How can the nucleus be lighter than its constituents?

@article{Bomark2021HowCT,
  title={How can the nucleus be lighter than its constituents?},
  author={Nils-Erik Bomark},
  journal={European Journal of Physics},
  year={2021},
  volume={42}
}
  • N. Bomark
  • Published 18 February 2021
  • Physics
  • European Journal of Physics
The fact that the nucleus is lighter than its constituents, seems rather strange. How can the whole have a smaller mass than its components? To get some intuition about how this is possible, one can look at a simpler more familiar system exhibiting the same phenomena; the hydrogen atom. It turns out that the same is true here; the hydrogen atom is a little bit lighter than the sum of its constituents. This difference corresponds to the ionisation energy of hydrogen. This observation allows a… 

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