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Q & A: What force holds protons in the nucleus together.

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Most recent answer: 02/29/2016
I was wondering why it is that the protons within a nucleus don't repel from each other and split apart. I.e. what is there to stop the protons from moving away in opposite directions.
- Connor (age 14)
Edinburgh, Scotland

Hi Connor,

As you are aware, the repulsive electrical force of like-sign protons in a  nucleus would like to make them repel each other.  However, there is  an additional force inside the nucleus that prevents this:  the strong nucleon-nucleon force that is attractive rather than repulsive.  This strong nuclear force is, however, rather short ranged and as soon as a proton gets outside its range then the repulsive electric force takes over and repels the stray proton.


(published on 02/29/2016)

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