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THE LATE Sin RALPH FOWLER

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P. KAPITZA

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THEORY OF

ATOMIC NUCLEUS

AND

NUCLEAR

ENERGY-SOURCES

BY

G. GAMOW

Professor ofTheoretical Physics Minneapolis, Minn.

George Washington University

Washington, D.C.

AND

C. L. CRITCHFIELD

Associate Professor ofPhysics

University ofMinnesota

Being the third edition of

STRUCTURE OF ATOMIC NUCLEUS AND

NUCLEAR TRANSFORMATIONS

OXFORD

AT THE CLARENDON PRESS

1949

.

Oxford University Press, Amen House, London E.G. 4

GLASGOW NEWYORK TORONTO MELBOURNE WELLINGTON

BOMBAY CALCUTTA MADRAS CAPE TOWN

Geoffrey Cumberlege, Publisher to the University

PRINTED IN CHEAT BRITAIN

PREFACE

l lt is my personal conviction that if we knew more about the

nucleus, we shouldfind it much simpler than we suppose. I

am always a believer in simplicity, being a simple fellow

myself.'

LORD RUTHERFORD (Gottingen Lecture

Dec. 14, 1931)

except DURINGthedecadethathaspassedsincetheappearanceofthesecond in the form of a multi-volume handbook. The difficulties of technical studies, many ofwhich are, however, quite important also

liberation of nuclear energy which led to a deluge of mostly semi-

from it has the become purely again scientific necessary point to ofview. rewrite Under the book these practically circumstances anew,

as well as to increase its volume. Taking into consideration the

mented by the discovery of practical methods for the large-scale

collecting all available material in a single volume have been aug-

quite impossible to write a comprehensive treatise on the subject

edition ofthis booknuclearphysicshasgrownto such a size that it is

limits Despitetheenormous ofhuman endurance, increaseofthe this could be factualknowledge done only by doubling concerning the ture; in fact, it seems that during these ten years we have even un-

learned a little about the most fundamental question of the nature

ofnuclear forces. Thus, there arosethe question of whether it wquld

not be better to delay the book until the fundamental principles of

madein actually understanding the basic properties ofnuclear struc-

the propertiesofatomic nuclei, comparatively little progresshasbeen

Gamow authorship; and thus C. Critchneld G. Gamow of the of the present first one. two editions becomes G.

nuclear physics are finally settled. The authors have decided, how- 'up-to-date-ness 9 of the edition.

contribution to the progress ofscience will certainly justify the short

edition), making the book out of date. If this happens again, the

first edition; theory of the 'compound nucleus' after the second

discovery is made in nuclear physics (discovery ofneutrons after the

whenever a new edition of this book nears publication a new major

ever, to go aheadwith the book on the.basis ofthe superstition that

Astotheactualcompositionofthebook, the following remarkscan

be made. It was attempted to write the book in an inductive way,

starting from the properties of elementary particles from which the

THE INTERNATIONAL SERIES OF

MONOGRAPHS ON PHYSICS

GENERALEDITORS

THE LATE SIB RALPH FOWLER

N. F. MOTT

Professor of Physics in the

Universityof Bristol.

P. KAPITZA

E. C. BULLARD

Professor of Physics,

University of Toronto.

Already Published

THE THEORY OF ELECTRIC AND

THETHEORYOFATOMIC COLLISIONS. MAGNETIC By N. F. SUSCEPTIBILITIES. MOTTand n. s. w. MASSEY. By

j. H. VAN VI/ECK. 1932.

Royal 8vo, pp. 390.

New edition in preparation.

RELATIVITY, THERMODYNAMICS, AND COSMOLOGY. By R. c. TOLMAN.

1934. Royal 8vo, pp. 518.

CHEMICAL KINETICS AND CHAIN REACTIONS. By N. SEMENOFP. 1935. IONIC CRYSTALS. By N. p. MOTT and B. w.

Royal 8vo,pp. 492.

RELATIVITY,

GRAVITATION, ANDWORLD-STRUCTURE. By E. A. MII.NE.

1935.

Royal 8vo, pp. 378.

THEORYOFPROBABILITY. ByH. JF.FFBEYS. SecondEdition, 1948. Royal 8vo,

pp. 420.

