Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Superheavy Nuclei Redux

Today I feel 32 years younger as I recall the excitement of an APS Nuclear Physics Division meeting that featured a special session on the reputed discovery of a primoridal superheavy nucleus in monazite inclusions ... allegedly found via PIXE (proton induced x-ray emission) by Robert Gentry. (Oddly, his wiki bio does not mention that part of his past research work given that it rated mention in the NYTimes after it got in PRL.)

This nostalgic flashback took some time to form. I saw the story in Chad's blog and glanced at the arxivblog article someone wrote based on a cursory read of the preprint that was posted a few days ago, but did not pull up the preprint until tonight. My jaw almost hit the keyboard when I say the author list.

I don't have time tonight to blog about the past and the physics of stable superheavy nuclei, but will come back to this when I get a chance.

For now, I'll just say that I am not an experimental physicist so I will defer to the commentary about mass spec by a nuclear chemist at Berkeley. Later I will go dig out my papers about nuclear structure calculations in this mass region and see what I can explain about the physics of stability. What I remember says what I posted in Chad's blog: Going from the known nucleus [118]294 to [122]292 is adding 4 protons (bad) and removing 6 neutrons (worse).

The wiki article on this physics is fairly incomplete and struck me as dated. Also dated, but more relevant, is a 1997 web article by Moller (of Moller and Nix) showing a nice calculation consistent with the heavy nuclei that have been found out past Rg in the past decade.

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