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Q & A: color of nuclei?

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Most recent answer: 12/16/2016
Q:
Do atomic nuclei have a color? Because they are smaller than the wavelength of visible light, and if they have no color does that mean they are black, white or just something we don't know?
- Ben (age 13)
America
A:

They don't have visible colors. That's not really because they are smaller than the wavelength of visible light but rather because the energy differences between their states are larger than the energies of visible light quanta, called photons. So visible light doesn't have enough energy per photon to get absorbed by a nucleus. The nuclei are charged, so they will wiggle around a little in response to an oscillating electric field. That means that they's scatter some light. They scatter high-frequency blue light more than low-frequency red light.

Mike W.


(published on 12/16/2016)

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