Atoms & Molecules

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The smallest parts of an atom are fermions, the elementary particles that form the subatomic components in every atom. Atoms, the smallest particle of an element that still retains the properties of the element, are composed of protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons and neutrons can be broken down further into quarks, one type of fermion. Electrons are a class of leptons, the other type of fermion.

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  • Why Do Helium Balloons Float?

    Q: Why Do Helium Balloons Float?

    A: Helium balloons float because they are less dense than the surrounding air, which causes them to rise. Gravity acts on helium balloons the same way it does on the surrounding air; it has no effect on whether the balloon floats or not. It all comes down to relative densities.
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  • What Is the Basic Unit of Matter?

    Q: What Is the Basic Unit of Matter?

    A: An atom is the basic unit of matter. The atom is the basic building block of an element, and cannot be broken down further using any chemical means. An atom is made up of three particles: protons, neutrons and electrons.
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  • What Is the Most Reactive Group of Metals?

    Q: What Is the Most Reactive Group of Metals?

    A: The most reactive group of metals on the periodic table are the alkali metals. These metals are so reactive that they are not found naturally by themselves; they are found in nature as parts of compounds.
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  • What Is the Electron Configuration of Arsenic?

    Q: What Is the Electron Configuration of Arsenic?

    A: The electron configuration of arsenic is [Ar] 4s2 3d10 4p3. It exists in many forms. Allotropes of arsenic are yellow, black and gray, according to About.com. The gray allotrope is the most common form of elemental arsenic and a conductor of electricity. In the other colors, arsenic is a poor conductor of electricity.
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  • What Is Made Out of Copper?

    Q: What Is Made Out of Copper?

    A: While humans use copper in many ways, one of the most important is for the piping systems in homes and businesses. Copper provides a long-lasting material that does not rust. It ensures that the water supply in a home remains safe for human consumption. Copper pipes carry the refrigerants in heating and cooling systems to keep homes comfortable.
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  • What Is the Number of Protons in an Atom Called?

    Q: What Is the Number of Protons in an Atom Called?

    A: The number of protons that are found is an atom is referred to as the atomic number. This number is also referred to as the proton number.
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  • What Is the Chemical Name for Water?

    Q: What Is the Chemical Name for Water?

    A: The systematic names for water, as determined by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), are water and oxidane, although water is the more commonly used term by chemists. The traditional name has been retained for ease of communication.
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  • What Is the Importance of Beryllium?

    Q: What Is the Importance of Beryllium?

    A: Beryllium has several roles in industry, including use as an X-ray window, a moderator in nuclear reactors, a part of several alloys and a component in ceramics. It is very light and has a relatively high melting point in its metallic form. Beryllium and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, despite having a sweet taste that earned it its original name, glucinium.
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  • What Is the Chemical Formula for Limestone?

    Q: What Is the Chemical Formula for Limestone?

    A: Pure limestone is made up of two component minerals: calcium carbonate and calcium-magnesium carbonate. The chemical formula for calcium carbonate is CaCO3. The chemical formula for calcium-magnesium carbonate is CaMg(CO3)2.
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  • What Is the Softest Metal?

    Q: What Is the Softest Metal?

    A: Cesium is the softest metal on Earth. In fact, the metal is so soft, it is possible to cut it with a butter knife. Additionally, cesium melts at a relatively low temperature of 28.4 degrees Celsius (83.12 degrees Fahrenheit). Gold, silver and copper are other malleable metals considered "soft," but they are much harder than cesium.
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  • What Elements Make up Bronze?

    Q: What Elements Make up Bronze?

    A: Bronze is an alloy of mostly copper and another element, usually tin, which has the effect of hardening and strengthening the metal. Bronze was one of the first alloys developed by humans, and it forms a gold-colored, brittle metal that was sometimes used to make early tools.
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  • What Did Ernest Rutherford Discover About the Atom?

    Q: What Did Ernest Rutherford Discover About the Atom?

    A: Ernest Rutherford's famed Gold Foil Experiment of 1909 demonstrated that atoms were made up of a charged nucleus orbited by electrons. He published his findings in 1911 with a description of what he called the Rutherford model of the atom. While electrons had been described prior to this experiment, Rutherford was the first person to describe the existence of a small, charged atomic nucleus.
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  • What S the Scientific Name for Salt?

    Q: What S the Scientific Name for Salt?

    A: The scientific name for salt is sodium chloride. The molecular formula for salt is NaCl with Na being sodium and Cl being chloride. It is an ionic compound with equal proportions of both ions.
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  • What Is the Most Metallic Element?

    Q: What Is the Most Metallic Element?

    A: The element with the strongest metallic properties in the world is francium, an artificial radioactive element. After francium, the next most metallic element is cesium.
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  • Why Do Atoms Combine?

    Q: Why Do Atoms Combine?

    A: Atoms combine together when the outermost shell, or valence shell, of electrons is not filled with two electrons (if there is only one shell) or eight electrons (if it has more than one shell). Atoms combine to fill the outermost shell and become stable compounds by either losing electrons to become ions or gaining electrons. Atoms can combine with similar elements or different elements.
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  • What Is the Most Reactive Element?

    Q: What Is the Most Reactive Element?

    A: The most reactive element is fluorine. It is never found in its free form in nature. Because it has seven electrons in its outer energy level, fluorine is always on the lookout to find a single electron to give it a more stable configuration.
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  • What Are the Two Most Abundant Elements Dissolved in Seawater?

    Q: What Are the Two Most Abundant Elements Dissolved in Seawater?

    A: After hydrogen and oxygen, the two most abundant or "common" elements dissolved in seawater are sodium and chloride, which combine to form salt. The salinity of seawater is measured by grams of salt per liter of water, with a typical reading of approximately 35 grams per liter, or 35 percent.
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  • Who Discovered Protons, Electrons and Neutrons?

    Q: Who Discovered Protons, Electrons and Neutrons?

    A: The discoveries of electrons, protons and neutrons were made by J. J. Thomson, Ernest Rutherford and James Chadwick respectively. They were staggered over a period of 35 years.
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  • What Is the Difference Between Atoms, Ions and Isotopes?

    Q: What Is the Difference Between Atoms, Ions and Isotopes?

    A: The difference between atoms, ions and isotopes is the number of subatomic particles. An atom is the basic building block of matter, the smallest molecule of an element that exists and that cannot be chemically divided by ordinary means. Each atom is comprised of protons, neutrons and electrons. In ions, the number of electrons differs, and in isotopes, the number of neutrons varies.
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  • Why Is Evaporation a Cooling Process?

    Q: Why Is Evaporation a Cooling Process?

    A: Evaporation is a cooling process because when liquid turns to gas, it needs more energy, and so it has to take that energy from its surroundings. The energy is in the form of heat, and when the heat energy leaves with the evaporating liquid, the surroundings get cooler as a result. This has to do with the properties of the different states of matter.
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  • What Does an Atom Become When It Gains or Loses an Electron?

    Q: What Does an Atom Become When It Gains or Loses an Electron?

    A: When an atom gains or loses an electron, it becomes an ion. Ions formed by the loss of an electron have a positive charge, and those formed by gaining an electron have a negative charge.
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