Smaller than an atom….

Let’s get right into it today.

What do we know about what is smaller than the atom?

1. The strong force is worthy of its title.

It takes a million times more force to remove a particle from the nucleus than it does to remove an electron from orbit.  The immense power of the strong force helps to explain the outrageous energy released by nuclear fission.  This is the science behind nuclear weapons, which are capable of obliterating 99.9% of the human race.  What a great world we live in.

But at least we have nuclear power, so it’s not all bad.  Right?…

Moving on.

2.  Electromagnetism is a shocking force.

Excuse the bad pun.  Electromagnetism draws electrons and protons, with their opposite charges, together.  It also pushes protons in the nucleus apart, but the strong force overwhelms it.  Heat and light can strip electrons away from the atom, forming an ion.

3.  There’s always something smaller.

That last sentence was a bit of an overstatement, but you got the point.  Evidence of protons and neutrons was revealed by Einstein’s studies of Brownian motion.  Protons and neutrons are composed of quarks, which are also held together by the strong force.  At this point, new particles can be formed when subjected to intense heat.  This is also the point when you begin to wonder what relevance this has to your daily life and Monday Night Football.  Alas, people thought the same thing about protons and neutrons, until we harnessed that knowledge to create the most powerful weapon of all time.

So next time you think about subatomic particles, think not of what those particles are doing right now, but rather, what those particles will be doing if they get into the wrong hands.

atomic-nuclear-exp_1002958c

Hope you sleep well tonight.

Sources: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrUBPO6zZ40&list=FLD_qtoYY3ZEhrDetUPfjJog; http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-are-elements-broken-d

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