By Hamish Johnston
Try to imagine the world before 1911, when the atomic nucleus was unknown. Much of what we now know about chemistry and nearly all of our understanding of nuclear physics was yet to come.
This was the year that Ernest Rutherford (pictured right) put forward his theory that most of an atom’s mass and all of its positive charge are concentrated in a volume that is tiny in comparison to the rest of the atom.
Although Rutherford was not the first to proffer such a “solar system” model of the atom, he was the first to back it up with experiment – the famous Rutherford back-scattering of alpha particles from gold foil.
This week, physicists are gathering in Manchester – where the back-scattering experiments were done in 1909 – to celebrate 100 years of nuclear physics.
As well as specialist talks, the Rutherford Centennial Conference on Nuclear Physics includes a series of evening lectures. Tonight’s lecture is entitled “From Rutherford to the Large Hadron Collider” and will given by David Jenkins of the University of York. Tuesday will see Alan Perkins of the University of Nottingham discussing “Nuclear medicine: atoms and antimatter matter in medicine” and on Wednesday the University of Manchester’s John Roberts will ask “Is there a safe future for nuclear energy?”.
All public lectures are at 19.30 and are free – but tickets must be obtained here ahead of time.
If you can’t make it to Manchester, Physics World‘s James Dacey will be there with a camera crew – so stay tuned for more from the event.