Atoms

The word "atom" comes from a Greek word that translates to which of the following?    

Considering small, magical, invisible and uncuttable, the answer is: uncuttable.

The word "atom" comes from the Greek word atomos, which means uncuttable or indivisible. The scientists who first gave the atom its name imagined it couldn't be split or divided into smaller pieces.

Photo credit: Altayb/iStock

Atoms are some of the smallest particles known to man. At the time of their discovery around 5 BCE, Greek philosopher Democritus believed that these particles of matter could not be further divided – but modern science has proved otherwise. Atoms may be the building blocks of elements, yet they can be divided into smaller particles through processes like nuclear fission and nuclear decay. Additionally, we now know that atoms consist of even smaller elements called quarks and leptons. While an electron is a lepton, protons and neutrons consist of three quarks each (sound like gibberish yet?).

There are over 7 billion billion billion (yes, you read that right) atoms in our bodies, yet we replace around 98% of them every year. Even more fascinating: atoms are composed of 99.9% empty space. Nearly all of the mass is contained in the nucleus, where the protons and neutrons can be found. Orbiting outside of the nucleus are the electrons, which carry a negative charge and are far smaller than protons or neutrons.

Around 92 atoms occur naturally in nature. Each element itself has a different amount of protons, which are largely responsible for its respective elemental qualities. Hydrogen, the first element, has only one proton, while nitrogen has six. Some elements are even created through atoms bonded together, like sodium chloride.

Learn more about the building blocks of life below.


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