Why does the proton number differentiate between elements?

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DetectiveMe
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The title is the question!
I am looking for a more in-depth answer than: it is because that is the only number that stays consistent.
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BTAnonymous
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Are you talking about isotopes or just elements as a whole?
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Astrtricks
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An element is defined by the number of protons it has. If it had more or less protons then it would be a different element. I don't really understand what you're asking? We categories atoms into elements based on this fact, its just a logical way of ordering the different types of atoms that exist. Ordering atoms by number of neutrons or mass wouldn't be great because you could have atoms of the same type with substantially different chemical and physical properties.

If you vary the number of neutrons in an element you get isotopes. Likewise if you vary the number electrons you get different ions.
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DetectiveMe
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I know that it is a logical way of ordering the elements and that varying neutrons leads to an isotope. I know the facts. But why is it this way?Why is there an element with a proton number increasing by one each time?
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Joinedup
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Chemical properties come from the electronic configuration of the atom and the number of electrons in a neutral atom has to be equal to the number of protons.

That's the basic idea afaik.
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The_Big_E
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(Original post by DetectiveMe)
I know that it is a logical way of ordering the elements and that varying neutrons leads to an isotope. I know the facts. But why is it this way?Why is there an element with a proton number increasing by one each time?
Well once Mendeleev's periodic table was ordered by proton number, scientists didn't know that there were elements with a proton number increasing by one each time. You can see this from the gaps in older periodic tables, for example this one from 1915:

Image

Scientists speculated that those gaps were missing elements with that atomic number, but could never confirm that until those elements were found. But eventually with time it became accepted that the elements with those atomic numbers existed, but have just not been found.

Also I guess since theoretically you can keep adding protons to create new elements, there is going to be an element that exists for every increasing proton number. It's just that when these 'new' elements are created, the strong nuclear force can only be so strong. The nuclei become too big to hold themselves together, and as a result have very short half-lives, for example livermorium only having a half-life of 60 milliseconds. The second post here explains it quite well.

I know I probably didn't answer your question the way you wanted, but I hope I was at least of some help! Also I suggest checking out the subreddits /r/AskScience and /r/ExplainLikeImFive for questions like this
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Kallisto
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(Original post by DetectiveMe)
I know that it is a logical way of ordering the elements and that varying neutrons leads to an isotope. I know the facts. But why is it this way?Why is there an element with a proton number increasing by one each time?
Do you want to know how those elements came into being by increasing the number of protons? if so, that has something to do with nuclear fusion then.

By nuclear fusion, atoms were merged to new a new atom and the protons of them to one too. Thus the number of protons in a nucleus increases by one. This nuclear fusion was caused by high pressures and temperatures in space billions of years ago.

In times of nuclear fusion process, the first simple elements were created from hydrogen up to oxygen.
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Physics Enemy
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(Original post by DetectiveMe)
Why does the proton number differentiate between elements? Why is there an element with a proton number increasing by one each time?
If they had the same proton number, they'd be the same element by definition. But you have isotopes/ions per element by tinkering with the neutron/electron number. Nobody knows why elements found so far (!) have proton number increasing by +1 (arithmetically with a = 1, d = 1).

But there's no reason as to why they shouldn't, nor any constraint towards an even, odd or another pattern in proton number. So the a = 1, d = 1 pattern discovered to date seems sensible and is expected to hold.
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DetectiveMe
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(Original post by The_Big_E)
Well once Mendeleev's periodic table was ordered by proton number, scientists didn't know that there were elements with a proton number increasing by one each time. You can see this from the gaps in older periodic tables, for example this one from 1915:

Image

Scientists speculated that those gaps were missing elements with that atomic number, but could never confirm that until those elements were found. But eventually with time it became accepted that the elements with those atomic numbers existed, but have just not been found.

Also I guess since theoretically you can keep adding protons to create new elements, there is going to be an element that exists for every increasing proton number. It's just that when these 'new' elements are created, the strong nuclear force can only be so strong. The nuclei become too big to hold themselves together, and as a result have very short half-lives, for example livermorium only having a half-life of 60 milliseconds. The second post here explains it quite well.

