Proton dripping tests a fundamental force in nature: Like gravity, the strong interaction is a fundamental force of nature. It is the essential "glue" that holds atomic nuclei—composed of protons and neutrons— together to form atoms, the building blocks of nearly all the visible matter in the universe. Despite its prevalence in nature, researchers are still searching for the precise laws that govern the strong force. However, the recent discovery of an extremely exotic, short-lived nucleus called fluorine-14 in laboratory experiments may indicate that scientists are gaining a better grasp of these rules.
Fluorine-14 comprises nine protons and five neutrons. It exists for a tiny fraction of a second before a proton "drips" off, leaving an oxygen-13 nucleus behind.