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More Comment on the commonly used Old Binding Energy Method vs. a Newer Binding Energy Method advocated here

(This Commentary is relevant to, and linked to, my main article, entitled:  “Nuclear Fusion Mass Lost, Crevices between Nucleons, and an Improved Method of Calculating Binding Energies.”)


As said in my main article, there exists a commonly used old Binding Energy Method, for addressing atomic nuclei, in physics.  But (as also mentioned), that old method has some problems and drawbacks.  It needs to be supplemented, if not replaced, by an alternate method that is better for treating the most basic and most common nuclei in our universe.  Two prominent scientists, (Sears and Zemansky), who wrote a much-used physics textbook in the 1960’s – also effectively illustrated and used  that newer Binding Energy Method in that textbook.  I.e. that is the method my article here advocates and expands upon.  Important and basic examples were given in my main article, showing where that newer method is more successful.  Below, we provided even more reasons for using that newer method:

Additional Information and comment in support of the New Method:

There seems to be much more Hydrogen-1 nuclei or their neutral atoms in the universe than any other nuclei or atoms.  In fact, starting with extremely large ‘clouds’ of Hydrogen gas, that gas will gradually condense into the beginnings of a young star.  And with the help of increasing gravity, the young star’s center can get ultra-hot and commence ‘fusing’ to make heavier nuclei, mainly Helium-4.  So we should focus first on the very important Hydrogen-1.

Hydrogen-1 consists only of one nucleon, a proton, with an orbiting electron.  It seems natural and ‘holistic’, therefore, to compare all other more massive, neutral atoms to the neutral Hydrogen-1 atom -- by asking the following basic question:  Suppose the nucleons of many Hydrogen-1 atoms fused together, by some of its protons swallowing up an orbital electron to help make a neutron in the nucleus, and by other protons in that nucleus leaving their orbiting electron in orbit.  (In other words, the fusing of, say, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, etc. nucleons together to make bigger nuclei.).  How much conventional mass is lost to the universe, due to those nucleons’ fusing, compared to their not fusing -- that is, if they just remained as 2, 3, 4, 6, or 7, etc., separate neutral Hydrogen-1 atoms (each with their 1 nucleon) instead?   

That is a major basic question of holistic and cosmic importance!  And a basic nucleon-related quantum question, also.  It remains to be asked and answered regardless of whether the old Binding Energy method was ever concocted!  And that question is only truly answered by using the new Binding Energy Method.  ((We earlier mentioned the problems and drawbacks of the old ‘neutron-related’ binding energy method.  And trying to tackle the question (posed in the previous paragraph) or finding an answer, by using the old binding energy method, only results in confusion, obfuscation, or a wrong or distorted answer, at best!  That is because the old method tries to use a ‘free’ non-stable neutron mass as if it was a basic building block (i.e., a major initial ingredient) in determining a binding energy for a nucleus made of fused nucleons.))

((Incidentally, when we say that a few nucleons fuse together and thus lose a little bit of their mass, and thus the world loses a little bit of its conventional mass; we mean the following:  The ‘lost’ mass no longer ‘dwells’ in the world in ‘conventional mass particles’ – but that lost mass may, instead, dwell or exist in “the world’s ‘ether’ or so-called ‘fields’,” or that the lost mass may exist in the form of ‘photons and neutrinos’ traveling at the speed of light.  So that if we contemplate all conventional mass particles or nuclei ‘at rest’ (not travelling fast), then the ‘lost mass’ would not reside in that mass (i.e., the ‘realm’ of those ‘conventional mass particles’).  It is ‘lost to them’!))

Note, that that ‘free’ neutron has, in effect, soaked up some of the universe’s energy temporarily to achieve its only momentary stability.  ((Quite a bit of mass equivalent energy (and maybe a antineutrino) must be jammed into a proton and adjacent electron – to make a neutron.))  The neutron is, therefore, a poor choice to use as one of the basic initial starting ingredients (or building blocks) for an atom – when calculating the atom’s ‘binding energy’.  ((That would be like giving a mediocre bowler a 40 point calculated ‘starting credit’ (sometimes termed a ‘handicap’) -- ahead of others.  And then, claiming that that bowler fairly edged-out his competitors to win that game.  And thus is a more sturdy, stable bowler.  But then being surprised that at other alleys, with normal rules, that that bowler ‘falls apart’ before others and loses!))

