The Proton

26 Apr, 2018 530 Physics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery and growing understanding of the Proton, formed from three quarks close to the Big Bang and found in the nuclei of all elements. The positive charges they emit means they attract the fundamental particles of negatively charged electrons, an attraction that leads to the creation of atoms which in turn leads to chemistry, biology and life itself. The Sun (in common with other stars) is a fusion engine that turn protons by a series of processes into helium, emitting energy in the process, with about half of the Sun’s protons captured so far. Hydrogen atoms, stripped of electrons, are single protons which can be accelerated to smash other nuclei and have applications in proton therapy. Many questions remain, such as why are electrical charges for protons and electrons so perfectly balanced?

Listen on BBC Sounds website


  • Frank Close 15 episodes
    Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oxford
  • Helen Heath No other episodes
    Reader in Physics at the University of Bristol
  • Simon Jolly No other episodes
    Lecturer in High Energy Physics at University College London

Reading list

  • A Map of the Invisible: Journeys into Particle Physics
    Jon Butterworth (William Heinemann, 2017) Google Books →
  • The New Cosmic Onion: Quarks and the Nature of the Universe
    Frank Close (CRC Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe
    Frank Close (Basic Books, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Particle Odyssey: A Journey to the Heart of Matter
    Frank Close, Michael Marten and Christine Sutton (Oxford University Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher
    Richard Feynman (Basic Books, 2011) Google Books →
  • Mr Tompkins in Paperback
    George Gamow (Cambridge University Press, 1993) Google Books →
  • Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics
    James Gleick (Abacus, 1994) Google Books →
  • The Particle Zoo: The Search for the Fundamental Nature of Reality
    Gavin Hesketh (Quercus, 2017) Google Books →
  • How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog
    Chad Orzel (Oneworld Publications, 2010)
  • Feynman
    Jim Ottaviani (First Second, 2013) Google Books →
  • Suspended in Language: Niels Bohr's Life, Discoveries, and the Century he Shaped
    Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis (G.T. Labs, 2009) Google Books →
  • The Large Hadron Collider Pop-Up Book: Voyage to the Heart of Matter
    Anton Radevsky and Emma Sanders (Papadakis, 2013) Google Books →
  • The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe
    Steven Weinberg (Basic Books, 1993) Google Books →

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Programme ID: b09zt3mr

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Auto-category: 539.7 (Atomic and nuclear physics)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, there are enough protons in the sun for it to last a thousand billion years and it's only about halfway through them, so that's a relief.