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# How does subatomic structure determine element? watch

1. Hi, this isn't homework: I already know that the number of protons determines the element. What I'm trying to understand is how the subatomic structure determines which element you get. It seems very unintuitive to me that just arranging the same things differently (ie protons, electrons and neutrons - possible altering their number also) can lead to different atoms. How on earth is it that rearranging the same stuff (as I said, possibly altering their number) can lead to completely different objects. If I get 5 apples, 2 oranges and 1 banana and arrange them in one way, I don't all of a sudden get a qualitatively different object than if I arrange them another way (or if I use a different number of fruits, say 10 apples, 3 oranges and 12 bananas or something). I know this it has something to do with bonding and also "zooming out": you need to zoom out from the subatomic world in order to view the macroscopic properties of the atom but I don't see how this happens.

I hope I've explained my question sufficiently but I apologize if it is unclear or confused - I am very confused after all!
2. (Original post by johnperp)
Hi, this isn't homework: I already know that the number of protons determines the element. What I'm trying to understand is how the subatomic structure determines which element you get. It seems very unintuitive to me that just arranging the same things differently (ie protons, electrons and neutrons - possible altering their number also) can lead to different atoms. How on earth is it that rearranging the same stuff (as I said, possibly altering their number) can lead to completely different objects. If I get 5 apples, 2 oranges and 1 banana and arrange them in one way, I don't all of a sudden get a qualitatively different object than if I arrange them another way (or if I use a different number of fruits, say 10 apples, 3 oranges and 12 bananas or something). I know this it has something to do with bonding and also "zooming out": you need to zoom out from the subatomic world in order to view the macroscopic properties of the atom but I don't see how this happens.

I hope I've explained my question sufficiently but I apologize if it is unclear or confused - I am very confused after all!
Here is my opinion
The way that atoms arrange and organize is important , every small detail can affect the molecule or its structure .For example : dimond and graphite , both are consist of the same atoms which are carbon , but the arrangment is different .Every molecule has its unique shape and structure . Atoms have electrons in orbitals and shells but some loses and other gains . Bonds have different kinds which give the shape of molecule .
I know it is confusing but when you think at the smallest detail in a thing you will see how fantastic the world is !
3. You're looking at this problem the wrong way round. Elements are a man-made classification system. A specific subatomic structure makes an element because.. That's how we defined elements.
4. (Original post by LeXyz)
You're looking at this problem the wrong way round. Elements are a man-made classification system. A specific subatomic structure makes an element because.. That's how we defined elements.
That's a philosophical take on it I suppose, but I don't think anyone would deny that forests actually exist despite the fact that it's just a name we gave to a bunch of trees.
5. (Original post by johnperp)
That's a philosophical take on it I suppose, but I don't think anyone would deny that forests actually exist despite the fact that it's just a name we gave to a bunch of trees.
Having a different number of protons makes a different element because that's how we define elements. They're defined such that they can be organised based on their properties.

The question you're asking really doesn't make much sense. Stop trying to make analogies to macroscopic objects, the way very small things work is very different .
6. (Original post by alow)
Having a different number of protons makes a different element because that's how we define elements. They're defined such that they can be organised based on their properties.

The question you're asking really doesn't make much sense. Stop trying to make analogies to macroscopic objects, the way very small things work is very different .
Yes but what I'm trying to understand is why having a different number of protons alters the macroscopic properties so much. Is there a simple "sketch" explanation using bonding etc. Surely that is a valid question?
7. The number of protons affects the number of electrons an element has when it's neutrally charged, and electrons act in some very weird and interesting ways. As you probably already know, because of the way orbitals work, electrons always like to be put together in certain sized groups - groups of eight, for example, are very stable. Because the number of protons determines the starting electronic state of an element, it determines how it will bond to complete its groups and make its electronic state as stable as possible.

The idea that subtle, microscopic changes to structure can have large, macroscopic results on the properties of a system is common in science - get used to it! A person's brain, for example, is a blob of chemicals and membranes with a highly ordered, but still somewhat chaotic structure, whose emergent properties are a person's mind. Fractionally change the concentration of a single chemical in a single small region of a person's brain, and they will often act completely differently. Working out just how such emergent properties are produced is what makes science difficult but interesting.
8. (Original post by LeXyz)
You're looking at this problem the wrong way round. Elements are a man-made classification system. A specific subatomic structure makes an element because.. That's how we defined elements.
Chemistry as a system, and elements as discrete substances, existed before we came along and named them all. We discover new elements; we do not invent them. The OP's question - how the subatomic structure of elements determines their macroscopic properties - is perfectly valid.
9. (Original post by johnperp)
Yes but what I'm trying to understand is why having a different number of protons alters the macroscopic properties so much. Is there a simple "sketch" explanation using bonding etc. Surely that is a valid question?
Think about the properties of those sub atomic particles and the forces e exerted between them.

For instance, both protons and electrons are charge carriers exerting charge force of exactly the same magnitude but are deflected in opposite directions - protons repel protons but are attracted to electrons. Electrons repel electrons.

Also consider the mass of these particles. Protons are around 2000 times more massive than electrons.

But do not stop at the charge force alone. Also consider the nuclear forces binding the protons together and also electron sharing between elements which is responsible for molecular bonding and the creation of complex molecules and their properties.

This will take you into the realms of Quantum Physics, but at this stage of your learning stick with the basics.
10. (Original post by johnperp)
Hi, this isn't homework: I already know that the number of protons determines the element. What I'm trying to understand is how the subatomic structure determines which element you get. It seems very unintuitive to me that just arranging the same things differently (ie protons, electrons and neutrons - possible altering their number also) can lead to different atoms. How on earth is it that rearranging the same stuff (as I said, possibly altering their number) can lead to completely different objects. If I get 5 apples, 2 oranges and 1 banana and arrange them in one way, I don't all of a sudden get a qualitatively different object than if I arrange them another way (or if I use a different number of fruits, say 10 apples, 3 oranges and 12 bananas or something). I know this it has something to do with bonding and also "zooming out": you need to zoom out from the subatomic world in order to view the macroscopic properties of the atom but I don't see how this happens.

I hope I've explained my question sufficiently but I apologize if it is unclear or confused - I am very confused after all!
We as humans made the periodic table we made the system which says that something with 1 proton is H and something with 2 is He
It's literally brute fact and that's all there is to it.

What you're looking at here is the number of different ways you can arrange something.
11. (Original post by anosmianAcrimony)
Chemistry as a system, and elements as discrete substances, existed before we came along and named them all. We discover new elements; we do not invent them. The OP's question - how the subatomic structure of elements determines their macroscopic properties - is perfectly valid.
That doesn't change the fact that the term "element" was defined to categorise a nucleus with a specific number of protons, as this property corresponds to characteristics of the species.

The OP has a fundamental misunderstanding of how subatomic particles work if they are comparing them to macroscopic objects.

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