Since the discovery of the atomic nucleus science has been in search of its structure. Many nuclear models, based on quantum mechanics (QM), describe the nucleus in statistical terms thereby negating any fixed structure. The modified Rutherford/Bohr model consists of a nucleus made up of a featureless collection of protons and neutrons orbited by electrons. The protons and neutrons themselves are assumed to be moving in a gas-like manner, obeying the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, almost as if the nucleus were not a physical object. Although there is ample experimental evidence supporting the notion of a differentiated geometry of the nucleus, the Rutherford/Bohr model is still widely used for teaching purposes with QM being by far the dominant framework for analyzing the nucleus.
It is worth recalling the historical timeline of a specific circumstance related to the atomic nucleus. Prior to Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron in 1932, the nucleus was thought to consist of a combination of protons and electrons. When the neutron was found to be distinct from the proton it was given independent status and the nucleus was then determined to consist of both protons and neutrons. Subsequent discussions of nuclear stability led to the introduction of the strong nuclear force, which heavily influenced the development of QM.
Given that we know the size of the nucleus for virtually all elements and isotopes—from ~1.7 fm (femtometers, 10-15 m) for the proton to ~15 fm for uranium—an obvious conflict arises with the notion of hundreds of nucleons moving freely in such restricted spaces. Therefore, in our view Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle was incorrectly applied to the crowded atomic nucleus.
A new approach
It appears that a new approach to this issue is required, one that provides clarity and avoids the need for multiple models—often operating under contradictory assumptions—to explain the various nuclear phenomena. To that effect, the Structured Atom Model (SAM) was created using two simple assumptions:
- SAM doesn’t distinguish between neutrons and protons. Thus, in SAM, the nucleus consists of protons and electrons only. Essentially, this takes us back to 1932 before the neutron was introduced. We must be careful to distinguish these nuclear electrons, inside the nucleus (“inner electrons”), from electrons outside the nucleus.
- The nucleus is kept together and given shape by the inner electrons positioned between protons, negating the need for the strong or weak nuclear forces. We call the resulting main principle “spherical dense packing.” As the protons find their place naturally, based on the main principle, we would like to categorize this as an “unforced model.”
Based on these two assumptions we can derive, in high detail, the shape of the nucleus of each element (and their isotopes) in the periodic table.
The authors of this book are engineers with a collective background in chemical engineering, electrical engineering, information technology, computer science, systems engineering, computer modeling, and space science instrumentation for ESA and NASA missions. As such we are outsiders and claim no specific expertise in atomic and nuclear physics, and this book about the structure of the atom therefore doesn’t approach the subject from a conventional nuclear physics point of view. Rather, the underlying principles are more of an observational, geometrical and logical nature than based on sophisticated mathematics. As outsiders in the field we have fewer inhibitions to challenge the status quo with a new paradigm than otherwise might be the case.
The SAM concept results from the conviction—based on many general observations—that the nucleus should have a recognizable structure with understandable properties. Since we know that neutrons separate into protons and electrons outside the nucleus, we arrived at the concept of a nucleus solely consisting of protons with electrons acting as “glue” between them, basically following the Coulomb force law. This lies at the heart of SAM, allowing the nucleus of each element to be dynamically visualized in a 3D tool, called Atom-Viewer.
Overview of the most important findings
The following list gives a broad overview of the most important findings that are carefully developed in this book:
- SAM is a tool that helps us in considering nuclear structure. Specifically, we find that the properties of the elements can be directly tied to the structure of the nucleus. In other words, the geometric structure of the nucleus and the physical and chemical properties of the elements are causally related. In a certain sense this restores the relationship between chemistry and physics, after a divorce of more than a century.
- With the two rules for the nucleus, using only protons and electrons, and applying the principle of spherical dense packing, SAM has enabled us to re-create the elements virtually from scratch.
- We identified the growth pattern the nucleus adheres to when growing in size and number of nucleons. This pattern is fractal in nature and is made up of icosahedrons that are connected. The pattern shows a doubling of icosahedron structures with each new completed branch.
- Branches can be detached from the nucleus in fission processes and become independent lighter elements themselves. In elements heavier than lead, branches can fuse together and break off as a result. This is the known conventional fission process.
- Interference between branches of the nucleus can cause its structure to be stressed. This “stress” represents energy stored in the structure which can be accessed.
- SAM allows us to identify specific locations for various nuclei where this stress originates. This structural phenomenon quite plausibly explains the origin of nuclear fission as well as the asymmetric breakup of the nucleus seen during fission processes.
