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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Nuclear analysis needs the three-body force

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
July 12, 2011

The nucleus of an atom, like most everything else, is more complicated than we first thought. Just how much more complicated is the subject of a Petascale Early Science project led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's David Dean.

According to findings outlined by Dean and his colleagues in the May 20, 2011, edition of the journal Physical Review Letters,researchers who want to understand how and why a nucleus hangs together as it does and disintegrates when and how it does have a very tough job ahead of them.

Specifically, they must take into account the complex nuclear interactions known as the three-body force.

Nuclear theory to this point has assumed that the two-body force is sufficient to explain the workings of a nucleus. In other words, the half-life or decay path of an unstable nucleus was to be understood through the combined interactions of pairs of protons and neutrons within.

Dean's team, however, determined that the two-body force is not enough; rese

archers must also tackle the far more difficult challenge of calculating combinations of three particles at a time (three protons, three neutrons, or two of one and one of the other). This approach yields results that are both different from and m

ore accurate than those of the two-body force.

Nuclei are held together by the strong force, one of four basic forces that govern the universe. (The other three are gravity, which holds planets, solar systems, and galaxies together and pins us to the ground, the electromagnetic force, which holds matter together and keeps us from, for instance, falling through the ground, and the weak force, which drives nuclear decay.)


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