Brand New Nuclear Science Wall Chart Ready For Schools

May 04, 1998

Click here for related visual

BERKELEY, CA. -- After years of development and testing in high schools across the United States and abroad, a spectacular new wall chart that graphically illustrates fundamental principles, recent discoveries, and future directions in nuclear science is hot off the press and available to teachers around the world.

The central image of the four-color chart, a projec that was spearheaded by scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, illustrates the basic structure of the nucleus -- protons, neutrons, and their quark constituents -- bound by the strong interaction and surrounded by an electromagnetic field.

Separate sections of the chart are devoted to the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang; phases of nuclear matter such as the nucleon gas and the quark-gluon plasma; modes of radio-active decay; pathways to controlled nuclear energy; and applications of nuclear science, from nuclear medicine to the humble smoke detector.

A chart of the nuclides shows atomic and neutron numbers for all known nuclei and indicates their predominant decay modes and regions of greater nuclear binding energy ("magic numbers"). Brief discussions of unstable nuclei and the newly discovered element 112 are included as well.

Members of Berkeley Lab's Nuclear Science Division conceived the chart and developed it with the Contemporary Physics Education Project (CPEP), an international nonprofit organization of educators and physicists. Additional support came directly from the Department of Energy and from Berkeley Lab's Center for Science and Engineering Education (CSEE), the National Science Foundation, the American Physical Society, and the J. M. Nitschke Memorial Fund.

"Partly we were inspired by the great success of the Fundamental Particles and Interactions chart that CPEP has distributed for years," says Howard Matis, Berkeley Lab nuclear physicist and a leader of the project, "but perhaps more important was our perception that most high school students lacked basic knowledge of physics. I surveyed a number of schools and found that they all lacked materials to teach modern physics."

Work began in 1995 with an amateur effort by Nuclear Science Division volunteers; they presented a chart to CPEP that the educators thought was sound but stodgy. "Everything it showed had been done 50 years ago," Matis says, "and later, when we tried to add contemporary science, the result didn't look coherent." At this point, says Matis, "Rollie Otto, head of CSEE, volunteered to give us a designer."

A new chart was laid out with the help of designer Christopher Slye that, Matis says, emphasized "what's happening now, including some mysteries. After all, anwering unanswered questions is why we do science."

More meetings and more designs ensued. Designer Flavio Robles, Jr. joined the project and did additional graphic work, while the chart's authors prepared a companion book, "Nuclear Science, A Teacher's Guide." "It's very comprehensive," says Matis of the guide. "I wish I knew everything in there."

In the spring of 1997, the prototype wall chart and guide were tested in some 250 schools in America, Australia, England, France, and other European countries. "The chart was enthusiastically received everywhere," says Matis. At last the work of a dozen core participants from Berkeley Lab and some three dozen reviewers from the nuclear science community across the country, as well as CPEP, was nearing fruition. "After we'd analyzed the questionnaires, corrected some ambiguities, and made a few final changes, we finally went to press."

The finished chart comes in three sizes: a whopping 59 1/2 by 41 1/2 inches for classrooms; 29 1/2 by 21 inches, perfect for the office wall; and 16 by 11 inches for handy reference.

The chart and guide can be ordered from Science Kit, 777 East Park Drive, Tonawanda, NY 14150, tel (800) 828-7777, fax (716) 874-9572, web address To preview the chart on the web, and to learn more about CPEP, go to

The Berkeley Lab ( is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California.

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Related Physics Articles from Brightsurf:

Helium, a little atom for big physics
Helium is the simplest multi-body atom. Its energy levels can be calculated with extremely high precision only relying on a few fundamental physical constants and the quantum electrodynamics (QED) theory.

Hyperbolic metamaterials exhibit 2T physics
According to Igor Smolyaninov of the University of Maryland, ''One of the more unusual applications of metamaterials was a theoretical proposal to construct a physical system that would exhibit two-time physics behavior on small scales.''

Challenges and opportunities for women in physics
Women in the United States hold fewer than 25% of bachelor's degrees, 20% of doctoral degrees and 19% of faculty positions in physics.

Indeterminist physics for an open world
Classical physics is characterized by the equations describing the world.

Leptons help in tracking new physics
Electrons with 'colleagues' -- other leptons - are one of many products of collisions observed in the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider.

Has physics ever been deterministic?
Researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the University of Vienna and the University of Geneva, have proposed a new interpretation of classical physics without real numbers.

Twisted physics
A new study in the journal Nature shows that superconductivity in bilayer graphene can be turned on or off with a small voltage change, increasing its usefulness for electronic devices.

Physics vs. asthma
A research team from the MIPT Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases has collaborated with colleagues from the U.S., Canada, France, and Germany to determine the spatial structure of the CysLT1 receptor.

2D topological physics from shaking a 1D wire
Published in Physical Review X, this new study propose a realistic scheme to observe a 'cold-atomic quantum Hall effect.'

Helping physics teachers who don't know physics
A shortage of high school physics teachers has led to teachers with little-to-no training taking over physics classrooms, reports show.

Read More: Physics News and Physics Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to