Hamilton, Joseph H. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.
Last reviewed:June 2020
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The discipline that studies the fundamental properties of the nucleus of the atom and the applications of these properties in many different applied areas. The fundamental understanding of the nucleus is important because the nucleus is a unique quantum many-body system with too few particles to be treated on a statistical basis and too many to be treated one on one. Thus nuclear physics probes our understanding of nature at a level between that of the atom as a whole and that of elementary-particle physics, which seeks to understand the internal structures of protons and neutrons. Equally important, the understandings we have gained concerning the nucleus and the experimental techniques employed to probe the nucleus have found critical applications to a very wide range of societal problems. Nuclear physics involves both experimental studies of the nucleus and theoretical studies to provide an understanding of the experimental data.
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