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Emergent Qualities Mapped to Atomic Properties

  1. Jul 16, 2015 #1
    Is there a mapping of macroscopic properties of a substance and its atomic properties?

    We know that colour is associated with the electron shells.

    What about other properties of matter like mercury liquid at room temp vs gold its neighbour on the chart a solid?

    Is there a mapping like periodic table?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 16, 2015 #2


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    I will once again bring the example of carbon atoms here, and you can see why your connection regarding the macroscopic properties and the atomic properties do not usually work.

    If I take carbon atoms, and arrange them in a certain way, I get diamond. If I arrange it in another way, I get graphite. If I don't tell you that they are made of the same atoms, you would never have guessed, because the physical characteristics of diamond can't be more different than graphite. Yet, they are both made of the identical atom! And note, the color of each is also different. So once more, the color of the object, at least in the visible spectrum, has less to do with the property of the atom than the way it is arranged.

    Secondly, the word "substance" here should be clarified. Most substance are NOT made of just one element. Most solids that we deal with everyday are made of many different elements/molecules. So already you have more than just one type of element, and THEN, you have to deal with how these things are arranged to make up the solid.

    This is why "solid state physics" is a different field than "atomic/molecular physics".

  4. Jul 16, 2015 #3
    Yes it would seem that emergent qualities do not have a 1 to 1 correlation to atomic properties. The types and effects of the different bonds are varied even for elements never mind molecules.

    I am just fascinated with how perceived reality emerges out of the underlying structures that are describe by an unrelated language.
  5. Jul 17, 2015 #4
    This was covered in my Intro Materials Science class, at least for Mechanical properties of materials, such as ductility, the stress-strain curve, etc. For bulk materials (anything more than a few atomic layers in depth), the bulk crystal structure and type of bond the atoms have between each other largely determines mechanical properties of the material. For example, materials covalently bonded are not ductile - think of things like ceramics. However, metallic bonds are much different and not as picky about what atom is which's neighbor, which allows for movement without shatter - aka, ductility. Of course, there are more things to consider, such as whether a material is a single crystal or not, and if not, how big are the individual crystals ('grains'), how differently are the crystals aligned, what defects are there, etc.
    Correct me please if I'm wrong!
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