We must do work to break a nucleus apart.This work is the binding energy. Shown here are nuclear binding energies for nuclei that are found in nature.The horizontal axis is the mass number A, and the vertical axis the binding energy, divided by the number of nucleons in the nucleus (BE/A). Nuclei with higher binding energies per nucleon are more stable.

p p p where BE is the binding energy. This means that the mass of a nucleus is less than the masses of its components by BE/c2. This is also true for atoms. However, the binding energy for atoms is so small that the mass difference is negligible (about 10—6 of the nuclear binding energy).

Example 9.1 Proton rest energy

Compute the rest energy of a proton and express the result in MeV.

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