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In my world, magic works by warping the fundamental forces of the universe. Some people can heat metal and create lightning with the electromagnetic force. Others can steer and amplify gravity to throw objects and create repelling shields to deter projectiles. The two nuclear forces are more tricky to organize but from what I have researched, could decreasing the strength of the strong nuclear force cause the nucleus of atoms to just break apart, disintegrating atoms into the protons and neutrons that encompass them? Going the other way, could strengthening the nuclear force pull nearby atoms together and form larger, heavier atoms?

It would also be neat to know if doing this would cause some gargantuan explosion or just spew radiation everywhere and give everyone cancer, however my main question is whether my interpretation of the nuclear force is correct and would give magically adept people in this field these powers. Thanks for the help :)

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Warning: educated guesses incoming! No one really knows what would happen if we tampered with one of the most fundamental forces in existence!

So one of the things that makes the nuclear force interesting, is that it both repels, and attracts nucleons at different distances. So, making it stronger or weaker really wouldn't have much of an effect up to a certain tipping point, unless you also changed where the switch from repulsion to attraction happens. Then things could get bad. Simply increasing the magnitude of the force (up to a point) would merely further enforce the current atomic setup. (I think - really and truly, subatomic physics is nightmarishly complex)

Strong Nuclear Force by femtometer distance

Increasing the force

As one of the limiting factors for the size of an atom is in fact the strong nuclear force being able to overcome the electrical force pushing protons apart, yes, increasing the strength of this force would likely enable you to make heavier atoms. But... it wouldn't do much. You'd in theory be able to make these stable once created, but it wouldn't make it that much easier to synthesize them, as the strong nuclear force drops off extremely rapidly unless your nucleons are practically kissing. So, maybe nuclear fusion would only require hydrogen gas to be ~1 million Kelvin instead of ~50 million?

At a certain point, you could probably make it strong enough to cause fusion to happen at room temperature, at which point you've just turned the area of effect into a fusion bomb. Needless to say, this would be beyond catastrophic in effect. (And to be honest, if we were following the laws of thermodynamics here, the energy required to do this would be incomprehensibly large)

Decreasing the force

Well, here's where things get nasty fast. The strong nuclear force pulling nucleons together and electrical force pushing them apart is what balances atoms from collapsing into one another, or flying apart. If you weaken the nuclear force enough, you'll reach a breaking point where it no longer holds atoms together. Everything in the effected area instantly undergoes fission, and becomes hydrogen and whole heck of a lot of neutron radiation. You've just set off a different kind of nuke. Congrats!

Needless to say, no matter which way you take this, the result is very unlikely to be anything between unnoticable to catastrophic.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, very comprehensable explanation. "if we were following the laws of thermodynamics here" ...yes, the topic has a science-based tag. The cause is magic.. the effect will have to be explained scientifically. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 18:24
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Another educated guess answer:

I agree with Skyler that it's not going to cause any meaningful changes in fusion. However, I disagree on what it does to the atoms themselves.

For any given number of protons there's a fairly narrow range of neutrons that can be mixed in and be stable. The farther from this ideal number the more unstable the result.

While I agree we don't really know I think the result is going to mess with this stable point. Shift it far enough and you'll get a low yield approximation of an atom bomb. (There won't be as much energy per nucleus because it's not moving as far across the binding curve. Yeah, there's no fission but when you get half lives in the microseconds the energy comes just about as fast.)

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree, I was going to mention that once the fusion happens, the fused matter is likely to be insanely unstable, and probably have an atomic number in the hundreds, but... I figured the second 'explosion' wouldn't be likely to have much effect. $\endgroup$
    – Skyler
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 12:55

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