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Heavy Matter
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

All the elements -- the fundamental building blocks of creation -- consist of a positively charged nucleus made up of protons and neutrons, with negatively charged electrons spinning around it. The lightest elements, such as hydrogen or helium, have only one or two protons in the nucleus. The heavier elements, though, such as uranium, have nuclei made up of many protons and neutrons. The weight of the nucleus causes these elements to be unstable. Sometimes the nucleus spontaneously splits apart into two "lighter" elements, a process known as fission. Radiation is the energy given off by this process.

In recent years there have been many experiments carried out in particle accelerators which allow elements to be "enriched." In other words, two atoms can be smashed together to create new, heavier elements. These "super-heavy" elements are not found in nature. They exist only for a fraction of a second before breaking down into lighter elements.

These super-heavy elements are unstable by definition. However, one physicist, Glenn Seaborg, posits that there are certain atomic numbers that are "islands of stability." In other words, at just the right combination of protons and neutrons, an atom will be stable, despite its great weight.

Recently, scientists have created a new super-heavy element which is surprisingly stable. Scientists in Moscow smashed together isotopes of calcium and a radioactive element, berkelium, in a particle accelerator. The new, as-yet unnamed element  has 117 protons, making it one of the heaviest atoms yet produced.

*

One of the most difficult directives given to us by the Lubavitcher Rebbe is to introduce "lights of Tohu in vessels of Tikkun." This is a reference to a concept in Chassidut and Kabbalah, meaning, in simple terms, to take the most powerful, intense energies and contain them within vessels strong and stable enough to withstand them. We must use all means available to us, even the most radical, to fulfill our purpose--to bring about the revelation of Moshiach. At the same time, though, these activities must be concrete, marked with stability and forethought.

The Rebbe has said that in our generation, all obstacles have been removed, and every one of us has the power to transform the world -- provided, of course, that we use the tools given to us in the Torah. These directives are the iron laws that enable the "vessels of Tikkun" to contain the intense "lights of Tohu" which are necessary to bring Moshiach.

One directive of the Rebbe, which he says is a direct path to bringing Moshiach, is to study the Torah's teachings on the topic of Moshiach and Redemption. Another key is to increase in tzedakah and acts of kindness, which are also acts that are guaranteed to bring Moshiach. These acts bring stability to a chaotic world and transform it into a fitting receptacle for the intense lights of Moshiach.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.

 

 


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