By Gian Francesco Giudice
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Additional resources for A Zeptospace Odyssey: A Journey into the Physics of the LHC
In other words, an electron exerts an electromagnetic force on other charges by exchanging photons, but the photon emission does not modify the identity of the electron. Instead, the weak force has the property of transforming particles. In the process of exerting a weak force, the particle itself gets transformed. In particular, in beta radioactivity, a neutron that emits an electron–neutrino pair changes its identity and becomes a different particle – a proton. The second difference lies in the range at which the force can act.
This correctly explains its total mass and electric charge. The electrons occupy only orbits external to the nucleus and fill most of the space inside the atom. The discovery of the neutron had unexpected consequences. The Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard (1898–1964) recounts: “I remember very clearly that the first thought that liberation of atomic energy might in fact be possible came to me in October 1933, as I waited for the change of a traffic light in Southampton Row in London. . It occurred to me that neutrons, in contrast to alpha particles, do not ionize the substance through which they pass.
These droplets form a track that makes the particle trajectory visible, in much the same way that jet aeroplanes leave contrails in the sky. The mass of the particle can be inferred from the thickness of the track. The charge of the particle is measured by the bending of the track under the effect of a magnetic field. In 1936, Carl Anderson, the physicist who discovered the positron, and his student Seth Neddermeyer (1907–1988) were working at the California Institute of Technology, analysing cosmic rays with cloud chambers.