THE

QUANTUMTHEORYOF RADIATION. By w. HEITMSB. Second Edition.

1944.

Royal 8vo, pp.

264.

THEORETICALOFSTELLARATMOSPHERESASTROPHYSICS:ANDATOMICENVELOPES.THEORYAND

By

THEANALYSIS

s. BOSSELAND. 1936.

Royal

pp. 376.

THETHEORYOFTHE PROPERTIES AND MOON. By sm FBANK DYSON and B. v. d. B.

WOOIXEY. 1937. Royal 8vo, pp. 168.

OFMETALSAND ALLOYS. By N. F.

MOTTand 8vo, H. JONES. 1936. Royal 8vo, pp. 340.

ECLIPSES OF THE SUN

THE PRINCIPLESOF STATISTICALMECHANICS. By B. c. TOLMAN. 1938. By

QTTBNEY. Second edition, 1948. Royal 8vo, pp. 288.

GEOMAGNETISM. By s. CHAPMAN and J. BABTEI.S. 1940. Royal 8vo, 2 vols.,

pp. 1076.

Edition. 1947. Royal 8vo, GASES. pp. 324. By M. BTJHEMANN. New edition inpreparation.

KINETICTHEORYOFLIQUIDS.

By j. FBKNKEZ,. 1946. Royal 8vo, pp. 50O.

THE PRINCIPLES OF QUANTUM MECHANICS. By r. A. M. DIRAC. Third

THESEPARATION OF

COSMIC RAYS. By L. JANOSSY. 1948. Royal 8vo, pp. 438.

KINEMATIC RELATIVITY.

E. A. MII.NE. 1948. Royal 8vo, pp. 246.

THE PULSATIONTHEORYOFVARIABLE STARS. By s. BOSSELAND. 1949.

Royal 8vo, pp. 682.

ELECTRONIC PROCESSES IN

Royal 8vo, pp. 160.

vi

PREFACE

nuclei are made and working up to more and more complex nuclear

properties. A considerable space has been devoted to thermonuclear

reactions andtheirapplicationto cosmologicalproblems (ChapterX),

since, atthepresenttimethereisnobookonastrophysicsinwhichthis

what tion class ofnuclearenergy can of problem be called receives 'nuclear bymeans an technology' adequate ofchain rather reactions treatment. than in to fissionable On pure the science. other sub-

hand, comparatively little is said about the large-scale energy libera-

stances, since it is felt that this class of problem belongs more to

involved. volume. Consequently Newimportantfindings,whichappearedduringtheprinting ChapterXI,which treats the problem ofnuclear chain

reactions, is limitedto purely schematic descriptions ofthe processes

of this book, are included hi the appendixes at the end of the

the It fourth maybeadded edition ofthe in conclusionthattheauthors book will represent the final certainlyhopethat version ofthe

theory ofthe atomic nucleus.

September 1947

G. G.

C. L. C.

LOS ALAMOS.

NEW MEXICO.

CONTENTS

I. GENERAL PROPERTIES OF THE ATOMIC NUCLEUS .

II.

THE GENERAL FORCES THEORY BETWEEN OF NUCLEAR NUCLEONS STRUCTURE

.

.

III. THEORIES OF NUCLEAR FORCES

IV.

V. THE PROCESS OF ^-TRANSFORMATION .

.

.

.

.

1

.32

.53

83

.112

VI. SPONTANEOUSDISINTEGRATIONOFATOMICNUCLEI 146 XI. NUCLEAR CHAIN REACTIONS

VII. ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION OF NUCLEI .

VIII. NUCLEAR COLLISIONS

.

.

.

.

IX. NUCLEAR TRANSFORMATIONS .

X. THERMONUCLEAR REACTIONS

.

.

.

.178

.207

230

264

.317

APPENDIXES

.

INDEX OF AUTHORS

INDEX OF SUBJECTS

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.328

338-

.342

LIST OF PLATES

PlateI facespage 32, Plates II-Varebetween

pages 256 and 257.

