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Physics for (very big) Dummies

  1. Sep 29, 2006 #1
    I am a thirteen-year-old kid living in Australia. I have joined this forum seeking answers. I have recently read a book by the title "A short history of Nearly Everything". It has sparked a fascination of physics in my life.
    I would call myself a bright child. I am in extension or acceliration for all my subjects. Apart from maths I enjoy English. That brings me to why I am here. I have written several stories and short novels (none of them have been published of course) and several have won awards. Now I wish to write a book including my new found interest in physics. In A Short History of Nearly Everything there is a chapter that mentions electrons. A theory by a slightly eccentric physicist is that if one travels downwards into an electron he/she will find another universe in it. This universe consisting of all the same laws of physics as our own, thus meaning that there are electrons in their universe. So an infinite path can be followed down into electrons finding universe after universe. The same going upwards, meaning that we ourselves are just in a solar system in a galaxy in a universe that is just inside one electron of a universe above us.
    Now as you may obviously be able to see this is gold for an auther. Now all I need is a very simple explanation of an electron. One that explains its behaviour and location and of course its purpose. It also has to be understood by a thirteen year old.
    So if anyone could please help me I would much appreciate it.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 29, 2006 #2


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    Welcome to PF, Verblun.
    I'm afraid that what you've run across is not in touch with reality. The subject was the basis of an SF story called 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' back in the 30's or thereabouts. There is no real science involved.
    I'll leave the details for someone else, but basically an electron is just a cloud of probability functions that describe how an electron should act. There isn't any 'solid' object involved, much less one that people could live on. You can also see by checking up on atomic structure that a nucleus has no similarity to a star.
  4. Sep 29, 2006 #3
    This is a very old SF idea. I think this same basic story is in one of Asimov's Before the Golden Age anthologies.

    For a better whimsical take on quantum physics, I'd recommend George Gamow's books.

    Speaking of Asimov, I think his Understanding Physics is still a pretty good introduction to pre-calculus physics.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2006
  5. Sep 29, 2006 #4
    Hi Verblun,

    I want you to step away from your computer. Now walk over to your bookbag and grab your physics book. Look up "electron" in the index.
    Read all the references therein.

    Then re-ask your question of "what is an electron!

    I'll be waiting. I'm at work. What else will I do?
  6. Sep 29, 2006 #5


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    Is an electron defined by a wavefunction?

    Could obsevration cause the wave function to collapse, giving the electron position?

    If so, the OP could use this...

    To travel inside the electron - of course, you can't travel inside but it's only a story. Actually, asking a bunch of physicists probably isn't the best way to proceed :tongue:

    I bet the producers of Men in Black didn't ask a physicist when it ends on those guys playing marbles with a universe inside each one :biggrin:
  7. Sep 29, 2006 #6
    Let me be the first to say that no one knows what an electron is, we know how it moves, it's characteristics and how it interacts with other particles. That being said there's many things which we can say it probably isn't with a very high degree of certainty and one that ranks highest is another universe inside it.
  8. Sep 29, 2006 #7
    There's loads of great stuff in Physics, Verdun. Set your mind alight and all that. Look at all us guys kicking around here. Some are a lot older than 13. It's just such fun! Anyhow, there's lots of misleading stuff around too, and it's quite hard to tell the difference at times. But you'll learn, and have fun doing it.
    One book that really impressed me when I was a kid was The Wizard of Linn by A E Van Vogt. It isn't factual, but it awakened my wow and wonder at the world. And I've still got it.

    Anybody: if you know the book I mean and it's not the above (duh!) feel free to correct me. But don't give the ending away.
  9. Sep 29, 2006 #8


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    This is very misleading. It implies that what something is can be defined via other ways.

    If you look very closely, you'll notice that "what something is" IS defined by a set of properties and characteristics. That's it. How you define a table, a chair, a TV, the earth, etc. are ALL via their characteristics and properties.

    Yet, when we get to "electrons", somehow, we get seem to think there's more.

  10. Sep 29, 2006 #9
    *sniff*... *sniff*... i smell vanity.

    anyway, say goodbye to the electron, and say hello to newton.
    the electron wont be going anywhere...

    i myself when asked a question about modern physics, i hate answering it, because most of my knowledge in that area will come out of unprocesed memory.
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