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What is the dif between Atoms and Elements?

  1. Sep 20, 2007 #1
    Ok so I just started taking this Bio 12 class after not being in High School for over 5 years!

    It is not what I thought it would be at all!

    Im kind of getting stuck on one topic and no matter who I talk to I still dont understand it.

    What is the dif between Atoms and Elements?

    I know that depending on the amount of protons, electrons etc in an atom it will tell you what kind of element it is....so wouldnt that make the two the same thing? So why use different words for it...its really confusing!

    Some people have said that an atom is the smallest part. in an element but that doesnt make sense to me.

    Are atoms what make up an element?

    Like does it take hundreds of thousands of atoms to make up an element? Are atoms the only things that are inside the element? The more atoms of an element you have the more weight of that element you have?

    So in a sentence would you be like....in my hand I have a chunk of the element called Gold...this element is made up of thousands of tiny Gold atoms?

    Sorry for all the questions but I hd serious trama in a car accident and I dont get things as fast as I used to lol.

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 20, 2007 #2


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    Gold Member

    Welcome to PF, Kassandra.
    Essentially, an element is something that can't be broken down into more than one kind of atom (excluding isotopes, which differ in the number of neutrons but are otherwise identical). An atom is indeed the smallest definable constituent of an element. You can, as you said, have a single atom of gold and it's still gold. You cannot have a single proton of gold, or neutron, or any other subatomic particle. If more than one type of atom is present, the material is a compound.
  4. Sep 20, 2007 #3

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    Think of an element as a distinct flavor of atoms. Elements are a clasification name set we have for each flavor of atom: hydrogen, helium. lithium... uranium.
  5. Sep 20, 2007 #4
    Atoms make up elements, elements are unique in that they are only divisible into atoms. The atom of an element has a unique characteristic, number of protons and nuetrons. Which give the element a unique signature. So you are correct when u say in my hand is 5 ounces of gold, which contains certain amount of gold atoms. Just remember that this means a specific number of nuetrons and protons for that atom.
    Does this help?
  6. Sep 20, 2007 #5
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