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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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260 views

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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What stabilizes neutorns 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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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What is the difference between the KDEMO and DEMO projects?

I'm writing a paper on the future of fusion technology and I can't seem to find the difference between Europe's DEMO experiment and Korea's KDEMO except for the fact that they are both planned to ...
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Island of Stability

When I was much younger, I remember being fascinated by the thought of an Island of Stability at very high atomic numbers. However, I have not heard much on this and I was wondering Did this idea ...
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Absolute isotope activity in a nuclear fallout

I've seen nice graph showing relative activity of each isotope in Chernobyl fallout: Could anyone suggest similar graph or raw data but for absolute isotope activity for the case of nuclear ...
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How can such a high exponent arise in this physics equation?

This site http://what-if.xkcd.com/14/ states that during a helium flash, "the reaction rate is proportional to the 40th power of the temperature". Taking for granted that this is true, how can ...
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How do we know that C14 decay is exponential and not linear?

In my previous question I asked Please explain C14 half-life The OP mentioned that I was thinking of linear decay and C14 was measured in exponential decay. As I understand it, C14 is always in a ...
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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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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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What elements can be created in the fusion process of different types of stars?

As I understand it fusion inside a sun can produce heavier and heavier elements until some sort of "nucleus size limit" is reached. As far as I understand, the limit is thought to be reached with the ...
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How would nucleosynthesis be different if the neutron were stable?

If the strong nuclear force were just 2% stronger, the neutron would be a stable particle instead of having a half life of about 13 minutes. What difference would that have made to Big Bang ...
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Nuclear fusion : ion vs atom fusion cross section?

I've read critique on ITER project (in Russian), and one of points was that cross section of ion-ion fusion is much lower than ion-atom and atom-atom, and that's the reason why it likely to not work. ...
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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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Does quark color contribute to “spin degeneracy” for QGP calculations?

Like the title say, does quark color matter in counting contributions in a early universe plasma (QGP), as when adding up the total plasma energy density, or is it just spin? The book I have (Pathria) ...
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“Dear radioactive ladies and gentlemen” - Letter by Wolfgang Pauli

In 1930, Wolfgang Pauli wrote a letter to Lise Meitner for a convention in Tübingen, considering the problem of beta decay. Does anybody know, where to find the original letter online ?
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Why does it take so long to make a nuclear bomb?

So as I know nuclear bombs are derived from fission reactions: By providing the nucleus with enough power to trigger a chain reaction. If uranium was present why does it take so much to make a nuclear ...