- Closely related to this, we now recognize the fundamental cause of nuclear instability or radioactive decay and especially the importance of the role of the inner electrons in nuclear stability.
- Fission and fusion play a huge role in element creation, but not only in stars. Instead, we see those processes happen on planets as well as experimentally in laboratories under a specific set of circumstances.
- We pinpoint the structural explanation for the progression of the neutron/proton ratio in the periodic table. The elimination of the neutron has caused us to create a new numbering system for the periodic table based on the deuteron count.
- In the process of populating the new numbering system, we have flagged several possible structures that might be identified as “missing elements”, since they do not fit in the standard periodic table.
To summarize, through SAM we:
- established a causal relationship between the nucleus and the “outer electron domain”,
- discovered a source of potential energy stored in the nucleus of certain elements,
- identified the structural cause for nuclear instability, nuclear fission and radioactivity,
- identified several possible “missing elements”.
Reuniting physics and chemistry
Today, nuclear physics and chemistry are two distinct fields of science often considered only weakly connected.
Through its inclusion of astronomy, physics is the oldest academic discipline. Over much of the past two millennia, physics, chemistry, biology, and certain branches of mathematics formed part of natural philosophy. That changed during the scientific revolution in the 17th century, when disciplines became more or less independent.
Chemistry is the scientific study of matter composed of atoms, molecules, and ions. It deals with their structure, behavior, and the way in which they change during reactions with other compounds. It addresses topics like how atoms and molecules interact via chemical bonds to form new chemical compounds.
Chemistry used to be the dominant science up to the 18th century, in the 19th century physics grew stronger. The 20th century saw physics become the dominant science.
But at what level does chemistry stop and nuclear physics start? Is there actually a boundary? Or is it all chemistry? Following on from the definition of chemistry, it deals with atomic structure as well, and this does not exclude the nucleus and its structure. The creation of SAM is an attempt to bring nuclear physics and chemistry back together when contemplating the structure of the atom. In SAM the positioning of the protons as well as the inner electrons in the nucleus determines the positioning of the outer electrons, the “outer electron domain” is therefore causally connected to the inner structure of the nucleus. Thus, physics and chemistry are reconnected in SAM.
Logic and the scientific method
Grammar, logic, and rhetoric were once the base of any classical education. The three subjects together were later denoted by the term “trivium.” The tradition was already established in Ancient Greece. The term “quadrivium” denotes four subjects (namely, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy)—usually taught after the trivium.
This kind of classical education was lost in the last one and a half centuries and with it the sense of argumentation, thesis, theory, and what is right or wrong, at least formally that is. Does the setup of a theory adhere to the rules for proper science? Are the premises clearly spelled out? Do the conclusions logically derive from the premises?
Or, to phrase it differently: What is a good scientific result, what are good methods? This question has at least logical, empirical, and historical answers. Foremost it must be:
- Consistent (both internally and externally).
- Parsimonious (sparing in proposed entities, explanations; commonly known as Occam's razor).
- Empirically testable and falsifiable.
- Based upon controlled and repeated experiments.
- Correctable and dynamic (changes are made to it when new data becomes available).
but also (although to a much lesser degree):
- Useful (able to describe and explain observed phenomena).
- Tentative (not asserting absolute certainty).
- Progressive (achieving all that previous theories have, and more).
This is what theories need to be measured against—not only new theories but also those already established. The loss of the classical approach to education has meant that there are many accepted theories that violate at least one, in most cases more than one, of the rules of good science. When we follow those basic rules, we can find truthful answers. Other methodologies are questionable. There are no shortcuts.
The classical “trivium” approach (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) is a sensible approach for scientific work, that is, first we identify facts, then definitions, and then make observations. Next we can apply logic to our observations by taking more than one observation into account at a time. After making enough logical connections we can attempt to express this all through rhetoric—this book in the case of SAM.
Why do we think it is important to talk about logic and scientific methodology in the introduction of this book? Because something important got lost and “nonscience returned” as a result of this loss. We need to be reminded of what we once understood, and we need to get it back.
This is work in progress
We also need to recognize that we simply do not have all the answers when trying to explain the atom with this new model. Too much of what we think we know is based on assumptions—whether right or wrong, i.e., our current theories may be fundamentally flawed. We need to recognize this and be humble—accepting that there may be errors in our discoveries. The authors of this book believe a new and improved understanding of the fundamentals is required before we can even attempt to understand the world around us.
This book is work in progress. Please take it as such. There is a lot we do not yet know, but think that there is enough material about SAM available to present what we have. Much more research needs to be done, a long list of which appears in the appendix. If you—the reader—think there is something in this then join us in our research.