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The components of atoms and their effects on its properties

  1. Aug 13, 2012 #1
    I have a physics book that says the electrons orbiting an atom are responsible for the physical and chemical properties of that atom.

    And yet I have managed to find another source which says the number of neutrons can affect the "Density (mass/volume), boiling point, freezing point, and the degree of ion deflection"

    Is the original statement untrue? Unless two particles with different numbers of neutrons and protons, but the same number of electrons act exactly the same, how can you say the number of electrons are responsible for the physical and chemical properties of an atom?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 13, 2012 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    The number of electrons overwhelming dominates the chemical properties of an atom; but the neutrons and protons in the nucleus are where almost all the mass comes from, and hence greatly affect the mass-related properties of the atom. And of course the number of protons directly influences the number of electrons, so it's all kinda tied together.

    If the first book said, in so many words "The electrons orbiting an atom are responsible for all the physical and chemical properties of that atom" then it would be wrong. But more likely the author was just being a bit sloppy while writing in a context that (he thought) made it clear that "all" was not intended. It's really hard to write scientific prose that will stand up when a single sentence or statement is plucked out of context.
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