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Q: visualizing the atom ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   6 Comments )
Subject: visualizing the atom
Category: Science > Physics
Asked by: dudester123-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 14 Sep 2006 18:17 PDT
Expires: 14 Oct 2006 18:17 PDT
Question ID: 765430
I know that the atom cannot be seen. May be the exterior of a few
large atoms. I know that the inside of an atom cannot be seen. But I
would like to find a way to visualize an atom. How can I visualize the
inside of an atom?
Subject: Re: visualizing the atom
Answered By: hedgie-ga on 21 Sep 2006 19:49 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
There are two ways of interpreting your question:

1)  Can one shoots small particles into the atoms to gain information
about the inside
   (scattering experiments)
2) Are there some images which represent inside of an atom
   (scientific visualization of  fields inside the atoms)

answer to both questions is yes

re 1)
Today's (planetary) model of atoms was established by  Rutherford who
used alfa particles to estimate distribution of charges (small
positive nucleus and electron cloud).

However - there is some (mathematical) reasoning between results of
experiment and actual map of charges

re 2) Scientific visualization produces an actual image - in 'false
color' of a field in space

and maps of fields inside atom, for expample of electron density, has
been produced.

Are there images available to be seen?

The Nuclear Visualization Software
The atomic nucleus is too small to be directly seen, but it can be
visualized using the tricks of computer graphics.

most direct way of sort of 'seeing' atoms is Atomic Force Microscope

So far, it can only see outside of atoms forms

Noclear scattering is an important branch of physics
dudester123-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: visualizing the atom
From: qed100-ga on 14 Sep 2006 19:25 PDT
It's generally safe to visualise it the way it's illustrated
schematically in physics & chemistry books, as a very compact nucleus
enveloped within interfering electronic orbitals. It's quite
reasonable to say that the atomic interior *has* been imaged, and that
the image is as described above. The imaging of the nucleus was done
by Ernest Rutherford's team at the Cavendish Laboratory in the early
20th century, using the scattered trajectories of alpha particles to
map the distribution of mass within the atom.
Subject: Re: visualizing the atom
From: dudester123-ga on 14 Sep 2006 19:59 PDT
Are there images available to be seen? What about the idea that the
wavelengths we see at (that of em radiation) are wavelengths greater
that the size or length or width that subatomic particles exist at &
that because of this it's impossible to see inside the atom, or have
an image of what the inside of an atom looks like inside the mind's
eye, i.e. it makes no sense to try to visualize what an atom looks
Subject: Re: visualizing the atom
From: frankcorrao-ga on 14 Sep 2006 20:24 PDT
That doesn't mean it makes no sense to visualize, it merely means that
we will never really see it.  To visual, you simply imagine would it
would look like if it were blown up.
Subject: Re: visualizing the atom
From: qed100-ga on 14 Sep 2006 20:30 PDT
When I say that the interior has been imaged, I don't mean that
something like a snapshot has been taken. An image of the nucleus was
extrapolated, inferred, from data aquired in the alpha-particle
experiments. From the known kinematics and electrical properties of
the alphas, their behavior in response to the atoms in thin foils of
gold could be "read", and an image of the nucleus as a small, dense
object was arrived at. The evidence favors this modeling of the atomic
interior, thus, the interior is imaged by implication.

   And yes, if the wavelength of light is much larger than the
nucleus, then light of that wavelength cannot be used to "see" the
nucleus directly. But as I've explained above, light isn't the only
thing one can use. The interactions of particles such as alphas (two
protons & two neutrons) or even electrons with the nucleus can be used
to gather data which reveal much about it, and what has been revealed
is that it constitutes most of the mass of a chemical atom in a tiny
fraction of its volume, concentrated in the middle.
Subject: Re: visualizing the atom
From: techtor-ga on 15 Sep 2006 17:40 PDT
Based on my last lesson on this in school, the nucleus can be
visualized the same way, but the circular orbit idea of the electron
is out. The idea is now an electron cloud, where atoms zigzag in their
paths around the nucleus. But this was more than 10 years ago, I have
yet to find out the latest paradigms on this.
Subject: Re: visualizing the atom
From: qed100-ga on 15 Sep 2006 17:55 PDT

   The electron cloud is still an accurate way to model an orbital.
It's effectively been this way since the mid-1920s, when Schrodinger's
wave mechanics was introduced.

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