Last updated on Tuesday 6th June 2023

The structure of the atomic nucleus

If an atomic nucleus has more than one proton, when other protons or neutrons are added, do they merge to make a single ball-wave, as two bubbles can merge to become one bigger bubble, or are they just two ball-waves stuck together? Or is it sometimes one and sometimes the other?

The detailed answer to this needs more observational results but we have some clues we can use to speculate. A group of two protons and two neutrons is an unusually stable grouping inside the nucleus. In radioactive decay, groups like this come out together as alpha particles. This suggests that two protons and two neutrons form one object, a sort of alpha-particle-inside-the-nucleus.

To support this there are some very speculative ideas. For example, the element with the ‘lowest energy’ in its nucleus – therefore possibly packed more efficiently than the others, is iron. Its atomic number is 26 and atomic weight 56: so 26 protons and 30 neutrons. This, then, is 13 alpha particles and four left over neutrons. 13 spheres is a ‘kissing number’, that is the number of spheres that can fit round a sphere, all of the same size, all touching (12 around the one in the middle). This is the densest way spheres can be packed together and it seems reasonable to suggest that this is also the lowest energy packing – with four extra small neutrons, each possibly acting as a blob of glue between three alpha particles. There is clear evidence that neutrons have a structure that has a positive inner part and a negative outside, as we might expect with a proton inside a compressed electron, so they should be quite sticky to the other protons in the nucleus at close range.

In the Heretics picture of the neutron, the electron negative ball-wave is bigger, even in 4-D, than the proton ball-wave inside them, so at short distances, they will have a gluing effect on other protons. At longer distances, the size difference between the two ball-waves, electron and proton, making up the neutron is negligible, so the overall particle is neutral. From the periodic table it does seem that the proportion of neutrons needed to keep the nucleus stable rises as the nucleus gets larger.

Anyway, it is only a suggestion that elements nuclei are built up from alpha-particle ball-waves with added proton and neutron ball-waves until they get to another foursome (2p,2n) when they, too, become alpha particle ball-waves.

On our speculative jaunt we might look at the kissing number in 4-D. This has been shown (recently) to be one central ball and 24 kissing round it. So that is exactly 50 protons and 50 neutrons, weight 100. You can probably add a few neutrons into the crevices but the next proton or alpha particle would have to form a second layer. It would be interesting to find out if Tin (atomic number 50, weight 118) also has a low nuclear energy potential.

Moving on to atoms. Hydrogen and helium are simple. They consist of a nucleus inside a spherical electron (hydrogen) or electron pair (Helium), the small, hard nucleus finding it easy to penetrate and sink to the middle of the electrons. As discussed elsewhere, in the presence of a positive charge, electrons readily form pairs, known as Cooper pairs. The Heretics speculate that the electron pair round the helium nucleus forms a single, spherical standing wave with significantly less energy than two normal moving ball-waves. So Helium has a stable, unmoving standing electron ball-wave surrounding it which helps explain its unusual behaviour at very cold temperatures, with atoms able to flow past each other with virtually no friction creating the famous helium ‘superfluid liquid’.

Once the nucleus is surrounded by two electrons, the next electrons to be added do not remain spherical but adopts a figure of eight configuration with the nucleus at the cross-over. We don’t know why, but such harmonic patterns are familiar on a larger scale (see below). Four ‘figures of eight’ fill up the second ‘shell’ of electrons and another four form another shell apparently outside the first, with further shells, with even more complex harmonic patterns as more electrons are added.

Two such figures of eight make up the outer ‘shell’ of the next two rows on the periodic table and 16 the following two, with the quirk that the electrons in these next two layers fit inside the earlier, smaller shells.

It is a counter-intuitive point that the interaction of simple factors can result in wildly complex solutions, but excellent examples of exactly this can be found on the internet, for example, in the harmonics of a violin bow playing a surface with sand to show the patterns arising.

Add your perspective

Comments are welcome on the website

Although you will have to sign up as a Friend of the Heretics to post them and the group reserves the right to delete stuff arbitrarily. Direct contact is via the site to the Arch-Heretic, Jamie Cawley, on