As you probably know, there are many uses for nuclear physics. But where does it all come from? What are the underlying principles? Read further and you'll find out!
From the other pages, it is evident that the nucleus and its "power" plays a big role in theoretical and applied physics. The nucleus is that little positive center that makes up so little of the actual atom but plays an instrumental role in its properties and applications. It is quite an amazing story as to how the atoms were first discovered and perceived which finally led up to our current understanding of nuclei and atoms.
In 1905, Einstein showed that energy and mass were actually different aspects of the same thing. Known as the equivalence between mass and energy and leading to current understanding of binding energy and apparent mass "loss.", this is where Einstein's famous E=mc2 equation arose.
In order to understand the physics behind the energy involved in splitting a nucleus or combining two nuclei into one, it is important to understand a term known as binding energy and its relation to nuclear masses. This energy is specific to each particular element and is a logical step forward from Einstein's equation.
And the final interaction to consider here is radioactive decay. If a nucleus is unstable for any one of various reason, it will emit and absorb particles. There are many types of radiation and they are all pertinent to everyday life and health as well as nuclear physical applications.
As it turns out, because there are so many bodies and so many forces invovled in the nucleus, it is impossible (as of yet), to develop a theory to explain all the forces and interactions. However, some very promising models have been developed including two seemingly contradictory ones, the liquid drop model and the independent particle model, and a collective model which reconciles them.
Fission is a process where nuclei are split and a great deal of energy is released or absorbed. Fission has been used for nuclear reactors and atomic bombs. Interestingly, there was a natural fission reactor discovered in Gabon, West Africa after fission had been thought to be solely man-made.
Fusion, in which nuclei are meshed into larger nuclei, is almost the exact oppostive of fission . So far, fusion has only been implemented in the hydrogen bomb. However, since fusion provides a much greater supply of energy than does fission, scientists are working very hard to create fusion reactors. Two possible designs still being engineered include the Russian tokamak and laser fusion.
Modern physics is a huge field and this section focuses on related subfields of modern physics including quantum mechanics, particle physics, and unification of the fundamental forces of nature.