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An Analysis of the Implications of a 90% Electromagnetic Force Strength

Evan Schroeder


Supposing that the electromagnetic force were 10% weaker than current values, we evaluate the repercussions on a fictional universe. We discuss the changes caused on the nucleus, the atom, the molecule including ionic and covalent bonds, as well as other macroscopic effects.

The Nucleus

The main influence of the electromagnetic force in the nucleus is by proton- proton repulsion. This force is in opposition to the strong force’s efforts to hold the nucleus together.

For a small nucleus, the effect of a 90% EM force would only lead to increased stability of the nucleus. That is, the binding energy of the nucleus would in- crease, meaning that more energy would need to be applied to the system in order to break apart the nucleus.

For a large nucleus, we will consider the case of Polonium-209. We chose Polonium as it is the first radioactive element apart from Technetium and Promethium. Po-209 is the most stable isotope, yet it can still experience alpha decay. A basic understanding of this radioactivity is that the radius of the nu- cleus exceeds the effective radius of the strong force, and thus the proton-proton repulsion breaks the nucleus apart. Since the p-p repulsion is decreased for a 90% EM force, it is reasonable that Po-209 might become non-radioactive. This trend could continue for heavier radioactive elements like Astatine and Radon, where if they did not become stable their half-lives would definitely increase. Additionally, the ratio of neutrons to protons would decrease for stable isotopes, as there would need to be fewer neutron buffers to counteract the p-p repulsion. We would expect to see the trend presented in Fig 1 shift so that the N-Z line is more closely followed, up to a certain Z.

Fusion in

our Sun is essentially a process by which nuclei with high enough energies to

Furthermore, this has implications with our Sun for example.


Figure 1 overcome their EM repulsion are able to get close enough so that the

Figure 1

overcome their EM repulsion are able to get close enough so that the strong force can bind the two nuclei together. Since the EM repulsion has been lowered, it would imply that nuclei of lower energies would by able to reach that strong force threshold. This in turn would mean that more fusion events would happen per second, making the sun much brighter and hotter. It would also imply that the lifetime of our Sun would decrease, as its fuel is being used up more quickly.

The Atom

One step in complexity away from the nucleus is atomic Hydrogen: one proton and one electron. We will derive the structure of the ground state of hydrogen via the Born-Oppenheimer approximation. The Hamiltonian will take the form


= 2m 2





4π 0 r

The kinetic energy of the proton is removed according to the approximation. Furthermore, it is apparent that the potential energy is the same, except with


the added factor of 9/10. This represents the electromagnetic force being decreased by 10%. The problem now becomes solving the time independent Schrodinger equation. 1 After solving, the allowed energies are

E n


10 2 2




0 2

e 2






10 2


E n

where E n and E n are the respective energies before and after the 10% EM force reduction. From this the new Bohr radius can be determined as

a = 10


4π 0 2

= 10


me 2

where a = 0.529 × 10 10 m.

a = 0.588 × 10 10 m

For the ground state of Hydrogen, we see that




10 2


(13.6 eV) = 11.016 eV

The percent change in the Bohr radius is 11.11%, and the percent change in the energy of the ground state is 19%. These are not insignificant changes, so some conclusions can be made.

The electron seems to occupy a mean region farther away from the nucleus. This could lead to some very interesting properties when dealing with metals and various chemical bonds, but that is for another section. For now it is suffi- cient to note the change.

The change in energy of the ground state implies that the ionization energy of electron is lower, meaning that in the new system less energy is needed to strip the electron from the atom. This could have implications with regard to the ionic bond, specifically that it would be easier for one atom to strip the electron from another to complete its octet. This could allow for new ionic bonds never seen in nature as the ionization energy is currently too high.