I

GENERAL PROPERTIES OF THE ATOMIC NUCLEUS

1. Atoms, nuclei, nucleons

IN its incessant effort to become adjusted to the immense complexity tion. This desire to reduce the observed complexity ofnature to the

logical simplicityofbasic postulatesrepresents the main drivingforce

in the development of science, and the degree of simplification thus

physical world can be derived bythe method ofpurely logical deduc-

elementary notions and laws from which the entire picture of the

phenomena ofthe phenomena and to ofnature, reduce them the humanmind to the smallest strives possible to analysethese number of

the achieved progress (as ofscience characterized towards by the its number final goal. ofelementary notions and

laws necessary for complete deduction) can be used as a measure of

development It goes without were saying consideredas that this beingelementaryoften search for basic elementarypostu- turnedoutto

latesresultssometimesinover-simplificationofthetheoreticalpicture

thusobtained,andthatthenotionsthatatacertainepochofscientific be quite complexwhensome previously neglected or later discovered

empiricalfacts weretakeninto consideration. However, studyingthe

history ofscience for the few thousand years ofits existence, one can

hardlyescape the conviction that, in spite ofall these upsanddowns, matter led the philosophers of ancient Greece to the recognition of

four basic elements from which the world was supposed to be made ;

simplicity underlying the apparent complexity of different forms of

At the dawn of the scientific study of matter, the desire for basic

number of basic postulates represents a converging process.

the reduction of the complexity of nature to a comparatively small

these are stone, water, air, and fire. According to the ideas first atoms, wood as a mixture of the atoms of stone, water, and fire,

formulated by Democritus, these four elementary substances were

made up of a large number of essentially indivisible particles, the

atoms responsible which, for being the formation mixed in of different all the variety proportions, ofknown were substances. deemed

mixed Thus the in different soil was considered proportions as (more being fire a mixture in gold, ofstone- less in iron). and water-

whereas various metals were looked upon as stone- and fire-atoms

3595.61

B

2

GENERAL PROPERTIES OF ATOMIC NUCLEUS Chap. I, 1

Further development of science extended and amplified these

ancient views without, however, changing essentially the funda-

mental idea. The three 'material' elements, stone, water, and air,

were replaced by ninety-two chemical elements, whereas the atoms

of fire evolved into the notion ofradiant energy, and later into the

modern idea oflight quanta. This transition from only afew atomic

species, as proposed by the ancient philosophers, to a much larger

numberofdistinctelementswhicharerequiredtoestablishthescience

ofchemistry represents a typical * forced retreat ' on ourwaytowards densation 9 of a single basic element, viz. hydrogen. Prout based his

views on contemporary estimates ofatomic weights whichseemed to

indicate that the weights of different atomic species relative to

hydrogen were always represented by integers. This far-seeing

hypothesis was 'disproved', however, and thrown into oblivion by

more precise chemical measurements which showed that 'Prout's

integer rule' held only in first approximation, and that in some

cases (as in chlorine with chemical atomic weight 35*5) it did not ofvariousisotopes oftheelement. Furthermore, it became clear that

areobservedeveninthe the small deviations from casesofsingleisotopesmustbeinterpretedon Prout J s integer rule (mass-defects) which

thebasis ofthe relativistic mass-energyrelationas dueto theinternal

weights represent, in general, onlytheweightedmeans oftheweights

and by recognition of the fact that the so-called chemical atomic

wereremoved almosta full century later by the discovery ofisotopes,

The difficulties standing in the way ofProut's original hypothesis

hold at all.

different chemical elements represent just different degrees of 'con-

at chemist a new Prout reduction formulated ; and early an in hypothesis the nineteenth according century to the which French the

which matter was supposed to be built led immediately to attempts

However, this largely increased number of distinct elements from

the reduction ofthe complexity ofnature.

that energy caused that the binds early the downfall atoms of ofProut's hydrogen original into the hypothesis more complex ofcon-

atoms of various heavier elements. Thus the very same objections

densation became instrumental in the ultimate interpretation ofthe

structure ofthe atom.

