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Forces Acting Inside Atoms

weak force, fundamental forces, electromagnetic force, subatomic particles, strong force

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In physics, a force is a push or pull on an object. There are four fundamental forces, three of which—the electromagnetic force, the strong force, and the weak force—are involved in keeping stable atoms in one piece and determining how unstable atoms will decay. The electromagnetic force keeps electrons attached to their atom. The strong force holds the protons and neutrons together in the nucleus. The weak force governs how atoms decay when they have excess protons or neutrons. The fourth fundamental force, gravity, only becomes apparent with objects much larger than subatomic particles.

Weak Force

The weak force lives up to its name—it is much weaker than the electromagnetic and strong forces. Like the strong force, it only acts over a short distance, about .01 fm. Unlike these other forces, however, the weak force affects all the particles in an atom. The electromagnetic force only affects the electrons and protons, and the strong force only affects the protons and neutrons. When a nucleus has too many protons to hold together or so many neutrons that the strong force squeezes too tightly, the weak force actually changes one type of particle into another. When an atom undergoes one type of decay, for example, the weak force causes a neutron to change into a proton, an electron, and an electron antineutrino. The total electric charge and the total energy of the particles remain the same before and after the change.



Article key phrases:

weak force, fundamental forces, electromagnetic force, subatomic particles, strong force, neutrons, protons, total energy, nucleus, electrons, atom, particles, gravity, physics, short distance, push, piece, objects, example, change

 
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