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Nuclear Effect versus Atomic Effect

  1. Apr 27, 2009 #1
    I'm trying to clarify the terms "nuclear effect" and "atomic effect".

    Due to the synonymous use of nuclear and atomic in the English language, the two are often viewed as being the same (as they were when I was in school); however during my current research, I learned that there is a difference such that atomic physics deals with the study of the atom including its nucleus and electrons and nuclear physics deals with the study of only the atomic nuclei.

    As a result, can I use those definitions to determine if something is classified as a nuclear effect or an atomic effect?

    For instance, is the emission of an alpha particle a nuclear effect or an atomic effect? The emission occurs at the nucleus but wouldn't you need to view the element as a whole to fully understand the effects?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2009 #2
    It depends on the alpha decay effect you are interested in. If it is only the alpha decay rate, you can forget about the atomic electrons. If you calculate the ionisation probability of a decayed atom, you need the whole atom description.
    There are also "nuclear" events occurring only in presence of atomic electrons, like K-capture (the lowest orbit electron is captured with the nucleus proton to become a neutron).

  4. Apr 28, 2009 #3
    Can't K-capture be the result of an atoms relationship with other atoms resulting in an atomic effect?

    How can I define "nuclear effect" and "atomic effect" in a manner in which will eliminate any confusion as to the difference between the two?
  5. May 2, 2009 #4
    nuclear effect - dealing ONLY with the nucleus(note that it doesnt deal with ORBITING electrons)
    atomic effect - dealing with the ENTIRE atom both nuclei and electrons
    in the quote from wikipedia, electron capture is considered an atomic effect and positron/electron emission(beta decay) is considered a nuclear effect
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