Nuclear Physics Explained

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Difficult Ideas Presented: Decent Attempt I have always wanted to learn Nuclear Physics because of an interest in Physics, particularly as the subject (with all its underlying constituent fields and topics on matter and energy) is challenging, now more than ever. Why? It is the answer to our coming energy needs - not green source but a must. Our escalating energy needs in terms of power is going to overwhelm our national American electric grid system. We have to improve or even overhaul our electricity power grid/network. Moreover, we have to address the critical area of non-renewable power source - fossil fuel (it pollutes and will be a scarce commodity late this century). Nuclear Physics answers the need for a far more efficient power source in terms of how much electricity in watts and joules per unit weight (grams/kilograms/metric tons) of nuclear fuel can supply. I am referring to both fission and thermonuclear fusion reactors, the former already available but needs innovating very badly to improve fuel efficiency and reduce pollution, and the latter awaiting a breakthrough in the ratio of power input (to start fusion reaction) and power output (fusion reaction ongoing). The latter, fusion power, might just be our answer to clean and inexpensive electric power supply. Prof. Weinstein is presenting an awfully difficult topic because he is covering, quite ambitiously, as he delves into both the fundamental aspects of Nuclear Physics (theoretical) and the very practical Engineering aspects of the related applications. This is very daunting, and can be split into two to three subject areas in Nuclear Physics. He does a fairly decent job of explaining the theory, but his style is rather odd in that he seemingly wants the listener to understand some underlying ideas behind the Physics with their underpinnings on an a priori basis. Hence he lectures at a somewhat accelerated pace and mentions here and there a need to draw ideas on Quantum Theory, especially that originating in Chemistry. It certainly says to me that those are prerequisites one must understand, not merely know about, to tackle his lectures. This approach makes listening very challenging for the newcomers, albeit all right for Physics and Chemistry students. In his lectures, Prof. Weinstein consistently draws on some mathematical formulations which he mentions are derived from considerations based on Quantum Mechanics. It is quite unlikely for the newcomer to digest ideas as such without carefully tracing the origins of them. All I really got was that the nucleus ('heart of the atom') is always spinning or rotating on its axis like the Earth does in space - it has a measurable angular momentum. Furthermore, since he is an experimental physicist, he returns to what he knows best - the experimental world of nuclear accelerators and elementary particle colliders. His lectures show a bit of his enthusiasm in this area of Physics. For those who are lost when it comes to these large, sophisticated and elaborate experimental nuclear reactors, I would say I understand because this is an area that is esoteric in its specialization. It is very easy to be lost, even though those curious can learn something new. My opinion is that this course can be reorganized in its contents and even broken into 3 parts - Basic Ideas in Nuclear Physics (none of the abstraction), Applied Nuclear Physics and Engineering, and, finally, Experimental Nuclear Physics (with all those fancy devices and expensive dedicated machines). The latter category, I am certain, Prof. Weinstein will excel at lecturing in.
Date published: 2021-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent review of the highlights of Nuclear Physics. !
Date published: 2020-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really enjoyed the Engineering aspects I work in the XRF Spectrometer/Analyzer industry. I found it very interesting to explore the differences and similarities between the different technologies. Well done, entertaining as well as educational.
Date published: 2020-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nuclear physics Excellent course. I look forward to see more video courses on physics, thank you very much for the production of all your videos I have purchased.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nuclear Physics Explained The course is wonderful, the Professor is wonderful, MAY be the best lecture I have ever purchased! I am not a "beginner" on this topic. I would suggest people who buy THIS excellent lecture set bring at least an "intermediate" understanding to the class.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I have enjoyed every episode, especially the medical
Date published: 2020-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Open the world or nuclear energy to me I have always been intrigued with nuclear energy due to the vast amount of energy it can produce from the little amount fuel, resulting in very little wastes. And the latest trend in nuclear energy is liquid fluoride thorium reactor. But listening to Kirk Sorensen webinar on thorium reactor was interesting but some item still elude my grasp. I have taken quantum mechanic, particle physic and string theory with the great courses. And have taken calculus and the different physics in college so I can grasp most of the stuff they talk about in nuclear reactors. But still some items elude me. After taking this course Nuclear Physic with the great courses, I now can understand webinar lecture by Kirk Sorensen and others in the field on nuclear reactors design. Terms such as moderator, fission, actinides, etc does not elude me and I now have deeper understanding of the term than what the lecturer are saying. If you are interested in nuclear reactor technologies with all the 4th generation nuclear reactors design out there, this is a must take course so you can understanding what is going on out there regarding 4th generation nuclear reactors design. Of course this course will teach you other facet of nuclear physics than just nuclear reactors such as nuclear medicine, nuclear dating, nuclear imaging, etc. But for me, the portion about nuclear fission in regard to nuclear reactors was worth the money spend on this course.
Date published: 2020-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent professors, beautiful courses. Recently, being quarantied from COVID-19, I bought the courses. I have watched several and I love them. How to play chess, for example, is just what I needed to learn this great mind rewarding game. Another, 'The Joy of Mathematics' is, at my age, 80yo, outstanding; it reminds me of the times, as a child in Ireland learning math in Gaelic, how easy it would have been to learn math in the English language. It is never too late to learn and these courses are perfect for the entire world of peoples.
Date published: 2020-04-17
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Nuclear Physics Explained
Course Trailer
A Tour of the Nucleus and Nuclear Forces
1: A Tour of the Nucleus and Nuclear Forces

