Chapter

Ties That Bind

Michael Munowitz

in Knowing

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195167375
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199787104 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195167375.003.0002
Ties That Bind

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From a distance, bits of matter tend to attract. Up close, violating a certain threshold, they repel. In equilibrium, somewhere in between, they strike a balance. The pushes are counteracted exactly by the pulls, and groups of interacting particles settle into a provisional stability. They cluster hierarchically into composite structures that run the gamut from protons and neutrons, to atoms and molecules, to stars and planets. Each assembly is governed by one or more of the four fundamental forces: the gravitational force, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. The never-ending tug-of-war between attraction and repulsion shapes the material universe and gives it the potential to evolve from state to state.

Keywords: atoms; electromagnetic force; equilibrium; fundamental forces; interactions; gravitational force; gravity; molecules; potential energy; strong force

Chapter.  8667 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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