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KnowingThe Nature of Physical Law$
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Michael Munowitz

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195167375

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195167375.001.0001

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Ties That Bind

Ties That Bind

(p.8) 2 Ties That Bind

Michael Munowitz

Oxford University Press

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

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