Friday, February 08, 2013

Bloggers vs Neutrons

I've been working on a piece that's a general introduction to nuclear physics. I remember most of what I learned in Power School and they're very simple topics, but I'm still having problems.

Me: "'Protons are positively charged and neutrons are neutrally charged and they stick together in the nucleus of an atom because of the nuclear force.' Bravo. Good job, me. Simple concept that I assume most people know, but good job. You're a writer. Now, let's read it back while imagining I'm a newb to nuclear physics."

*Reads*

Newb Me: "So...you can have, say, helium atoms without neutrons?"
Me: "No, not really. Sort of. There are alpha particles--which have neutrons, but--"
Newb Me:  "So if neutrons and protons only interact because of the nuclear force, then a hydrogen nucleus with only one proton could be as large as a uranium neutron with 92 protons and 143 neutrons?"
Me: "What?"
Newb Me: "You just keep adding neutrons."
Me: "No...because...no."
Newb Me: "Why would you need protons at all? Can you just have an element zero on the periodic table that's just an infinitely large glob of neutrons?"
Me: "Shut your whore mouth while I internet."

*Internets*

Me: "Okay, apparently neutrons are net neutral. They have a thin candy shell that's slightly negative and they're positive further inside. This means that they're drawn to protons by charge and slightly repelled by each other so element zero remains safely confined to Mass Effect."
Newb Me: "That's cool."
Me: "..."
Newb Me: "So the nucleus is net positive and it's surrounded by negative electrons?"
Me: "Yes."
Newb Me: "So why don't the electrons just fall in?"
Me: "They're orbiting."
Newb Me: "But--and not to break character here--they're not. They occupy probability clouds with no known position/velocity."
Me: "..."
Newb Me: "Why don't they fall in?"
Me: "That's not really germane to the topic at hand."
Newb Me: "Yeah. Guess not."
Me: "..."
Newb Me: "..."
Me: "..."
Newb Me: "But why?"

*Internets*

5 comments:

Derek said...

as a person that has tried to convey an idea to you in the past I feel as if you correctly captured the sentiments of the effort in the first exchange before the break.

I particularly thought the "shut your whore mouth" was relevant

=P

SkilTao said...

Surely it would be simple to explain things as absolute and resolute as protons, gravity, temperature, heat, heisenberg and duality.

Surely.

Terry Moore said...

Shut your whore mouth!

VanVelding said...

Aw, fuck. That "net neutral charge" shit doesn't make any sense either because PROTONS.

VanVelding said...

@skiltao - Truth.