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Atoms and sub-atomic particles.

  1. Jul 8, 2011 #1
    I am trying to get the most complete picture of the structure of atom.
    I understand generally how elements and molecules are formed, however the last thing I was taught about atoms was 10 years ago.
    I was told about the electron proton and nuetron and thats it.
    I know this is just the basic idea of the atom so I am wondering if anyone can explain how atoms are put together and the different components that make them up.
    You dont need to get into spin or charge or flavor or anything like that, I will not understand it. But just a basic physical description should do just fine.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2011 #2


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    Hi YoungDreamer! :smile:
    I assume you know about electron shells and valency, and that which element it is depends on the number of protons?

    An atom has 3 components: the electrons protons and neutrons.

    The number of electrons has to equal the number of protons (so that the total charge is zero), and they are attracted to the protons by the electromagnetic force (in other words, by opposite charge attracting) … that's really all you need to know about the electrons. :wink:

    The protons and neutrons are held together by the "strong nuclear force" (one of the four fundamental forces), which is a lot stronger than the electromagnetic repulsion between the protons, but only acts over very short distances.

    The number of neutrons doesn't affect the chemical properties of the atom, but it does affect its stability … too many or too few electrons means that the atom would need extra energy, and it would be unstable. Too many neutrons, a neutron will decay to a proton and emit an electron (and an anti-neutrino). Too few neutrons, a proton will decay to a neutron and emit a positron (and a neutrino) … this is how positrons are created in a laboratory.
  4. Jul 8, 2011 #3


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