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Properties of Matter

3. Nuclear Physics

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In this mini-lecture, we explore nuclear physics. As we move through this mini-lecture, we consider: (i) the nucleus (and nuclide) in greater detail, introducing atomic mass number A and atomic number Z; (ii) nuclide stability, which is based on whether the mass of the individual protons and neutrons making up the nuclide is greater or less than the resulting mass of the nuclide; (iii) the relationship between mass and energy; (iv) the binding energy; (v) the binding energy per nucleon (BEN) and a plot of the BEN vs. atomic mass number A; (vi) nuclear fusion and fission, using examples from the BEN vs. atomic mass number A plot; (vii) a demonstration of the chain reaction that takes place in nuclear reactions; (viii) radioactive decay, inducing alpha decay, beta decay, and gamma decay; and (ix) a demonstration of radioactivity using a Geiger counter.


In this course, Dr Janet Lovett (University of St Andrews) explores properties of matter. Throughout this course, we present 14 demonstrations. In the first mini-lecture, we discuss atomic structure and look specifically at what makes up the elements (protons, neutrons, and electrons), models of the atom, energy levels, and element emission spectra. In the second mini-lecture we explore the discovery of the electron, focusing on a series of demonstrations that illustrate J.J. Thomson’s cathode ray experiment and how electron charge was first determined. The third mini-lecture turns towards nuclear physics, where we discuss nuclide stability, mass and energy, binding energy per nucleon to understand nuclear fusion and fission, and radioactivity. In the fourth mini-lecture, we take a step back from atoms to consider matter as a whole, specifically discussing the phases of matter, and how pressure and temperature affect these phases. In the fifth mini-lecture, we explore the relationships between pressure, volume, temperature, and number of particles before introducing the ideal gas law. In the sixth mini-lecture, we look at the forces between particles and how they interact in a substance.


Janet Lovett is a Lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews. Her primary research interest is in measuring nanometre distances for structural biology using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) spectroscopy. Dr Lovett teaches a first-year ‘Properties of Matter’ course at the University in addition to other courses such as magnetic resonance.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lovett, J. (2022, January 12). Properties of Matter - Nuclear Physics [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lovett, Janet. "Properties of Matter – Nuclear Physics." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Jan 2022,

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