Alreadyat anearlystagein atomic studies it hadbecome clearthat

atoms must be considered as some kind of complex mechanical

Chap. I,

1

ATOMS, NUCLEI, NUCLEONS

3

systems built of positively and negatively charged parts ; and the

discovery of the electron by J. J. Thomson led him to

propose an

atomic model in which the positively charged material, representing

the major part of the atomic mass, was assumed to be distributed

more or less uniformlythroughoutthe bodyofthe atom, whereas the

light, negative electrons were scattered through this material as the

seeds in a water-melon. According to this picture, the condensation

of several hydrogen atoms into more complex atomic species would

be visualized as the fusion of the spherical positive charges of the

redistribution atoms into ofthe a single, electrons larger, within spherical the new charge domain. and followed by

originala

This Thomson atomic model, which for a while dominated the

theory of atomic structure, was, however, disproved in 1911 by the

classic experiments of E. Rutherford, who studied the scattering of

beams a-particles ofa-particles in their collisions passing with through the atoms thin foils ofthe ofdifferent scattering materials. material

It was found, in fact, that the large deflexions suffered by individual

could not possibly be explained under the assumption of a uniform centre. Thisheavy, positivelychargedpart oftheatomwasgiven the charge on the corresponding nuclei or, what is the same thing, the

different materials also permitted a direct estimate of the electric

the Coulomb positivelychargedcentre attraction. Rutherford's undertheinfluenceoftheinverse experiments on a-scattcring square in

inside a spherical positive charge, atomic electrons move around

the new Rutherford model ofthe atom in which, instead of moving

name of atomic, nucleus, and the old Thomson model gave way to

mass, is concentrated within a very small region around the atomic

assume that the positive charge of the atom, as well as most of its

strong enough to account for the observed deflexions one must

body ofthe atom ; and that in order to obtain electric forces that are

distribution ofthe positive charge (and its mass) through the entire

number of electrons composing the outer atomic envelopes, and led atomic weights.

in the natural sequence of elements arranged in order of increasing

to In reformulate the light of Prout's Rutherford's original hypothesis atomic model by one applying would it be directly inclined to

the nuclei of different atomic species, and by saying that the atomic

to with the the important ordinal number result that (atomic the numberofatomic number) of the element electrons in coincides question

4

GENERAL PROPERTIES OF ATOMIC NUCLEUS Chap. I, 1

nuclei of various elements are formed by the 'condensation' of

hydrogen-nuclei, or protons as they were called because of their

fundamental importance in the problems ofthe structure ofmatter.

Such a formulation would be, however, only partially true since, as

itiseasytosee, buildingacompositeatomfromanumber ofhydrogen-

atoms requires a redistribution of the electric charge between the

nucleus and the outer envelope. Thus, for example, considering the arrive at an element with atomic number 16 instead of 8. Thus, in

nuclei, with all outer electrons retained on the outside, we should the original electrons remain on the outside. The other eight are,

formation ofan oxygen atom from sixteen hydrogens, only eight of structure or as being 'swallowed' by the corresponding number of

nuclear protons which thus lose their positive charge and turn into

either as retaining their individuality as components of the nuclear

We could imagine the electrons that are assimilated by the nucleus

so is reduced to speak, accordingly. ' assimilated ' bythenucleus,thepositive chargeonwhich

we must assume that in the 'condensation' process leading to the

ordertoretaintheprincipalfeature ofTrout'selementaryhypothesis,

constructed from sixteen hydrogen-atoms by direct fusion of their

atom of the principal isotope of oxygen (with atomic weight 16) as

neutral particles. The serious theoretical difficulties which arose in

early attempts to consider individual electrons as permanent mem-

bers ofthenuclear structure, aswellas theempirical fact thatneutral

protons, known as neutrons, are ejected from nuclei with the same, or

often greater, ease as are ordinary protons in experiments on atomic

bombardment, force us to accept the second possibility. Assuming

the neutron-proton hypothesis for the constitution ofnuclei, we find

that the number ofprotons in a given nucleus is given directly by its that the number ofnucleons forming a given nucleus and known as

atomicnumber Z, whereas the number ofneutronsmust be computed

as the difference between the total number of constituent particles

the (nudeons) integer andthe nearest numberofprotons. the exact atomic weight, It will be since noticed the value at this of point the

its mass-numberA must not be expected to coincide necessarily with

mass-defect of a composite nucleus may exceed the mass of one

nucleon. Thus, expressing In fact, relative following atomic the values weights of on mass-defects the basis ofhydrogen we find that as

they become larger than one m.u. for all elements heavier than Sn.

