How Atoms Work

The idea that everything on this planet is made of matter has been around for thousands of years, as has the idea that all matter is composed of some time of smaller, indivisible particle. That theory was never really tested experimentally until later, as the idea was based of philosophical reasoning. However, in the late 6th century BC, two schools in India, the Nyaya and the Vaishesika, experimented with intricate theories on how on the building blocks of matter were binded to more complex pairs, beginning with pairs then trios of pairs. Not much later, in 450 BC, a Greek philosopher, used the term atomos, or Greek for “unable to be cut”, to describe these tiny particles.

In 1808, English scientist John Dalton published A New System of Chemical Philosophy, and in this he explained the five main points of his atomic theory. This new theory stated that 1) all elements are comprised of particles called atoms, 2) all atoms of a given element are identical, 3) The atoms of a given element are different from those of any other element, 4) Atoms of one element can combine with atoms of other elements to form chemical compounds, and 5) Atoms cannot be created, divided into smaller particles, nor destroyed in the chemical process. This theory, in 1808, was simply an educated guess, based on the general trends of simplicity in nature. Despite widespread unsureness of Dalton’s theory, many of the basic principles have survived to today. Although, today, we do know that some of the claims in the theory are slightly incorrect, nevertheless, Dalton helped create a very important part of science that we still use today.

The atom is comprised of many different parts, all centered around the-all-too-important nucleus of the cell. The nucleus is essentially the brain of the entire cell, it dictates instruction to each and every part of the atom, in regard to their functions. Other important parts of the atom include, protons, neutrons, and electrons, which are called subatomic particles. All atoms of the same element have the same number of protons, and that number makes up the atomic number. The number of neutrons differs from each atom, which determines the isotope of the element.

Although it is physically impossible to see a single atom, it is crucial to note that these tiny particles make up every living organism in the universe, from me to you, to that annoying fly buzzing around the kitchen. These minuscule particles essentially act of the Lego’s of our universe, they interlock with each other to form organisms millions of times larger than themselves.