In a sense, when the old ‘binding energy method’ chose the neutron as the basic starting neutral ingredient for building or gauging a multi-nucleon nucleus, that was unnecessarily over-working Nature.  Or ‘over micro-managing’ the ‘micro-system’!  Humans could have (and should have) used the mass of the neutral ‘Bohr atom’ as their basic neutral building block, but, in effect, they used the ‘subsidized’ neutron, instead.  They did that, instead of following nature’s natural course – which is the simple, easy ‘gauging course’ that nature pointedly indicated was its natural preference.  The sad result is that the old binding energy method fails, at a very basic level in some key cases!

One reason why the ‘Bohr Atom’ makes a good standard is that the mass of the neutral ‘Bohr atom’ (proton plus orbiting electron) is practically indistinguishable from the mass of the ‘free’ proton plus ‘free’ electron.  But the neutral free neutron (while it lasts before decaying into a proton, electron, and etc.) has significantly more mass than the ‘free proton’ plus ‘free electron’.
 Consider an element, say like Oxygen, with 8 protons.  That Oxygen may have several stable isotopes, for example, 8 or 9 or 10 neutrons also in its nucleus.  And there is every indication that each of the bound 10 neutrons differs in mass from each in the set of 9, and each of those 9 differ in mass from the 8, and each of those 8 differ in mass from the free neutron.  Since there is no simple formula specifying exactly how much each neutron in a bound set -- differs in mass from each neutron in the other set; it would be difficult and arbitrary to even say how much mass a ‘neutron’ really has. (I.e., how much energy it takes to make ‘the standard?’ neutron).  As previous said, at least the mass of the ‘free proton plus free electron’ is practically undistinguishable in total mass from one ‘neutral stable bound system, namely, the ‘Bohr Atom’.  That argues well for using it as a standard, initial, basic building block for building and gauging all other atoms, where possible!)) 

No wonder the use of the ‘free’ neutron (in the old binding energy method) led to contradictions or confounding results, when calculating binding energies and using that to help make predictions – i.e., the case of stable Helium-3 vs. unstable Hydrogen-3!  (We detailed that case earlier in the main article.)  Yet, so using the free neutron is required, by the old binding energy method, when addressing ‘nuclear binding energies’ -- by the very procedural definition of that old binding energy method!

Originally, Rutherford used the concept of ‘a neutral combination of a proton and electron’, instead of the later, ‘more modern’ neutron particle concept.  And Rutherford’s concept generally worked pretty well.  But I think, sadly, with the accumulation of more experimental information, Rutherford’s concept was not extended and modernized to regard his ‘compact’ style neutral particle in the atom as a combination of the electron, proton, and, say, an antineutrino.  But, in fact, the so-called ‘free neutron’ does decay into an electron, proton, and antineutrino, so I think such an ‘extension’ of the Rutherford’s approach would have been justifiable. 

But instead, the Rutherford type approach was generally abandoned, and the ‘neutron particle concept’ replaced it.  (Yet, in modern ‘quark treatments’, physics has at least ‘come around again’ to regarding the neutron as a ‘compound’ particle, instead of a basic particle.)  But there are still some serious logical contradictions when using the term, ‘the neutral neutron’, for designating a neutral particle mass that may be a neutral nucleon inside an nucleus or ‘outside the nucleus’.  This is because the mass of ‘the neutron particle’ will then have to be regarded as changing significantly, depending on whether it is ‘a free neutron’ (outside the nucleus), vs. being one neutron inside.  For example, as being the neutron inside Helium-3, vs. being one of the two neutrons, say, inside Helium-4, i.e., those neutron masses are not all equal. 

When the charge of a particle or nucleon, say the Proton, decreased from +1 to +0; mainstream physics required a ‘name change’, say from Proton to ‘Neutral particle’.  But when the mass of the ‘Neutron’ decreased, depending where it found; mainstream physics did not require a name change.  So I think the ‘rules, practices, conventions, and comfort levels’ of ‘Physics’ (and sometimes other sciences) are sometimes pretty arbitrary and inconsistent.  I.e., that situation, regardless of whether Rutherford or I like it or not!  And, in effect, the reality of occasional inconsistencies, even in ‘science’, is a major conclusion of a book written by the famous scientist and philosopher, Thomas Kuhn.