Chap. T,

1

ATOMS, NUCLEI, NUCLEONS

5

exactly unity (instead of oxygen exactly 16),f we should not get a

clear-cut 'integer-rule' and the correct values ofthe mass-numberA

could be obtained only by studying the continuity ofthe variation of

atomic masses throughout the whole system of the elements. How- is containedin the so-called a-shells (a combinationoftwoconstituent elementaryneutrons formulated by W. Heisenberg andpositive and electrons. to consider It is, the in fact, proton muchmore and the

ever, referring atomic weights to oxygen we avoid this unnecessary

complication since in this case the deviations from integers happen

never to exceed one-half. Nearly integer atomic weights would be

obtained as well ifweusedO12 as the standard with the value exactly

is 12, due or if to we the used fact He4 that as the exactly major 4. part As of we the shall nuclear see later, binding this energy result

protons andtwo constituent neutrons), and that the nuclei, He4 , C12 ,

O18 , etc., represent saturated systems of such shells.

It must be emphasized also from the very beginning that, in con-

sidering the nuclei of different elements as built of protons and

neutrons, we do not consider neutrons as some composite systems

formed by two 'really' elementary particles, e.g. a proton and an

electron, or, conversely, consider protons as composite systems of

rational to assume in this matter a symmetrical point of view first described are usuallyknown as ^-transformations and represent the

absorption ofan electronfromthe outside. Processes ofthetype just

means by which nuclei, in which either the number of neutrons or

the number of protons is relatively too large, adjust their electric

charge to the value corresponding to the most stable state (least total

mass for the given number of nucleons).

t Tn this rase, for example, the atomic weight of the heavier U-isotopo would bo

spondsto the change ofthe electric state ofthe nucleon causedby the

electron (positive or negative). The reverse of this process corre-

emission ofthe corresponding charge-difference in the form ofa free

iiucleon from one of its states into another is accompanied by the

particle which was given the name of nucleon.% The transition of a

neutron as two possible electrical states of a single heavy elementary

''38*07 -= 235-97, giving A = 236 instead of 238.

J It may be pointed out here that it is consistent with this view of the heavy

elementary particle that there exist otherstates ofthenucleon, suchasthe statewith

a negative electrical charge (the hypothetical negativeproton) or states with multiple

charges ofeither sign. However, such particles havenot been detected hitherto.

6

GENERAL PROPERTIES OF ATOMIC NUCLEUS Chap. I, 1

The detailedstudyofenergy-liberationinthevarious/?-transforma-

tions revealed an unexpected and alarming discrepancy in the total

energy-balance isotopes, emitted from cf. a 5) connected nucleus. is always In with mysteriously order these to processes explain lost whenever this : it seemed discrepancy an that electron it a part was is emittedfrom the electron mass, the nucleus wasgiven simultaneouslywiththe the somewhatromantic electron. name neutrino'\ Thisnew

of the energy (as calculated from the difference in masses of the

necessary to assume that, in each process of this kind, a hitherto

unknown energy-carrier, escaping all knownmeans ofobservation, is

hypothetical particle, which had to be considered as carrying no

electric charge and as possessing a much smaller mass (if any) than

(denoted by v). It wasfound necessary to ascribe to this particle the

ability to carry mechanical momentum, and spin, so that it became

a full-fledged member in the society of elementary particles of

physics. Takinginto accountthe existence ofneutrinos, we canwrite

various possible transformations ofthe nucleons in the forms :

n -

p

p+er->n+v

Some a supply of these of external transformations, energy as in for excess example the first one, are exo-

thermicandcan take placespontaneously,whereas the others require

certain threshold for the purpose ofexplaining nuclear forces, are supposed by to possess

value. We shall return to the problem of neutrinos in the chapters

discussing the nature of nuclear forces (Chap. Ill) and the process

of^-transformations (Chap. V).

We cannot finish this introductory survey of the elementary

particles without mentioning the ne