What is Strong Force vs Weak Force – Definition

The strong force and the weak force are two the four fundamental forces. They are very different. This article summarizes these differences. 

Strong Interaction – Strong Force

The strong interaction or strong force is one of the four fundamental forces and involves the exchange of the vector gauge bosons known as gluons. In general, the strong interaction is very complicated interaction, because it significantly varies with distance. The strong nuclear force holds most ordinary matter together because it confines quarks into hadron particles such as the proton and neutron. Moreover, the strong force is the force which can hold a nucleus together against the enormous forces of repulsion (electromagnetic force) of the protons is strong indeed. From this point of view, we have to distinguish between:

  • Fundamental Strong Force. The fundamental strong force, or the strong force, is a very short range (less than about 0.8 fm, the radius of a nucleon) force, that acts directly between quarks. This force holds quarks together to form protons, neutrons, and other hadron particles. The strong interaction is mediated by the exchange of massless particles called gluons that act between quarks, antiquarks, and other gluons.
  • Residual Strong Force. The residual strong force, also known as the nuclear force, is a very short range (about 1 to 3 fm) force, which acts to hold neutrons and protons together in nuclei. In nuclei, this force acts against the enormous repulsive electromagnetic force of the protons. The term residual is associated with the fact, it is the residuum of the fundamental strong interaction between the quarks that make up the protons and neutrons. The residual strong force acts indirectly through the virtual π and ρ mesons, which transmit the force between nucleons that holds the nucleus together.

Weak Interaction – Weak Force

The weak interaction or weak force is one of the four fundamental forces and involves the exchange of the intermediate vector bosons, the W and the Z. Since these bosons are very massive (on the order of 80 GeV, the uncertainty principle dictates a range of about 10-18meters which is less than the diameter of a proton. As a result, the weak interaction takes place only at very small, sub-atomic distances.

The weak interaction responsible for some nuclear phenomena such as beta decay, which can be understood in terms of the weak force operating on the quarks within the neutron. One of two down quarks changes into an up quark by emitting a W boson (carries away a negative charge). The W boson then decays into a beta particle and an antineutrino. This process is equivalent to the process, in which a neutrino interacts with a neutron.

weak interaction - weak force

Strong Force vs Weak Force

Fundamental Interactions and Fundamental Forces


Nuclear and Reactor Physics:
  1. J. R. Lamarsh, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA (1983).
  2. J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.
  3. W. M. Stacey, Nuclear Reactor Physics, John Wiley & Sons, 2001, ISBN: 0- 471-39127-1.
  4. Glasstone, Sesonske. Nuclear Reactor Engineering: Reactor Systems Engineering, Springer; 4th edition, 1994, ISBN: 978-0412985317
  5. W.S.C. Williams. Nuclear and Particle Physics. Clarendon Press; 1 edition, 1991, ISBN: 978-0198520467
  6. G.R.Keepin. Physics of Nuclear Kinetics. Addison-Wesley Pub. Co; 1st edition, 1965
  7. Robert Reed Burn, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Operation, 1988.
  8. U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Physics and Reactor Theory. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.
  9. Paul Reuss, Neutron Physics. EDP Sciences, 2008. ISBN: 978-2759800414.

Advanced Reactor Physics:

  1. K. O. Ott, W. A. Bezella, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Statics, American Nuclear Society, Revised edition (1989), 1989, ISBN: 0-894-48033-2.
  2. K. O. Ott, R. J. Neuhold, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Dynamics, American Nuclear Society, 1985, ISBN: 0-894-48029-4.
  3. D. L. Hetrick, Dynamics of Nuclear Reactors, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48453-2.
  4. E. E. Lewis, W. F. Miller, Computational Methods of Neutron Transport, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48452-4.

See also:

Strong Force

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