Again, since the proton is the world’s most prominent ‘seat’ of exactly (+1) positive unit charge, and the electron is the world’s most prominent seat of exactly (-1) negative unit charge; that is another good argument for the following:  Their combined net neutral system, the ‘Bohr atom’, should be regarded as one of the initial basic building blocks for use in an alternate good ‘binding energy method’, instead of the neutral ‘neutron’.  And another good fortune occurs:  Another ‘Bohr atom’ can be regarding as the other initial basic building block toward building “each additional positive nucleon (or proton) inside a nucleus plus its orbiting electron” some distance away from that nucleon – i.e., “thus helping to complete the net neutral atom.”

There is another very important practical and historic reality, that highlights the appropriateness of using the neutral Hydrogen-1 atom as a key base, tool, or instrument – for measuring or scaling all other neutral atoms, where possible.  And it is as follows:  The neutral Hydrogen-1 atom is essentially ‘the Bohr atom’, and so named because of Niels Bohr and his great success with it.  He was able to solve very major classical problems by choosing Hydrogen-1, rather than other atoms, to try to solve those key problems.  And he, thus, discovered awesome new relationships between basic physical constants!  And he did it by using such simple physical laws and math as is typically covered in high school courses alone, and perhaps even in grade school. 

Even the use of the most complex mathematics and wave equations are very troublesome to apply to atoms with several protons and neutrons making up their core, i.e., the atoms and nuclei that are much less common in our universe than Hydrogen-1.  So we see again, the efficacy of using neutral Hydrogen-1 to ‘gauge to world by’, where possible.    

The neutron is not emitted by naturally found radioactive elements on earth.  But a ‘free’ neutron, if made by humans (say in nuclear reactors), decays into a proton and electron, (and with a neutral ‘antineutrino particle’ that flies away from the scene at the speed of light and sometimes has too little mass to measure).  But note that the proton and the electron are two stable ‘particles’ of appreciable and predictable masses -- after they come to rest after the decay.  So, again, the components of the ‘Bohr Atom’ seem to promote themselves for use as a standard building block for use in gauging the world, where possible.  (Incidentally, some naturally found radioactive elements do give off an electron when they naturally decay.)

Optional, More Insight into Binding Energy Methods, using Deuterons

This is an optional and somewhat long discussion of some real experiments and thought experiments, involving Deuteron particles.  The deuteron is the nucleus of a Hydrogen-2 atom, and commonly regarded as a neutron fused to a proton.  It might provide the reader with a more holistic view of the advantages and disadvantages of the ‘old’ vs. ‘new’ binding energy methods -- by analyzing particular experiments or possible experiments. 

A  better ‘holistic view’ of the general subject may arise, because we picked an example, where in a sense, there is no ‘absolutely right or wrong’ conclusion, but each ‘has its place’.  (In fact I chose this particular experiment for discussion because it exemplifies a case where we view a favorable aspect of using the ‘old method’.  I.e., so we try to present a balanced picture, since in some other examples -- when using the old method – it either fails, or gives a very disappointing result.)

Real experiments have actually been done to see how much energy is needed to break the deuteron into one proton and one ‘free’ neutron, by hitting the deuteron with a gamma ray.  We will only roughly describe the experiment to simplify things, and start by saying that a gamma ray is a extremely powerful, high-energy neutral ‘particle’, that travels at the speed of light.  It is somewhat like a ‘photon’ but far more powerful, and even more powerful that an ‘x-ray’ particle.  And in the experiments below, the gamma ray has ‘an energy equivalent mass’ equal to at least one, or even quite a few, ‘electron masses at rest’.

At first glance, the result and conclusions, regarding the particle collisions, seem very quick and simple – too simple.  The strong gamma ray, with ‘mass equivalent energy’ of about 4-1/2 electron masses just does the ‘breakup’ job.  Say, we hit 100 individual deuterons with 100 of those gamma rays, one gamma ray hitting each deuteron.  That breaks up each; that ‘does the trick’ in less than a second.  So, some scientists might say, “End of test, turn out the lights, go home, and publish the conclusion:  The deuteron has 4-1/2 electrons worth of binding energy, a pretty strong bond.  And the ‘old much-used binding energy method’ seems to have worked there great” – at first glance.

