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      Probing the core of the strong nuclear interaction

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          Abstract

          The strong nuclear interaction between nucleons (protons and neutrons) is the effective force that holds the atomic nucleus together. This force stems from fundamental interactions between quarks and gluons (the constituents of nucleons) that are described by the equations of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD). However, as these equations cannot be solved directly, physicists resort to describing nuclear interactions using effective models that are well constrained at typical inter-nucleon distances in nuclei but not at shorter distances. This limits our ability to describe high-density nuclear matter such as in the cores of neutron stars. Here we use high-energy electron scattering measurements that isolate nucleon pairs in short-distance, high-momentum configurations thereby accessing a kinematical regime that has not been previously explored by experiments, corresponding to relative momenta above 400 MeV/c. As the relative momentum between two nucleons increases and their separation thereby decreases, we observe a transition from a spin-dependent tensor-force to a predominantly spin-independent scalar-force. These results demonstrate the power of using such measurements to study the nuclear interaction at short-distances and also support the use of point-like nucleons with two- and three-body effective interactions to describe nuclear systems up to densities several times higher than the central density of atomic nuclei.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          23 April 2020
          Article
          10.1038/s41586-020-2021-6
          2004.11221

          http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/

          Custom metadata
          Nature vol. 578 pp. 540-544 (2020)
          Total 26 pages, 13 figures. Main text: 8 pages, 3 figures. Methods section: 6 pages. Extended Data: 8 figures, 1 table. Supplementary Materials: 8 pages, 2 figures
          nucl-ex nucl-th

          Nuclear physics

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