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Seeker's Questions: How does an atom remain an atom?

Nov 03, 2005 07:16 AM
by saidevo

The chemical atom has a nucleus that has protons and neutrons (with
quarks inside them), and electrons in orbit around the nucleus. Some
other sub-atomic particles might be generated from time to time,
but these are not stable. An atom has a diameter of 10^-10 meters.

Two atoms never touch each other, even in the densest solid. 
The space between two atoms is far larger than the size of the atom.
Similarly, the space between the particles inside the atom is also
large, compared to their sizes. And all the particles are vibrating,
the electrons going around, and the quarks vibrating on their axes.

Given this situation, how does an atom remain an atom always?
Why don't the particles just dissipate into the surrounding space?
What keeps the particles together, bound as a common unit, the atom?
What is the force that binds the particles to the atomic structure?

Since the electrons go round the nucleus, the force that binds them
may be the gravitational force, with centripetal forces counteracting
the force of gravity. What about the quarks? What force binds them
into units of protons and neutrons? If it is a nuclear force, or a 
cohesive force, or any other force, what is the nature of such 
forces? Do they have a role even outside the atom? In what way are 
these sub-atomic forces different from the normal forces or energy 
fields such as gravity, electricity, magnetism and electromagnetism?

An image on a computer monitor persists because it is constantly
refreshed by electron beams acting as an external force, welling up
from inside the picture tube. An image on a cinema screen persists 
because it is refreshed by the beam of light from the projector. 
Should this not be the case with atoms too? If so, has Science 
postulated any external force that either acts on the atom or 
wells up from within the atom (from a fourth dimension) and keeps 
the atom intact? If there is such a force, what is the nature 
of this force?

An explanation with less technical jargon would be helptul.


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