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University Physics Volume 3

Challenge Problems

University Physics Volume 3Challenge Problems

Challenge Problems


This problem demonstrates that the binding energy of the electron in the ground state of a hydrogen atom is much smaller than the rest mass energies of the proton and electron.

(a) Calculate the mass equivalent in u of the 13.6-eV binding energy of an electron in a hydrogen atom, and compare this with the known mass of the hydrogen atom.

(b) Subtract the known mass of the proton from the known mass of the hydrogen atom.

(c) Take the ratio of the binding energy of the electron (13.6 eV) to the energy equivalent of the electron’s mass (0.511 MeV).

(d) Discuss how your answers confirm the stated purpose of this problem.


The Galileo space probe was launched on its long journey past Venus and Earth in 1989, with an ultimate goal of Jupiter. Its power source is 11.0 kg of 238Pu,238Pu, a by-product of nuclear weapons plutonium production. Electrical energy is generated thermoelectrically from the heat produced when the 5.59-MeV αα particles emitted in each decay crash to a halt inside the plutonium and its shielding. The half-life of 238Pu238Pu is 87.7 years.

(a) What was the original activity of the 238Pu238Pu in becquerels?

(b) What power was emitted in kilowatts?

(c) What power was emitted 12.0 y after launch? You may neglect any extra energy from daughter nuclides and any losses from escaping γγ rays.


Find the energy emitted in the ββ decay of 60Co60Co.


Engineers are frequently called on to inspect and, if necessary, repair equipment in nuclear power plants. Suppose that the city lights go out. After inspecting the nuclear reactor, you find a leaky pipe that leads from the steam generator to turbine chamber. (a) How do the pressure readings for the turbine chamber and steam condenser compare? (b) Why is the nuclear reactor not generating electricity?


If two nuclei are to fuse in a nuclear reaction, they must be moving fast enough so that the repulsive Coulomb force between them does not prevent them for getting within R10−14mR10−14m of one another. At this distance or nearer, the attractive nuclear force can overcome the Coulomb force, and the nuclei are able to fuse.

(a) Find a simple formula that can be used to estimate the minimum kinetic energy the nuclei must have if they are to fuse. To keep the calculation simple, assume the two nuclei are identical and moving toward one another with the same speed v. (b) Use this minimum kinetic energy to estimate the minimum temperature a gas of the nuclei must have before a significant number of them will undergo fusion. Calculate this minimum temperature first for hydrogen and then for helium. (Hint: For fusion to occur, the minimum kinetic energy when the nuclei are far apart must be equal to the Coulomb potential energy when they are a distance R apart.)


For the reaction, n+3He4He+γn+3He4He+γ, find the amount of energy transfers to 4He4He and γγ (on the right side of the equation). Assume the reactants are initially at rest. (Hint: Use conservation of momentum principle.)


Engineers are frequently called on to inspect and, if necessary, repair equipment in medical hospitals. Suppose that the PET system malfunctions. After inspecting the unit, you suspect that one of the PET photon detectors is misaligned. To test your theory you position one detector at the location (r,θ,φ)=(1.5,45,30)(r,θ,φ)=(1.5,45,30) relative to a radioactive test sample at the center of the patient bed. (a) If the second photon detector is properly aligned where should it be located? (b) What energy reading is expected?

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