Isospin in Nuclei

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  12 Jan 1973:
Vol. 179, Issue 4069, pp. 133-139
DOI: 10.1126/science.179.4069.133

This article has a correction. Please see:


The major feature of isospin in nuclei that I have discussed here is its application to all nuclei. The rebirth of this quantum number in nuclear physics occurred in the early 1960's and was initiated almost entirely by the important work of Anderson et al. (4) and Fox et al. (5). There is still great interest in the use of isospin in its fullest sense as predicted by Wigner (3), and indeed isospin concepts have been largely responsible for demonstrating that nuclei in the doubly "magic number" region of 208Pb are remarkably in agreement with shell model theory.

The early experiments have also initiated a whole new set of more sophisticated experiments (some of which I have briefly alluded to above) which promise to keep many physicists busy for a long time to come. A particularly interesting series of experiments are those being performed (15) at Duke University with high-resolution proton beams. This work shows the highly detailed nature of analogue resonances, that is, as coherent superpositions of many complicated compound states yielding a beautifully modulated wave train, the modulation being observed only in conventional experiments with poor-resolution proton beams. Similarly, nuclear theorists have been led to vastly improve their interpretation of, and computational techniques for, both nuclear reactions and nuclear structure in order to meet the more stringent tests provided by such experiments.

Perhaps a lesson can be learned from the historical development of the isospin concept. In the past the belief that T · T would not significantly commute with the dynamical Hamiltonian so that isospin would not be conserved sufficiently well enough certainly delayed the nuclear travels of isospin into the realm of heavy nuclei. Hopefully the same mistake will not occur in the future for other approximate symmetries of nature.