Looking at the Nucleus

While atomic physics deals with atoms as a whole, nuclear physics deals specifically with the nucleus of the atom. Physicists still need to understand the area around the nucleus, but they are more concerned with the forces at work keeping that nucleus together. Once they understand those forces, they often try to create new types of fusion and fission reactions.

It's Splitsville

Nuclear energy is the energy released when the nuclei of atoms split or are fused. The nucleus is made up of protons and neutrons. Nuclear forces hold all of the pieces together. Fusion is when two nuclei come together. Fission is when one nucleus is split into two or more parts. Huge amounts of energy are released when either of these reactions occurs. Fusion reactions create much of the energy given off by the Sun. There are even smaller particles that make up the protons and neutrons that physicists are studying every day.


Since we are talking a little about atomic and nuclear physics, we wanted to tell you about antimatter. It is not just found in television shows. Scientists have discovered evidence that it is real. While a regular atom has positive and neutral pieces (protons/neutrons) in the nucleus and negative pieces in orbiting clouds (electrons), antimatter is just the opposite. Antimatter has a nucleus with a negative charge and little positive pieces in the orbits. Those positively charged pieces are called positrons.

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