Nuclear Chemistry is Weird

Here’s how to make sense of the strangeness of the atomic nucleus

Organic Live
7 min readApr 18, 2022

There’s a reason I initially felt, shall we say, “uncomfortable” writing about nuclear chemistry, but it wasn’t until I talked to my friend (who has a PhD in nuclear chemistry) in preparation for writing this article that I figured out why. There’s something about nuclear chemistry and nuclear physics that just clashes with classic chemistry ways of thinking, or chemical intuition, as it’s called. It just feels off. We’ll get to what that specifically is later, but there are other fascinating aspects of nuclear chemistry that I want to discuss first. So yeah, today we’re getting into nuclear chemistry because it’s weird — don’t worry, I’ll explain.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Chances are, you’ve heard of nuclear power plants (e.g., Chernobyl) and weapons (e.g., Hiroshima and Nagasaki) — these things are cross-generational. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boomer or a millennial, an X-er, a Y-er, or a Z-er, at some point in your life, the word “nuclear” has popped up on your newsfeed. Consequently, I know you’ve had random follow-up questions: what’s all this about uranium enrichment? Why does it matter that Iran achieved 20% enriched uranium? What is uranium and why do people call it “U-235” and “U-238”? These questions are essentially my starting point today, and from there, we’ll dive into…

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Organic Live

I’m a former chemistry assistant prof that is out to prove that chemistry is both interesting and entertaining