What is a hydrogen bomb? I was interviewed today at work by a journalist on the topic. I guess North Korea is making people nervous again. Nuclear stuff is always in the news when there is about a bomb or an accident. I really wasn’t well prepared as I didn’t follow the news. So I would like to say a bit more here.
I think nuclei are very cool. They are all around us, and also are the stuff we are made of. Indeed, nuclei and electrons make atoms, which make molecules that make our bodies. Some nuclei are less stable than others. When they change into something more comfortable, they release energy. E = mc^2. In a nuclear bomb, the energy is huge. They can be in two distinct forms: fusion or fission. Either of those creates the energy from the change of the nuclear states. When a nucleus changes from one type to another, interesting stuff happens.
Change is natural. Radiation from nuclear decay is everywhere around us. The earth nuclei are decaying. The air is radioactive. The foods we eat all contain a trace amount if unstable nuclei. Our bodies are also decaying both biologically (aging) and physically (radioactive decay). Yes our bodies are constantly emitting radiation. Nuclear bombs, be it fission (aka the atomic bombs) or fusion (the so called hydrogen bombs), undergo the similar process, just at a much larger energy scale.
People, made up of nuclei, are afraid of some certain nuclei, big (uranium and plutonium) and small (deuterium and tritium), because they are fuel that has potential for an enormous amount of energy. Of course, people can use this energy in a destructive way (creating weapons) or constructive way (making electricity or doing useful stuff with radiation). We shouldn’t be afraid of the nuclei. They are nature. They are just there. If we should be concerned, it’s the misguided people.