nLab
atom (physics)

Contents

This entry is about the concept in physics. For other notions of the same name see atom (disambiguation)

Context

Physics

physics, mathematical physics, philosophy of physics

Surveys, textbooks and lecture notes


theory (physics), model (physics)

experiment, measurement, computable physics

Fields and quanta

Contents

Idea

In physics an atom is a bound state of a nucleus and a shell of electrons, where the nucleus itself is a bound state of protons and neutrons, which themselves are bound states of quarks, which, finally, in the present standard model of particle physics, are elementary particles, as are the electrons in the shell of the atom.

In chemistry the different types of atoms that exist are also called chemical elements. Their bound states in turn are called molecules. The phenomenology of the elements that is captured by the periodic table of the elements is explained by the quantum physics of atoms. This transition area between quantum physics and chemistry is called quantum chemistry.

Terminology

When the term atom (“indivisible”) for these physical objects was established, the inner structure of atoms was not known yet. Similarly what today are called elementary (hence again: indivisible) particles are subject to speculation that they might be compound after all (e.g. in technicolor models, or string theory).

Examples

References

See also

Last revised on January 13, 2018 at 00:21:32. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.