What is an atom and why are atoms important?

What is an atom? (Credit: J. Smith)

What is an atom? (Credit: J. Smith)

So what’s so great about atoms? What are they? Why should we get excited about them? Are they really that important?

 

Why do atoms matter?

You probably know that everything that exists in this world is made up of matter. The food you eat, the air we breathe, even your body is made up of matter. All the “stuff” around us is made up of matter.

Matter is anything that takes up space and has a mass.

But what makes up matter?

Atoms!

- Which means everything around us is made up of atoms.
- From the trees to the bees: Humans, water, air, trees, food – you name it – it’s all made up of atoms.
- All matter on earth is made up of atoms!
- As far as we know, atoms are made up of the smallest, tiniest things on earth.

So, knowing about atoms is important, it helps us to understand our world a bit better.

 

What are atoms made up of?

The electron cloud and nucleus (Credit: J Smith)

The electron cloud and nucleus (Credit: J Smith)

An atom is made up of an outer electron cloud and a nucleus.

The outer electron cloud:

- Electrons are found in the electron cloud around the nucleus of an atom.
- The electrons are negatively electrical charge of one (shown as -1 or 1-).
- The electrons move at high speeds in the electron clouds.

The nucleus:

- The nucleus is made up of neutrons and protons.
- Each proton has a positive electrical charge of one (shown as 1+ or +1).
- The neutrons are neutral and have no charge.

Electrons, protons, and neutrons. (Credit: J Smith)

Electrons, protons, and neutrons. (Credit: J Smith)

 

Summary: So, now you know what an atom is (i.e. the smallest unit of matter) and why atoms are important (i.e. all matter in our world is made up of atoms).  You also know what an atom is made up of (i.e. the electron cloud [which contains the electrons] and the nucleus [which contains the protons and neutrons]).

Don’t miss our next post on: “What gives an atom its mass and size?”

If you can’t wait, or want more detailed information see:
“Atoms: An Introduction to Atoms”
(contains 31 PowerPoint slides with teaching notes on each slide)

 



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