|MadSci Network: Physics|
Hi, Your observation about Carbon are right, actually, the mass of a proton is 1.00728 amu; a neutron is 1.00866 amu. The standard is that one atom of carbon 12, the isotope of carbon with 6 protons and 6 neutrons, has a mass of exactly 12 amu. if you add up 6 protons and 6 neutrons, you get more than 12 amu. Good point. The mass of 6 protons and 6 neutrons is 12.0956 amu, to be precise--but the mass of a carbon nucleus is less than the sum of its parts. You think, it is impossible. However it is possible, it can be explained by 'binding energy' on nuclear physics. What does "binding energy" mean? The mass of any nucleus is less than the sum of the separate masses of its protons and neutrons. In other words, sticking protons and neutrons together somehow causes some of their mass to vanish into thin air. Einstein showed that mass and energy are really two different forms of the same thing; the "vanishing" mass of the protons and neutrons is simply converted to energy(E=mc^2, where m, mass, c= the velocity of light.). .That's the idea behind fusion. The "binding energy" of a particular isotope is the amount of energy released at its creation; you can calculate it by finding the amount of mass that "disappears" and using Einstein's equation. The binding energy is also the amount of energy you'd need to add to a nucleus to break it up into protons and neutrons again; the larger the binding energy, the more difficult that would be. The answer of your another question ('are photons the matter that is being gained/lost?')is: Actually, Photons create matter. Einstein's equation, E=mc^2, formulates the idea that matter can be converted into light and vice versa. The vice- versa part, though, hasn't been so easy to bring about in the lab. Best wishes,
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