Nuclear Physics is the study of the heavy but tiny nucleus that lies at the centre of all atoms and makes up 99.9% by mass of everything we see. The nucleus forms a fascinating laboratory for study, falling between the extremes of systems with a handful of particles, which can be solved from first principles, and systems with thousands of particles whose properties can be treated statistically. Indeed, the nucleus is a unique mesoscopic quantal system that is composed of two types of interacting fermions in which the underlying force is poorly understood. As such it provides an extremely important testing ground for models that attempt to predict the properties of nuclei. The individual protons and neutrons in the nucleus can strongly dictate the properties of the nucleus as a whole.
Although a mature field, nuclear physics poses an array of very challenging questions and the recent advent of accelerated radioactive beams has reinvigorated this research area. Increasingly important is the application of our understanding of nuclear physics to astrophysical questions, where it can help to understand energy generation in stars as well as the heavy elements synthesised in stellar explosions.
Monday 2 March 2015
Friday 19 September 2014