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I understand that nuclear stability is explained by the presence of the residual nuclear force, which in turn is a result of the strong nuclear force, which I believe, is mediated between quarks via gluons. This force overcomes the mutual electrostatic repulsion between protons in a nucleus and contributes to its stability.

However, I have read in multiple sources that "mesons" contribute to nuclear stability.

From what I understand, mesons are bosons made of a quark and an antiquark, and are very short-lived.

How can mesons make the nucleus stable?

Do they appear as virtual particles? If yes, is it better to say that gluons and quarks (mediating the strong force) are what holds the nucleus together or that mesons do so?

Also, please highlight any incorrect assumptions I have made in this post.

A similar question has been posted here but it does not really answer my question

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    $\begingroup$ As Lewis Miller says here: physics.stackexchange.com/a/288499/123208 "There are no easy and simple answers when it comes to questions about the nuclear force". $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Aug 20, 2022 at 6:05
  • $\begingroup$ Gluons are not dominant in nuclear binding of nucleons farther apart than a fermi; they are confined within a fermi. For nuclear distances, mesons do the job, in a residual interaction. Read up! $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2022 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ @CosmasZachos I understand it now. Can you point out any specific resources to learn more about this mechanism? $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2022 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ Wikipedia, nuclear physics texts, and numerous questions on this site…. $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2022 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia didn't really help but I am reading the articles on Frank Wilczek' site. $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2022 at 6:21

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