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What matter really looks like

  1. Jan 16, 2012 #1
    There is a big statue of an atom I think in the Hague or maybe Brussels. We all know what it looks like but to me this monument is a catastrophe because that's not what an atom looks like at all. Colors are just living beings ways of converting the information in the wave length of an electromagnetic wave into a new form of information that living beings can innately sense. "Objective matter" that is to say its properties independent of living beings, does not have color. But let's take a look at protons, neutrons and electrons. They're not spherical at all, right? We have no way at the moment of knowing what an electron's shape is or its properties independent of living beings. A proton is made up of three quarks and we do not know what their shape is either, right?

    I put this is in atomic physics because it discusses the atom.
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  3. Jan 16, 2012 #2
    I'm not sure that questions of the type "what does an atom or a quark etc look like?" have any meaningful answers.I don't see anything wrong in forming mental pictures of these microscopic particles provided that one realises that such pictures are just models only and provided that one gains an awareness of the limitations of the models.As an example when dealing with monoatomic gas molecules colliding at "moderate temperatures" one might find it helpful to imagine the atoms as being like infinitely hard solid spheres.At higher temperatures when some of the collisions become exciting and or ionising it might be more helpful to consider the basic atomic structure model.
  4. Jan 16, 2012 #3


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    It has been moved out of that forum and into GP because it doesn't deal with advanced level discussion of atoms.

  5. Jan 16, 2012 #4


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    It is difficult to say something has a shape when we get down to the subatomic level. The electrons electric field or magnetic moment or something was measured and was determined to be a perfect sphere to the best our measurements were able to detect. Is this the shape of the electron? Who knows. It may not even have a shape. A proton and neutron, being made of quarks, is even harder to discuss. The quarks are thought to have freedom to move around to the extent that the color force allows, so it would be kind of like saying that marbles shaken around in a jar have a shape.
  6. Jan 16, 2012 #5

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    This is not a well-posed question. First, there are two questions, "what does matter really look like?" and "what does an atom really look like?" I am assuming this is about the second.

    What does an atom really look like? It's really too small to see. Really. That's your answer.

    Now, I suspect that this isn't really your question. Your real question is probably "what would an atom look like if...." But a) that isn't what it really looks like, and b) we could guess at what you mean, but it would be better for you to think about it and pose the question you have rather than to let us guess.
  7. Jan 16, 2012 #6


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    If you mean the Atomium that is a ball-and-stick representation of an iron crystal unit cell.
  8. Jan 17, 2012 #7
    This is not surly we told about the shape of these atom. Basically this property show this is spherical or may be that are some other shape and fast motion may be build that shape spherical.
  9. Jan 17, 2012 #8


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    I find this sentence to be incoherent. Could you break your thoughts down to be more understandable?
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