I know I probably didn't answer your question the way you wanted, but I hope I was at least of some help! Also I suggest checking out the subreddits /r/AskScience and /r/ExplainLikeImFive for questions like this
Thanks a lot for replying! I didn't consider the idea that a new element could be created for every increasing proton number, some good food for thought!
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DetectiveMe
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(Original post by Physics Enemy)
If they had the same proton number, they'd be the same element by definition. But you have isotopes/ions per element by tinkering with the neutron/electron number. Nobody knows why elements found so far (!) have proton number increasing by +1 (arithmetically with a = 1, d = 1).

But there's no reason as to why they shouldn't, nor any constraint towards an even, odd or another pattern in proton number. So the a = 1, d = 1 pattern discovered to date seems sensible and is expected to hold.
I see what you are saying and it makes sense logically. But what bothers me is that there is no known
reason for the proton number to increase by 1.
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DetectiveMe
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(Original post by Kallisto)
Do you want to know how those elements came into being by increasing the number of protons? if so, that has something to do with nuclear fusion then.

By nuclear fusion, atoms were merged to new a new atom and the protons of them to one too. Thus the number of protons in a nucleus increases by one. This nuclear fusion was caused by high pressures and temperatures in space billions of years ago.

In times of nuclear fusion process, the first simple elements were created from hydrogen up to oxygen.
I know of this, but I itch to know why
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Kallisto
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(Original post by DetectiveMe)
I know of this, but I itch to know why
In this case, I can't help you. I guess the answer you are looking for has something to do with quantum physics. Maybe an aspect of it which is not cleared yet and no one don't know.
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alow
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(Original post by DetectiveMe)
I know of this, but I itch to know why
"Why?" is usually a useless question in science. "How?" is much more interesting.
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Physics Enemy
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(Original post by alow)
"Why?" is usually a useless question in science. "How?" is much more interesting.
I've heard that cliché before but it's semantic. Science explains why, only up to a point, after which philosophy takes over; you can't keep asking why indefinitely.
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K-Man_PhysCheM
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(Original post by DetectiveMe)
I know of this, but I itch to know why
That's a bit of a pointless question?

Why? Because scientist have defined that different elements are atoms that have different numbers of protons. It's just a definition of something we've observed in nature, not a revelation of something fundamental. Classifying elements by proton number just happens to be useful, because proton number determines electron configurations which in turn determines chemical reactions, but there's nothing intrinsically fundamental going on here.

Why does the proton number differentiate between elements? Because we've defined elements as such.
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Tubbz
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(Original post by DetectiveMe)
I know of this, but I itch to know why
This is one of those cases where it's like a toddler repeatedly asking why until you get fed up and say "that's just the way it is".

You've asked why enough times and got down to the bare bones of it. The reason the proton number increases by 1 each time, is because that proton number is what defines something as a separate element.

A nucleus with a single proton will be hydrogen, by definition. That single proton and neutron have a set of properties like other atoms with a single neutron and proton. It's these nucleus arrangements that give the elements their properties.
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DetectiveMe
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(Original post by Tubbz)
This is one of those cases where it's like a toddler repeatedly asking why until you get fed up and say "that's just the way it is".

You've asked why enough times and got down to the bare bones of it. The reason the proton number increases by 1 each time, is because that proton number is what defines something as a separate element.

A nucleus with a single proton will be hydrogen, by definition. That single proton and neutron have a set of properties like other atoms with a single neutron and proton. It's these nucleus arrangements that give the elements their properties.
No. There is still something covering the bones, but I'll leave it here.
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alow
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(Original post by DetectiveMe)
No. There is still something covering the bones, but I'll leave it here.
Do you want to understand why the proton number increases by 1 each time, rather than there being "gaps" in the periodic table? Is that what you're getting at?
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black1blade
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It's because atomic charge has the most significant effect on chemical properties as it dictates the number of electrons in a stable atom.
Interestingly enough, I believe that mass can have an effect on oribiting electrons and thus physical properties. Apparently mercury's peculiar state at rtp is down to the relativistic effects on orbiting electrons, or so I heard/read.
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