The Heart of the Matter

This week I made the long journey to the center of everything, where there is enough energy to kill us all. The nucleus is made up of protons and electrons held together by sheer force. This force is necessary because protons are positive and like charges repel. As they get closer to each other the force that drives them apart increases. This is artfully described by Coulomb’s law and consistently demonstrated on The Bachelor.

The only way to overcome repulsion is for protons and neutrons to generate the energy that holds them together by giving up mass. The more they give up, the stronger the bond. Not a healthy relationship model, and it’s no surprise that things get really hot when a nucleus decides to split up or join with another.

Unlike the friendly chemical reactions where electrons are shared or traded, nuclear reactions generate energy, significantly more energy than is needed to start the reaction. The energy from these reactions can be used to generate steam that drives turbines that are connected to electrical generators. It can also be used to generate vast destruction via blast, fire, and radiation. There’s no middle road in the center.

Meanwhile, I am like an electron too far from center this week and I have one more week to serve before I return home. Unlike the particles that surround me, my pull stays constant no matter the distance.

Next Up: Another Test