Question: what are atoms

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  1. Our understanding of what an element and an atom is has changed a lot over the last 50 years.

    What we currently know about them is that atoms are the basic building blocks of ordinary matter. Atoms can join together to form molecules, which in turn form most of the objects around you.

    Atoms are composed of particles called protons, electrons and neutrons. Protons carry a positive electrical charge, electrons carry a negative electrical charge and neutrons carry no electrical charge at all. The protons and neutrons cluster together in the central part of the atom, called the nucleus, and the electrons ‘orbit’ the nucleus. A particular atom will have the same number of protons and electrons and most atoms have at least as many neutrons as protons.

    Protons and neutrons are both composed of other particles called quarks and gluons. Protons contain two ‘up’ quarks and one ‘down’ quark while neutrons contain one ‘up’ quark and two ‘down’ quarks. The gluons are responsible for binding the quarks to one another.

    I imagine, given the experiments going on at CERN in switzerland, that we will know a lot more again in 50 years time!


  2. An atom is the basic unit of an element. They are usually referred as the smallest building blocks of matter that make up everyday objects. Atom cannot be further broken down using any chemical means. (now people can further break it down though) A typical atom consists of protons, neutrons and electrons.


  3. The others have done a pretty good job at answering so I’ll just add a random fact about atoms!

    Did you know that atoms are more than 99% empty space? The protons and neutrons are at the nucleus of the atom and the electrons swing around the nucleus in circular patterns. The space taken up by the electrons is huge compared to the nucleus!

    Atoms that are close together can also share electrons!