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Nuclear Physics: The Core Of Matter The Fuel Of Stars

Research in nuclear physics is an integral part of the search for knowledge and understanding of the world in which we live. All matter is composed of a hierarchy of building blocks. Living creatures, as well as our inanimate surroundings, are made of molecules, which are in turn made of atoms, whose mass resides almost entirely in the nuclei. The nuclei are composed of protons and neutrons, which ultimately consist of quarks and gluons. In the recent past, as our progress in understanding has reached down to ever smaller scales, each hierarchical level has developed its own subdiscipline, with its own distinct experimental and theoretical endeavors and new insights. Each subdiscipline has produced its own range of applications, benefiting the development of society and contributing to the scientific and technological base on which our industrial and economic strength rests.

The science of nuclear physics concerns itself with the properties of "nuclear" matter. Such matter constitutes the massive centers of the atoms that account for 99.9 percent of the world we see about us. Nuclear matter is within the proton and neutron building blocks of these nuclei, and appears in bulk form in neutron stars and in the matter that arose in the Big Bang. Nuclear physicists study the structure and properties of such matter in its various forms, from the soup of quarks and gluons present at the birth of our universe to the nuclear reactions in our Sun that make life possible on Earth.

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 No. 213
 Posted on 8 June, 2006
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