The Molecule

One step in complexity away from the atom is the ionized Hydrogen gas molecule:

two protons and one electron. The Hamiltonian of the system is

H =

2m 2 10




0 r l








1 For a full derivation, see Griffiths, David J. Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. 145-152.


where r l and r r are the distances from the electron to the left and right pho- tons. The process of finding the expectation energy is non-trivial, and for now we shall skip straight to the results. 2

After printing out the expectation energy for various inter-proton distances, it can be found that the minimum energy occurs when the separation distance between the protons is 1.466 × 10 10 m, with an energy of -12.445 eV. This min- imum energy is 1.429 eV below the energy of -11.016 eV when the protons are far apart, which is the same as for the hydrogen atom. It will take at least 1.429 eV to completely separate the protons, so it is the binding energy.

Compared to when the EM force is at 100%, we can see that 90% force causes the point of lowest energy to be at a greater inter-nuclei distance and with a corresponding lower energy. This is illustrated in Figure 2. 3

lower energy. This is illustrated in Figure 2. 3 Figure 2 The percent change in the

Figure 2

The percent change in the distance of lowest energy is 11.11% and the percent change in lowest energy is 19%. While this is a simple case, the results can be extrapolated for more com- plicated ones. This is a classic case of covalent bonding, where ionic bonding has already been covered. We can deduct that all other covalent bonds will produce these same effects, namely being weaker and at further intermolecular distances. In areas of high disturbance, such as high heat environments or lo- cations of high photon bombardment, we would expect to see fewer covalently bonded molecules. This is because the energy needed to break the bond would

2 For a more thorough explanation, see Griffiths, David J. Introduction to Quantum Me- chanics. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. 304-308. 3 Ref. Appendix I for the Mathematica code used to generate this plot.


be lower. An example of this might be sunlight hitting a molecule in the upper atmosphere and causing it to break up into its constituent atoms. This would in turn make solar radiation a much greater threat to biological life.

It is interesting to note that for any given reduction in the EM force, a co- valent bond will always form, albeit at a very low binding energy in some cases. As the EM force approaches zero the biding energy is decreased, but is never non-zero, meaning that a bond will always form. In theory the thermal fluctu- ations of the molecule could be enough to break the bond given a low enough EM force, effectively causing no covalently bonded molecules. However, in the 90% case this is not predicted.

Macroscopic Effects

From these basic ideas we can begin to construct a universe. Since atoms and molecules will be ”larger” so to say, we can then infer that all macroscopic structures will be much larger than in our current Universe, ranging from sim- ple objects like a crystal of n-atoms, to the very planets in the Solar System. However, these planets will be expected to form in roughly the same orbits as our Universe, as gravity is the main force associated with Solar System forma- tion. Additionally, anyone living on the surface of a planet would feel a lessened force of gravity due to the increased planet radius.

What we know as Earth, though, will be a very different place. Since the Sun will be much hotter, it is not guaranteed that Earth will still be in the habitable zone. Furthermore, the increased solar radiation combined with the decreased effectiveness of the Earth’s atmosphere to block it would result in a much more toxic environment for any life present.

The possibility of life is not out of the question in this universe, however, the life that might exist wold mostly likely look very strange to us. Most life would need to either live underground to escape the solar radiation and heat, or would have needed to evolve in such a way to adapt to the more toxic conditions.


Appendix I

Here is presented the Mathematica code used in the molecule section.

presented the Mathematica code used in the molecule section. The ratio of a and b equal

The ratio of a and b equal to one signifies the symmetric state. 4

4 Consult Van Dommelen, Leon. ”4.6 The Hydrogen Molecular Ion.” Quantum Mechan-

<http://www.eng.fsu.edu/ domme-

ics for Engineers.

len/quantum/style a/hion.html>.

Florida State University, n.d.




Griffiths, David J. Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.

Van Dommelen, Leon. ”4.6 The Hydrogen Molecular Ion.” Quantum Me- chanics for Engineers. Florida State University, n.d. Web. <http://www.eng.fsu.edu/ dom- melen/quantum/style a/hion.html>.

Van Dommelen, Leon. ”D.21 Solution of the Hydrogen Molecular Ion.” Quantum Mechanics for Engineers. Florida State University, n.d. Web. <http://www.eng.fsu.edu/ dommelen/quantum/style a/nt h2-sol.htmlsec:nt h2- sol>.