But suppose more diligent experimenters were willing to stay and observe the results for more than 12 minutes, the mean half-life of a neutron.  They would further note this:  After the first deuteron was broken up by the very strong gamma ray, into the proton and neutron; then the neutron, itself, broke up into a more basic proton and electron.  And gave off about 1-1/2 electron masses worth of energy back to the experimenter in so decaying!  Now imagine that the experimenter uses that feedback to ‘boost’ the energy of, say, a next much weaker gamma ray.  Say, the next gamma ray with only 3-electron masses worth of energy initially – then gets thus boosted back up to the 4-1/2 electron masses worth of energy, to split the next deuteron!  (I.e., with the help of that anti-waste ‘feedback’)

And so on, say, for the other 99 other deuterons, i.e., re-using 1-1/2 electron masses worth of energy per each of those splits, that is, from the subsequent decay of each neutron .  The beauty of the simple new binding energy method is this:  In effect, it gives a weaker net gamma ray energy needed for each subsequent deuteron breakup, about 3-electron masses worth of energy, not a 4-1/2 electrons’ worth.  ((Perhaps it is better to imagine the re-used 1-1/2 electron masses worth of energy as used, instead, to accelerate the deuteron toward a high-energy gamma ray (also headed toward the deuteron).  In other words, just as high of energy collision would have occurred, as would have -- had a still higher energy gamma ray collided with a deuteron at rest.))

So that non-wasted energy, or cogeneration ‘feedback’ result, also shows how to do more with less energy.  And, as said, that lesser energy need is clearly indicated by the new binding energy (calculation) method for the deuteron, instead of being obscured by the old binding energy (calculation) method.  Yet the old binding energy also gave a useful, although somewhat superficial result -- but yet useful for some purposes.

(Thus the new binding energy method gives about 3-electron masses worth of energy as the ‘binding energy’ of a deuteron.  That’s what one gets if they imagine constructing the deuteron starting from existing basic particles of the universe, rather than momentarily using an unstable free neutron to help make it.  I.e., instead of using a free neutron that has already ‘covertly’ taken from the universe 1-1/2 electrons’ worth of energy to build its ‘fattened’, unstable self).

A Mysterious and perhaps unsettled Important Question in Physics

It might be interesting to solve the following ‘riddle’ or mini-mystery in physics, and explain the solution in as simplest terms and possible:

Some modern listings (such as found in ‘NIST’ and in the Wikipedia articles discussed in my references) seems to give the mass value for the ‘free proton’ and the ‘free electron’.  And they also give the mass of the ‘ground state’ of the ‘Bohr atom’.  (All the above are expressed in relative terms of ‘u’ units of mass.)  But when one uses that data, it seems that the mass of the free proton plus the free electron very slightly exceeds the mass of the Bohr atom.  (Of course, that difference is too small to be of any likely practical relevance, and could be due to my misinterpretation of something or accidentally ignoring something. Or perhaps the listed mass values in tables, even though very accurate, may not be quite as accurate as the tabulator thought most probable or hoped.) 

But if, in fact, the masses of the free proton plus the free electron do very slightly exceed the mass of the Bohr atom, that would ‘shake up modern physics’ and sort of surprise me based on the standard theories I was taught.  ((Of course, I and likely many others, are accustomed to the earth’s gravitational pull and such system where we say this:  “The Potential (gravitational field-related) Energy lost when a very high slowly moving satellite falls into a much closer orbit -- is equal to the Kinetic Energy gained by the now faster moving satellite plus any heat emitted by the satellite during its orbit change.)) 

By analogy, (regarding the electrostatic attractive field between the proton and electron), my understanding and likely most textbook writers’ -- has been this:  “The ‘coulomb-related Potential Energy lost’ when the free electron moves from far away from the proton to the ‘close’ ground-state orbit of the ‘Bohr atom’ equals the following:  The sum of the Energies of the photon emitted plus the Kinetic Energy (speed gain related) of that now fast orbiting electron.”  ((Another equivalent approach would be to suppose there is a very slight increase in mass of the now fast orbiting electron, and that that small increased in mass times (c2) virtually equals the velocity-related Kinetic Energy increase.))

But the mystery here arises if the mass of the “free proton plus the free electron” does empirically exceed the mass of the ‘Bohr Atom’.  That is because it would then seem like a “relativistic decrease in mass” of the now faster orbiting electron occurs!  (That would seem contrary to what I and most others were taught, or that I even independently contemplated -- which was to expect an increase in that electron’s mass, not a decrease!)  So that’s some ‘additional food for thought’.)

                      ---End of Additional Topic Commentary ---


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Carl R. Littmann

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