Take a whirlwind tour of nuclear physics, getting a glimpse of the rich array of topics and concepts you will cover in this course. Professor Weinstein explains the constituents of the nucleus; what holds the nucleus together, its role in determining atomic identity; and the nature of isotopes. He introduces two key tools: the periodic table of elements and the table of nuclides.

33 min
Curve of Binding Energy: Fission and Fusion
2: Curve of Binding Energy: Fission and Fusion

See how the strong and electromagnetic forces shape the nuclei of all atoms. Focus on the curve of binding energy, which explains why heavy nuclei are prone to fission, releasing energy in the process, while light nuclei release energy by fusing. Then, visit some classroom lab equipment to explore the principles that govern particle accelerators, which are used to probe the structure of nuclear matter.

32 min
Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Decay
3: Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Decay

Now turn to unstable nuclei and the process of radioactive decay. Trace three types of decay—alpha, beta, and gamma—studying the particles involved, their charge (or lack thereof) and energy ranges. Measure radioactivity with a Geiger counter, and consider what it would take to shield against each type of radiation.

33 min
Radiation Sources, Natural and Unnatural
4: Radiation Sources, Natural and Unnatural

Survey the sources of radiation in the world around us, bombarding us from the sky (cosmic rays), found in the ground (uranium and other naturally occurring radioactive elements), zapping us in medical procedures, and found in consumer goods. Look at some long-discontinued radiating products such as shoe fluoroscopy and Radithor, an ill-advised radium-laced health tonic.

29 min
How Dangerous Is Radiation?
5: How Dangerous Is Radiation?

Radiation terrifies many of us, but how scared should we be? Probe the difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, focusing on what high-energy emissions do to DNA. Consider a host of radiation sources—from the innocuous, such as cell phones and power lines, to nuclear explosions and dirty bombs. Finally, learn what to do if you are ever exposed to nuclear fallout.

29 min
The Liquid-Drop Model of the Nucleus
6: The Liquid-Drop Model of the Nucleus

Now open the hood to see how the nucleus works. Start simple with a hydrogen atom, which has a nucleus of one proton orbited by a single electron. Build from there, adding neutrons and more protons, forging elements and their isotopes and seeing how the nucleus behaves much like a liquid drop. Then use the Fermi gas model to refine your understanding of nuclear structure.

29 min
The Quantum Nucleus and Magic Numbers
7: The Quantum Nucleus and Magic Numbers

High school chemistry introduces students to the atomic shell model, which describes the distribution of electrons around the nucleus. In this lecture, learn the analogous nuclear shell model and the magic numbers that constitute full shells of protons and neutrons within the nucleus. Also, discover how an entire nucleus can ring like a bell or spin like a top.

