TY - JOUR

T1 - The stability of matter

AU - Lieb, Elliott H.

N1 - Funding Information:
Work partially supported by U. S. National Science Foundation grant MCS 75-21684.

PY - 1976

Y1 - 1976

N2 - A fundamental paradox of classical physics is why matter, which is held together by Coulomb forces, does not collapse. The resolution is given here in three steps. First, the stability of atom is demonstrated, in the framework of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics. Next the Pauli principle, together with some facts about Thomas-Fermi theory, is shown, to account for the stability (i.e., saturation) of bulk matter. Thomas-Fermi theory is developed in some detail because, as is also pointed out, it is the asymptotically correct picture of heavy atoms and molecules (in the Z→ limit). Finally, a rigorous version of screening is introduced to account for thermodynamic stability.

AB - A fundamental paradox of classical physics is why matter, which is held together by Coulomb forces, does not collapse. The resolution is given here in three steps. First, the stability of atom is demonstrated, in the framework of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics. Next the Pauli principle, together with some facts about Thomas-Fermi theory, is shown, to account for the stability (i.e., saturation) of bulk matter. Thomas-Fermi theory is developed in some detail because, as is also pointed out, it is the asymptotically correct picture of heavy atoms and molecules (in the Z→ limit). Finally, a rigorous version of screening is introduced to account for thermodynamic stability.

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U2 - 10.1103/RevModPhys.48.553

DO - 10.1103/RevModPhys.48.553

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:51149214209

VL - 48

SP - 553

EP - 569

JO - Reviews of Modern Physics

JF - Reviews of Modern Physics

SN - 0034-6861

IS - 4

ER -