear binding

Does the weak nuclear force play a role (positive or negative) in nuclear binding? Normally you only see discussions about weak decay and flavour changing physics, but is there a contribution to ...
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If the strong nuclear force is stronger than electrostatic repulsion, why don't nuclei collapse into a point?

Today in class we were discussing the strong nuclear force, and our teacher was explaining about how the strong nuclear force counteracts the repulsion force between protons in a nucleus. When asked ...
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When did the first carbon nucleus in the Universe come into existence?

I am a chemist with a passion for astrophysics and particle physics, and one of the most marvellous things I have learned in my life is the process of stellar nucleosynthesis. It saddens me how my ...
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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 u\big&...
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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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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 U-...
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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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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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An atomic bomb explodes inside of an “unbreakable” container which is on a scale. Does the “weight” of the container change?

I read that most of the "mass" in the proton was actually energy from the quarks and gluons, as opposed to the actual mass which was coupled to the Higgs field. This made me start thinking about ...
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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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Origin of elements heavier than Iron (Fe)

In all the discussions about how the heavy elements in the universe are forged in the guts of stars and especially during a stars death, I usually hear that once the star begins fusing lighter atoms ...
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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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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 ...