Chemistry

A Guide to the Neutron Facts and Fables



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Since the discovery of the neutron in the 1930's, the neutron has held a fascinating place in chemical theory. One of the first things that was decided was that the neutron's existence explained the Periodic Chart of the Elements. "The neutrons exist in atomic nuclei, making up the difference between the atomic number and the atomic weight," has been dogma since that time. This idea seems imminently sensible and is an excellent bookkeeping device for keeping track of nuclear changes such as Alpha emission, Beta emission and Positron emission during "nuclear decay" processes. It, also, may be pure fable.

This idea of neutrons, as such, existing in nuclei makes molecular chemistry and nuclear chemistry have little in common, which seems highly unlikely. It necessitates postulates of weak and strong nuclear forces, and has given rise to theories of "Neutron Shells, " including the interesting concept of "Magic Shells." The worst criticism may be that it assumes that the tiny, dense, fast-moving electrons completely lose their identities in the nucleus. It seems far more likely that-considering the charge density, mass density and size of the proton and electron-neutrons do not exist, per se, in nuclei; but, instead, nuclei are made up of protons held together by electrons existing in bonding orbitals somewhat analogous to the orbitals that are assumed to exist in molecules. Although the proton, and the neutron, have over 1800 times the mass of the electron, they have approximately 1,000,000,000 times the volume of the electron. It can be seen that the electron is relatively far more dense and there is definitely space for electrons to move quite freely through protons, or within them.

Electrons moving within the "outer skin" of protons leads to a possible explanation of the difference between the neutron-which decays in space to an electron and a proton-therefore, the simplest Beta-emitter-and, its "Iso-1,1-set" isomer, the Hydrogen isotope of mass one, "H-1." In the neutron the electron may be confined to orbits, within the proton, while in the H-1 atom the electron can move in orbits both within and outside of the proton. This extra freedom of the electron allows it to be less energetic and the H-1 is the more stable entity.

[In a "Motion in a Matrix Model" discussion, one would say that in the "neutron" the small electron vortex has changed some of its linear motion to point-centered motion and remains within the confines of the huge proton vortex. Some disturbance of this vortex set will allow the electron vortex to convert some of its point-centered motion to linear motion and escape the vortex completely. The Hydrogen one atom would entail a discussion of coordinated motions of the two vortexes with the smaller passing in and out of the larger.]

If electron charge is essentially a "skin effect" the presence of the electron within the proton can account of the smaller size of the neutron. The pull of the inner electron would shrink the "proton skin." The difference in charge density of the electron and the proton seems a logical explanation for the small magnetic moment noted for the neutron. Additionally, both the neutron and the H1 atom are said to have a "spin number of 1/2." A spin number of 1/2 is associated with an "unpaired" electron. If the electron had totally lost its identity one might expect a spin of zero.

There are mentions in the literature of "Polyneutrons" such as the "Tetraneutron." These are generally dismissed as, "Error," "Fantasy," or "Kook Science," by the scientific community in general; yet, they make perfect sense in light of the above discussion. The "Tetraneutron" would be a member of "Iso-4,4-set," along with the Helium isotope of mass four, "He4." The "tetraneutron" would differ from He4 in essentially the same way that the neutron differs for H1. That is, it would be made up of a four-proton array-presumably tetrahedral in shape-held together by four electrons which were within the array.

[Perhaps a short explanation of the useful "Iso-set" notation would not be too amiss. This is a notation used by this writer to describe sets of atoms and molecules having a certain number of electrons and protons. (It is not found in the literature.) Here's how it works: The "Iso-1,0-set would be the electron-one electron, zero proton-which we can abbreviate, {1,0}, obviously the proton would abbreviate as {0,1}. The next set would abbreviate as {1,1; n; H1} that is, one electron, one proton; neutron; and Hydrogen-1 atom. Deuterium and molecular Hydrogen would be members of the Iso-2,2-set, etc. As one can see, this groups together units and structures that might not otherwise appear to be related. Therefore, it points out some possible transformations that one might not think about, and the possibility of existence of otherwise "impossible" entities.]

Another possible myth is that neutrons are very deadly radiation. When the writer was a student at MIT in the summer of 1960, one of his instructors told of the experiment that was apparently the first test for the lethality of a neutron stream. A rabbit was placed in a plastic container and subjected to a stream of neutrons. When the container was opened, the rabbit was found to be dead. It apparently was some time, possibly years, before anyone realized that the container was airtight....

Although extremely penetrating, it is questionable that neutron radiation has the lethal sterilizing effects attributed to it in ideas such as the neutron bomb. It may be that, to this day, the unfortunate rabbit, that probably simply smothered to death, is the only test that has been made of the lethality of neutron beams.

From what has been said before, it is almost redundant to say that the idea that the neutron is the "final form of matter" to which stars will collapse is almost certainly also in realm of fantasy. As noted above, the neutron is unstable with respect to both the proton, electron combination, and the H1 atom. It is heavier than either, hence with more energy content. A neutron star would have much more energy content than one made up of electrons and protons; yet, a neutron star is supposed to appear when energy content is minimized and "the electrons collapse upon the protons." This can be considered a ridiculous statement. if one conceives the electron and proton as in the discussion above. It seems to assume the electron to be some sort of light, fluffy coating to protons, where nearly the opposite is probably the truth. Whatever "neutron stars" are composed of they most certainly would not be pure neutrons. (s.a. "Defining a Neutron Star" by this writer. )

It would appear that it might be sensible for the scientific community to reevaluate its thinking about the neutron considering that many of the current "facts" about the neutron may instead be simply fables.
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Note: For the "Establishment Take" on this, see the Wikipedia article, "Neutron."

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