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Thayer Watkins
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What's wrong with the
conventional theory of the nucleus

The conventional theory of the nucleus is that protons and neutrons attract each other through a force which is called the nuclear strong force. The problem with this is that it is not so much a theory as a mere naming. It is as though in the 1930's after the neutron was discovered a conversation among physicists of the following form took place.

Nuclei hold together despite their containing protons which are repelled from each other. What holds them together? I don't know, but something does. What should we call that something? How about the Nuclear Strong Force? Fine.

Now when anyone asks what holds a nucleus together physicists conventionally answer solemnly, "The Nuclear Strong Force." But that answer has no more content than an answer of "Something."

Physicists adhering to this conventional line cannot imagine the "Something" being other than distance dependent like gravitation or the electrostatic force. They do note that such a force has to drop off faster with distance than inverse distance squared to be stronger at small separation distances than the electrostatic force and weaker at large distances. That is about the extent of the empirical content of the conventional "theory" of the nucleus. It completely ignores the phenomenon of spin pair formation.

The conventional theory justifies the need for a mixture of neutrons and protons on the basis that in larger nuclei the protons are separated by distances for which the electrostatic repulsion is stronger than the supposed strong force attraction. That is plausible but nothing explains why there are not nuclei made up entirely of neutrons being attracted to each other.

And one final condemnation of the conventional theory: It has led to no validated predictions. By and large there is nothing to be validated or invalidated, but there is one erroneous prediction. That prediction is that there should be no upper limit on the number of neutrons in a nucleus.

For a theory of nuclei based up on the empirical data of binding energy, see the alpha module theory of nuclei.

For an empirical testing of the conventional theory of nuclei usin binding energy, see Test of Conventional.

For more on nuclear physics and other topics see Physics and New Pages.


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