States of Matter - particles or atoms?

  • #1

Summary:

In distinguishing between states of matter why do books refer to how closely particles are held together, rather than atoms or molecules?
Resources I have looked at distinguish between the three basic states of matter in terms of how closely particles are held together; i.e. in solids they are bound most closely, in liquids less so and in gases they're much freer. Would it not be more correct to refer to how closely atoms or molecules are held together rather than particles? Referring to particles suggests to me that particles are being exchanged between the atoms, is that the case? (If particles are not being exchanged then I would have thought the unit under consideration is the atom or molecule.)
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
anorlunda
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I think the word particles is inclusive of molecules.

Your inference about particle exchange is not warranted.
 
  • #3
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Summary:: In distinguishing between states of matter why do books refer to how closely particles are held together, rather than atoms or molecules?

Resources I have looked at distinguish between the three basic states of matter in terms of how closely particles are held together; i.e. in solids they are bound most closely, in liquids less so and in gases they're much freer. Would it not be more correct to refer to how closely atoms or molecules are held together rather than particles? Referring to particles suggests to me that particles are being exchanged between the atoms, is that the case? (If particles are not being exchanged then I would have thought the unit under consideration is the atom or molecule.)
You would have to include ions. Atoms, molecules, and ions are all particles, but it is far easier to write “particles”’than it is to write “atoms, molecules, and ions”.
 
  • #4
But I thought that atoms were made from particles? In the way that a house is made from bricks. Eg an electron is a particle. I thought that a particle was a lower level entity. How can it be both made from particles and be a particle?
 
  • #5
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How can it be both made from particles and be a particle?
”Particle” is a pretty generic term. It can apply to everything from quarks to dust. There is nothing that prevents a particle from being made from other particles.
 
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  • #6
Ah ok. I thought the term particle was specific to sub-atomic 'stuff' when used in a physics context, so that's the root of my misapprehension.

Many thanks for clarifying.
 
  • #7
sophiecentaur
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Ah ok. I thought the term particle was specific to sub-atomic 'stuff' when used in a physics context, so that's the root of my misapprehension.

Many thanks for clarifying.
Just read stuff on the kinetic theory of gases and you are bound to find the word "particle' used as a catch-all for atoms and molecules. The thing to do when you have doubt about the use of terms is to read around a lot and the answer will appear.
 

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