29 min
Particle Accelerators: Schools of Scattering
8: Particle Accelerators: Schools of Scattering

Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia, where Professor Weinstein and his colleagues use high-energy electron beams to probe the structure of the nucleus. Dr. Weinstein also explains other types of particle accelerators and their purposes, including the Large Hadron Collider in Europe.

35 min
Detecting Subatomic Particles
9: Detecting Subatomic Particles

Subatomic particles are inconceivably small and move unbelievably fast. So how are they detected? To learn the ropes, go into an instrument facility where detectors are built. Begin with the simple circuitry of a Geiger counter, invented in the 1920s, and graduate to state-of-the-art tools that are millions of times more sensitive, including scintillators and wire chambers.

31 min
How to Experiment with Nuclear Collisions
10: How to Experiment with Nuclear Collisions

Continue your tour of Jefferson Lab by learning how scientists design an experiment, get it approved, run it, and then analyze the results. Discover why interpreting the outcome of nuclear collisions is like reconstructing car crashes. One tool relies on the shock wave produced by particles moving faster than light, which is possible in mediums other than a vacuum.

31 min
Scattering Nucleons in Singles or in Pairs
11: Scattering Nucleons in Singles or in Pairs

Focus on specific experiments at Jefferson Lab’s largest research hall, where mammoth machines smash electrons into nuclei and measure the scattered electrons and other particles. The goal is to understand the quantum orbits in nuclear shells. Professor Weinstein shows how nuclear physicists think in designing experiments to peel away the layers of the nuclear onion.

32 min
Sea Quarks, Gluons, and the Origin of Mass
12: Sea Quarks, Gluons, and the Origin of Mass

Discover the fundamental particles that make protons and neutrons tick—namely, quarks and gluons. Learn why quarks are never seen in isolation and why the mass of ordinary valence quarks (three per proton or neutron) accounts for only a tiny fraction of their mass. The answer to both riddles lies in “sea quarks,” the swarm of quark-antiquark pairs within protons and neutrons, which can be infinite in number.

29 min
Nuclear Fusion in Our Sun
13: Nuclear Fusion in Our Sun

Study the fusion reactions that take place inside the Sun. First, consider the formidable barrier that hydrogen nuclei must overcome to fuse into helium. Then, see how the mass and temperature of a star govern the types of reactions it can support. One product of stellar reactions is neutrinos, ghostly particles that pass through the Earth (and us) in colossal numbers.

31 min
Making Elements: Big Bang to Neutron Stars
14: Making Elements: Big Bang to Neutron Stars

See how hydrogen, helium, and a few other light nuclei were forged in the fiery aftermath of the Big Bang. Then, trace the formation of heavier nuclei in the interiors of stars, in supernova explosions, and in the collisions of neutron stars. Special attention is paid to the sequence of reactions and the required conditions that gave us the complete periodic table of elements.

31 min
Splitting the Nucleus
15: Splitting the Nucleus

The discovery of the neutron in 1932 led to the insight that neutrons can incite certain heavy elements to fission (break apart), releasing more neutrons and a prodigious amount of energy. In this lecture, lay the groundwork for understanding nuclear weapons and nuclear power by investigating nuclei that are prone to fission, how to initiate fission, and the “daughter nuclei” that result.

28 min
 Nuclear Weapons Were Never “Atomic” Bombs
16: Nuclear Weapons Were Never “Atomic” Bombs

Often called “atomic” bombs, the fission weapons first exploded in 1945 are in fact nuclear bombs—as are the fusion-boosted “H-bombs” developed a few years later. Study how these devices work, the difficulty of producing their reactive material, and techniques for enhancing their yield and miniaturizing warheads. Also, understand why the search for peaceful applications of nuclear weapons proved fruitless.

27 min
Harnessing Nuclear Chain Reactions
17: Harnessing Nuclear Chain Reactions

Learn the fundamentals of nuclear reactor design, which has the task of sustaining nuclear reactions at a controlled rate in order to boil water, produce steam, and drive a generator. Explore why a nuclear reactor can’t explode like a bomb, and consider pluses and minuses of the most common reactor designs in use.

