How does nuclear physics help society?
Nuclear physics is the branch that concentrates on the physical study of the structure and interactions of atomic nuclei. This includes nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and radiation.
Answer and Explanation: 1
Nuclear physics came to the fore in the first quarter of the 1900s and has found applications in various parts of society. Here are some of their notable ones:
- Nuclear weapons. It was the beginning of the First World War, and there was a race to arm each country with the most destructive weapons. It was under this guise that nuclear physics was developed to make nuclear weapons. In the late 1930s, Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch discovered the nuclear fission reaction, which was later weaponized and used to make the atomic bomb.
- Nuclear Energy. It was around the same time when Enrico Fermi first showed that neutrons could split atoms. He led the team that managed to produce a sustainable and controlled chain reaction, releasing energy as heat along the way. It was the early 1950s when the first nuclear power plant in Idaho was constructed under the guidance of Enrico Fermi. Now nuclear power is a cheap source of power for residential and industrial use and is also used in military submarines and aircraft carriers.
- Nuclear Medicine. It was the work of Sam Seidlin in the mid-1940s that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed the potential of applying nuclear physics in the field of medicine. He reported his work in using radioactive iodine (I 131) as a treatment for advanced thyroid cancer. However, it was only in the early 1970s when nuclear medicine was declared a medical specialty.
Nuclear physics has also produced several products that we now take for granted. Smoke detectors capitalize on the ionizing properties of americium-241 to aid in identifying the presence of smoke in the air. The heat and electricity from nuclear power plants are used to remove salt and minerals from seawater in a process called nuclear desalination. Nuclear physics is also used in agriculture, providing ways to remove pests and diseases, protect soil and water resources, increase crop and livestock production and ensure food safety.
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Physics has changed humanity since it allows an understanding of things previously unknown and has ultimately led to more advancements for humanity as a whole. Explore how the world has changed due to physics and the understanding of physics.