Beautiful nuclides attract positive interactions

An innovative interactive chart of nuclear data is attracting thousands of users from around the globe to the Research School of Physics’ website.

The chart, which displays information about all known isotopes, is a modernised version of a standard nuclear physics resource known as the nuclide chart, said its creator, physicist Dr Ed Simpson, from the Department of Nuclear Physics and Accelerator Applications.

“The nuclide chart is like the periodic table for nuclear science - it helps us understand the patterns in the behaviour of nuclei.”

Dr Simpson’s Colourful Nuclide Chart’s has attracted more than 14,000 users a year from 120 countries, who can choose to display combinations of more than 50 different nuclear data sets in a highly interactive and intuitive format.

“Atomic nuclei are almost incomprehensibly small and totally beyond our day-to-day experience of the world. Effective, approachable and engaging communication is therefore crucial in nuclear science,” Dr Simpson said.

The focus of the Colourful Nuclide Chart is on useability, customisation and visual appeal. Users can display the data they need in exactly the format required.

As a result, users have flocked to the Colourful Nuclide Chart, with regular requests coming in to use it in teaching, outreach projects, theses and presentations around the world.

Dr Simpson has been working on the chart for 12 years, and it has become one of the most widely used nuclear data resources in the world, ranking highly on Google searches, behind only the equivalent product from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The increased focus on nuclear science following the recent announcement that nuclear submarines are to be built in Australia has made engagement with students even more important, Dr Simpson said.

“Arguably the biggest challenge we face is getting young people into the field, and presenting data to them in a website that looks as though it was built before they were born is going to be a barrier.”

The chart is already popular with school teachers and has been used in Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, UK and USA.

The myriad combinations of data views still piques Dr Simpson’s professional interest – for example, while the plot of nuclear masses presents a smooth landscape, the second derivative of the plot shows stark structures that relate to nuclei with especially stable numbers of neutrons and protons, known as magic numbers.

“It’s amazing to see all this complexity emerges from just the masses of nuclei!” Dr Simpson said.

The chart can be found here.


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Dr Edward Simpson
T: (02)61251309