The stability of matter

Elliott H. Lieb

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Stability of Matter
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Atoms to Stars: Fourth Edition
PublisherSpringer Berlin Heidelberg
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)3540420835, 9783540222125
StatePublished - 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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