Category Archives: Answers

Answers to questions asked by my viewers!

Microwave Radiation Experiment

Filed under Answers, Radiation
Tagged as , , , , , , , , , ,

Recently, I was asked a question about Microwaves Sjrads,

“You have a microwave? Heat up a cup of water, then test it with the counter. I really want to see if the microwave puts radiation in the food stuff like people say.”

The short answer is: No, it will not but here is why:

Microwaves do produce radiation, but this radiation is thermal, meaning an increased movment of the atoms within the food, not ionizing. Nuclear Ionizing Radiation adds or removes particles from and atom, generally electrons, by shear force. Ionizing radiation is destructive. Thermal radiation from a microwave is non-distructive (though it will blow your dinner up). A short test will show that microwaves will not increase the ambiant radiation of a sample of water.

Enjoy this little video.

 Answer – What is the difference between Fusion and Fission?

Filed under Answers, Basics
Tagged as , , , , , , , , , ,

From KT

“I am taking some classes and I am having a problem understanding the difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fision.  Can you please help clear this up for me?  Thank you.”

 Hello “KT”,

I assume by “taking some classes” and by the question you posed that your taking an introductory science class and would like a basic understanding of the difference between nuclear Fusion and Fission. Here we go…

Atoms are groups of particles which can behave themselves as a group. They have a core composed of Neutrons and Protons and are surrounded by electrons. The cores are generally positively charged as a result of the positive charge of protons, and the neutral charge of neutrons. The electrons are negatively charged and attracted to the nucleus. As long as these balances occur that the atoms are quite stable.

NOTE: I used two fake atoms!!! I didn’t want to create a massive chart with real atoms.

 Instability!!!

Instability may occur as a result of scientists poking about or natural reasons. In a natural event an atom can loose one or more of it’s particles due to the Weak Nuclear Effect which allows for pesky little particles to run away from the nucleus and leave it in an unstable configuration! In nature, systems, such as an atom, wish to remain in a state of rest or as close as possible. They will do what ever they can do be in this rest. When they are unstable it is generally due to an imbalance of forces. Below I will go into this in detail, but here is the 25 cent answer: Once unstable the atoms tear themselves apart into small, but more stable, atoms and release the surplus energy. This is Nuclear Fission. When smaller atoms are combined to create a larger atom, they release their surplus energy and this is called Nuclear Fusion.

 Nuclear Fission – More Detail!

Ok, so you want more detail… let’s create a pretend atom. I do this because I don’t have time today to build a 3D model with over 100 neutrons and protons!!! the models you see now only have a few neutrons (green balls) and protons (red balls). We will call our element Imaginatium 9. It has 4 protons and 5 neutrons, so 4+5=9. That is why it is called Imainatium 9. Notice that there is one electron more than there are protons!!! This means this atom is an isotope of some more stable version of Imaginatium, perhaps Imagination 8? Anyhow, Imainatium 9 is very negatively charged having this spare electron to share. This extra electron is causing havoc with the positively charged nucleus. Given time this unstable atom would probably loose that electron, but our scientists have other plans.

Imaginatium 9 - Pretend Atom

Imaginatium 9 - Pretend Atom

Here we see a slow speed neutron coming from some pesky scientists. It will possibly be captured by the nucleus of our pretend atom and absorbed! The force holding the nucleus together is the strong nuclear force. This holds protons and neutrons together. The distance require for a proton and an electron to keep in harmony is very tiny and easily thrown off.

Imaginatium 9 - Pretend Atom

Imaginatium 9 - Pretend Atom

With the new neutron we now have the VERY unstable isotope Imaginatium 10! The extra neutron is neutrally charged, electrically that is, but it interferes with the protons. Just as protons and electrons need to maintain an equilibrium of sorts between their electrical charges, neutrons and protons need to maintain an equilibrium between themselves using the strong nuclear force. This additional neutron has thrown this balance off and the atom is having real problems!

Imaginatium 10 - Pretend Atom

Imaginatium 10 - Pretend Atom

As you can see the Imaginatium 10 cannot hope to hold together and is slowly coming apart. In reality this occurs nearly instantly. Many think of an atom as being split, but it actually ungulates apart. This atom is undergoing nuclear fission!!! It is becoming two or more pieces!!!

Fission!

Fission!

After the split the nucleus forms into two more stable atoms of Notmuchleftium 4. Sorry about the funny names. Note that each Notmuchleftium 4 has the same number of protons and electrons and the same number of neutrons and protons. These two atoms are VERY stable. The extra energy is released as radiation. The two extra neutrons will fly away with some of that energy in the form of kinetic energy. These little bit are sometimes called fission fragments. They may be captured by other atoms and start a chain reaction or just fly away. The spare electron will fly away as well as Beta radiation. Often a photon of energy is launched in some direction. These are called gamma rays or x-rays depending on their energy. This spare energy can be used to heat water in nuclear power plants (the water turns steam turbines which produce power) or other purposes.

Fission Fragments and Products

Fission Fragments and Products

But what about fusion???!!!

Nuclear Fusion Chart Image

Nuclear Fusion Chart Image

Well we have seen that fission occurs when an atom is made unstable and comes apart. The difference between the first atom and the product atoms is energy available for power plants, etc. Nuclear fusion is the opposite… really… You take two seemingly simple atoms, such as Hydrogen, and squish them together to create a new atom, which is larger. The difference is released as energy. Below is a chart showing this. PLEASE NOTE: This chart shows protons and neutrons as bundles of smaller particles called Quarks. This is because they really are made from these quarks. Don’t be thrown off!!!

Types of Radiation

Types of Radiation

Here is a chart of some of the forms of radiation produced by atoms.

What is an Atom?

Filed under Answers, Basics
Tagged as , , , , , ,

Nuclear Fusion Chart Image

Nuclear Fusion Chart Image


What is an Atom? An Atom, as you may have learned in your grade school classes is a construct of little bits of matter known as particles. The standard atom components are a positively charged nucleus at the center and an orbiting negatively charged electron. This definition is a touch weak and should be explained in greater detail.
[This chart shows nuclear fusion, but is also shows the inside of an atom. For more on what the U and D symbols mean, see my post on Quarks]

The nucleus of an atom has a positive electrical charge because it is composed of one or more particles called Protons. A proton carries a positive electrical charge. Most atoms contain many protons. Directly opposing this positive charge are the little negatively charged particles called Electrons. These tiny particles exist around the nucleus. It is easy to think of them like the moon orbiting the earth but in reality this is only a great simplification (see my post about electrons). The final component of the atom are the Neutrons. Neutrons, as their name implies, carry a zero electrical change and are neutral.

So, in short, a core of protons and neutrons is “orbited” by electrons. The numbers of these particles are based on many factors, but in short they tend to follow these basic rules: The total electrical charge of the atom should be about even. This means one electron for every proton. The ratio of protons to neutrons should also be about equal. As an example, Helium often has two protons, two neutrons, and two elections. This is not always the case. See my post on ions, isotopes, and plasma!

These are the extreme basics!!! Stay tuned for more detail.

Where Do Atoms Come From?

Filed under Answers
Tagged as , ,

A coworker asked me recently where atoms come from. He wanted to know how atoms formed and why. This video goes into a shallow explaination of the formation of atoms. I hope to provide a better details answer soon, but hopfully this gets the ball rolling!