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A bar of pure uranium, for instance, would consist entirely of atoms with atomic number 92. Uranium ores, for example, yielded ionium, and thorium ores gave mesothorium.
He expected a difference because uranium and thorium decay into different isotopes of lead.The largest observed deviations from the equation occur at certain favoured numbers (magic numbers) of neutrons or protons (2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, and 126).Magic nuclei are more stable than the binding energy equation would predict.The total separate masses of 6 electrons and 6 protons (treated as 6 hydrogen atoms) and of 6 neutrons add up to 12.09894 amu. The numerical values of these terms do not come from theory but from a selection process that ensures the best possible agreement with experimental data.On the other hand, theory helps justify, at least qualitatively, the mathematical form of each term.
Not all the atoms of an element need have the same number of neutrons in their nuclei. Three nuclei with one proton are known that contain 0, 1, and 2 neutrons, respectively. Wapstra, "The 1995 Update to Atomic Mass Evaluation," Nuclear Physics A595, 409–480 (1995). Similarly, mesothorium was shown to be chemically indistinguishable from radium.