This is going to seem like it should be an educational question, and perhaps it should, but please bear with me, because I think that it has theoretical content. A nice quote that I recently heard someplace went something like: "We used to argue about whether electrons [etc] were particles or waves or both or what. Well, the argument is over and the waves won." de Broglie taught us that macroscopic objects have wave nature, and we embrace this. But, odd to say, we still don't seem to embrace this at the microscopic scale, even though there is where it would seem to be most obvious setting, and is the source of the concept to begin with. Specifically, whereas we are taught to think of particles as complexes of waves, when we depict things like subatomic particles -- or for that matter atomic nuclei, or for that matter whole atoms -- we draw them as though there are actually particles, whereas no one thinks that just because a neutron decays into a proton + electron + neutrino, that these things are "inside" the neutron, nor that they, in any sense, are the composite parts of the neutron, except in the abstract mathematical (specifically fourier) sense that a set of sine waves are the composite parts of a violin's sound. One can see that this may merely be an educational complaint to please stop drawing pictures of atoms that have nuclei with electrons "around" them (in any sense of "around", whether the planetary or statistical sense), and to stop drawing pictures of nuclei with a bunch of balls in them. But my (possibly) technical question is this: Is there any sense OTHER than the fourier sense, in which, let's say, electrons actually retain their identity (in any sense, again other than the fourier sense) after absorption? It seems not, in which case all that can be said about an atom of whatever sort, is that it differs in such-and-so ways from another atom of a different sort (and the same for nuclei and nuclear particles, and, for that matter, molecules, and perhaps even macro-molecules, and where does it end???). And all the descriptions of there being, say, more or fewer bonding electrons, and so on and so forth are essentially identical to saying that the fourier decomposition of a given complex waveform contains such-and-so series of component since waves.