32 min
Nuclear Accidents and Lessons Learned
18: Nuclear Accidents and Lessons Learned

Under specific circumstances, it has been possible for a nuclear reactor to fail catastrophically. Revisit the serious nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in the US, Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, and Fukushima in Japan, drawing lessons on the fallibility of safety features and human operators. Track the cascading sequence of failures in each accident, leading to core meltdown and radiation release. Consider the health effects, which were severe for emergency workers at Chernobyl.

29 min
The Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Advanced Reactors
19: The Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Advanced Reactors

Explore the current state of fission power, now in its third generation since the dawn of the nuclear age, with a fourth generation in the works. Today’s nuclear plants are designed to produce power more cheaply, more safely, with less waste, and less risk of proliferation than earlier designs. Survey the latest technology, from advanced light water reactors to molten salt and thorium reactors.

29 min
Nuclear Fusion: Obstacles and Achievements
20: Nuclear Fusion: Obstacles and Achievements

The holy grail of nuclear power is fusion, which has been tantalizingly out of reach for decades. Learn why fusion power is so desirable and so difficult to achieve. Study the different strategies for attaining a contained, self-sustaining thermonuclear reaction, focusing on the tokamak, which confines a high-temperature plasma in a powerful toroidal magnetic field.

28 min
Killing Cancer with Isotopes, X-Rays, Protons
21: Killing Cancer with Isotopes, X-Rays, Protons

High-energy radiation has been used against cancer tumors since the discovery of X-rays in 1895. Discover the powerful arsenal of radiation sources and procedures that radiation oncologists use today. Visit the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute to look at a technique that targets cancer cells with remarkable precision, while sparing the surrounding tissues.

28 min
Medical Imaging: CT, PET, SPECT, and MRI
22: Medical Imaging: CT, PET, SPECT, and MRI

The ability of radiation to penetrate the body and chart density and metabolic activity has led to a wide range of tools for medical imaging, including mammograms, PET scans, CT scans, bone-density tests, MRI, and other technologies. Learn how these tools work; what they reveal; and when, if ever, the doses of radiation might pose a significant risk.

30 min
Isotopes as Clocks and Fingerprints
23: Isotopes as Clocks and Fingerprints

The steady rate at which unstable isotopes decay, known as their half-life, makes them ideal for dating objects. Identify the radioactive isotopes best-suited for establishing age, such as carbon-14 for organic remains from human history and uranium-238 for billion-year-old geological formations. Also, see how stable isotopes can be used for fraud detection and studying ancient climates.

30 min
Viewing the World with Radiation
24: Viewing the World with Radiation

Finish the course by surveying the many uses of radiation on Earth and beyond. Passive detectors identify radioactive contamination and clandestine nuclear bomb tests. Cosmic rays can be used to “X-ray” ancient buildings and learn the secrets of their construction. And, see why some scientists speculate that humans thrive on Earth thanks to an ancient bath of radiation from a supernova explosion.

33 min
Lawrence Weinstein

The philosopher's stone of the alchemists turns out to be the nucleus, involving forces much greater than anything in chemistry.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

About Lawrence Weinstein

Lawrence Weinstein is a Professor of Physics at Old Dominion University (ODU) and a researcher at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his doctorate in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Weinstein’s research involves electron scattering to study the structure of the nucleus and proton.

Among his many awards, Professor Weinstein received the ODU Teaching with Technology Award, was named University Professor for his outstanding teaching, and received the A. Rufus Tonelson Faculty Award from ODU, the George B. Pegram Award for Excellence in Physics Education in the Southeast from the American Physical Society, and the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award. In recognition of his research, Professor Weinstein was named an Eminent Scholar, a distinction reserved for only four percent of the ODU faculty, and he was named a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Professor Weinstein is the author of Guesstimation (with John Adam) and Guesstimation 2.0, about techniques for finding approximate solutions to any problem. He has coauthored more than 200 publications in professional journals, with more than 10,000 citations. He has given more than 110 professional presentations, in addition to more than 75 talks and physics demonstrations for community groups, high schools, and middle schools.

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