Feeds

Boffins challenge shape of neutron neutrality

Pick a team, dammit

Security for virtualized datacentres

Neutrons. You might very well think (unless you are a physics buff, or associated geek) they are neutral, that is to say, without charge. After all, they even sound like the word neutral.

Well, yes, and no.

Back in 1947, Enrico Fermi proposed that in fact neutrons do have charge, but that it cancels out, so the overall effect is as if they have no charge at all. He suggested that a neutron carries a positive charge on the inside, offset by a negative charge on its outer envelope.

Now researchers at the University of Washington have challenged this idea, suggesting instead that the charge is negative at the core and on the edge, with a sliver of positive charge in between, balancing it all out.

"Nobody realised this was the case," said Gerald A Miller, the professor who led the research. "It is significant because it is a clear fact of nature that we didn't know before. Now we know it."

The discovery is significant because the neutron is the particle responsible for the strong force, one of four fundamental forces that are at work in our universe. It is the strongest force known in nature, and is responsible for binding atomic nuclei together, but exactly how it works is still poorly understood.

"Without the strong force you wouldn't have atoms - or anything else that follows from atoms," Miller said.

Miller's team used data from the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va., the Bates Linear Accelerator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Mainz Microtron at Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany.

He says one of the key findings was confirmation of Fermi's idea that the neutron carries a negative charge on its outer shell. He also does not rule out a further refinement of the picture of the charge distribution, as the data is analysed further.

His analysis is published in the 13 September edition of Physical Review Letters. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
NASA eyeballs SOLAR HEAT BOMBS, MINI-TORNADOES and NANOFLARES on Sun
Astro boffins probe fiery star's hidden depths
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.