Scientists found an atomic nucleus shaped like a pear, and it is completely changing our understanding of physics.
Atoms are taught in school using a few different models, but one thing is usually the same: the nucleus is spherical. New research is stating that this idea might have been too simple. Atomic nuclei are made up of protons and neutrons that are held together by the Strong Nuclear Force (one of the universe’s fundamental forces), and based on this, one might assume they would be spherical.
In reality, however, most nuclei are deformed to some extent. They can be elongated into football shapes or squished into discs. As long as they are symmetrical, though, the physics work out just fine. However, scientists recently found a nucleus that isn’t symmetrical.
Symmetry is a very important cornerstone to many of the theories we use to understand the universe, so an unsymmetrical nucleus could bare with it some huge implications.
In particle physics, there’s a theory called CP-Symmetry, which is the combination of charge symmetry and parity. Charge symmetry is the idea that if you flip the charge of an atom, the physics of the atom should not change. This is the basis to our understanding of antimatter — if you flip the charge in a regular atom, you get an anti-atom. The physics should work the same. Similarly, Parity is the idea that if you invert the spatial coordinates of a system, the physics shouldn’t change.
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