MadSci Network: Physics

Re: What exactly does a nuclear physicist do?

Date: Tue Sep 26 15:11:12 2000
Posted By: Andrew Karam, Staff, Radiation Safety / Geological Sciences, University of Rochester
Area of science: Physics
ID: 969886812.Ph

Everything on Earth is made of matter which is, in turn, composed of 
atoms.  Atoms can be broken down further into what are called subatomic 
particles.  These are things like protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, 
and so forth.  Nuclear physicists are the scientists who study these 
particles, usually with the help of large particle accelerators such as 
the ones at Fermi Lab, Brookhaven, or CERN.

By studying what happens when you smash particles or atoms together, we 
can learn a lot about why the universe looks and acts the way it does.  
For example, right now nuclear physicists are looking for a particle 
called the "Higgs particle".  They are hoping that discovering it and 
learning its properties will help them to understand why different 
particles (and other objects in the world) weigh as much as they do.

There are a lot of books on this topic.  Two of the more interesting are:

Nobel Dreams (Gary Taubes)
The God Particle (Leon Lederman - a Nobel Prize winner)

In addition, you can find information at the following WWW sites:
(Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory) 
 (Brookhaven National Laboratory)

These are three of the most important accelerators in the world and their 
web pages have a lot of good information.

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