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Thread: How does a single proton change gold into mercury?

  1. #1 How does a single proton change gold into mercury? 
    Forum Freshman Eldritch's Avatar
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    From an element that is solid at room temperature and not very reactive to an element that is liquid at room temperature and is toxic, plus a bunch of other differences.
    By adding one proton, neutron, and electron. I've heard this stated in wonder multiple time before, but I've never heard an explanation. Do we have one? If so, how does this work? How does one single proton change an atom so much?


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    Forum Masters Degree Implicate Order's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eldritch View Post
    From an element that is solid at room temperature and not very reactive to an element that is liquid at room temperature and is toxic, plus a bunch of other differences.
    By adding one proton, neutron, and electron. I've heard this stated in wonder multiple time before, but I've never heard an explanation. Do we have one? If so, how does this work? How does one single proton change an atom so much?
    It is better to consider the entire configuration of the atom (and more importantly the electron configuration) to gain an appreciation of it's nature and chemical properties.

    The atomic number (proton number) is an important guide to determining the intrinsic chemical properties associated with an element as it indicates the number of electrons associated with the element. It is the electron number and more importantly how they are configured in orbitals associated with the atom (and in particular the outermost valence shell) that predominantly determines the physical and chemical characteristics of the element.

    The periodic table is a basis to group elements by similar characteristics. The groups typically represent those elements with the same configuration of electrons in their valence shell and it is these outermost electrons that are typically involved in chemical reactions.

    More here.


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    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    Good answer from Implicate Order, you may also find this book useful: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Periodic.../dp/0465072666 as an introduction to the links between position in the periodic table (and hence electronic configuration) and the properties of an element.
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    Forum Freshman Eldritch's Avatar
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    Thank you, the both of you.
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    zw3
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    I thought that transmutation was disapproved?
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    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    It happens in radioactive decay, nuclear fusion and particle accelerators, it can't be achieved by chemical means as the alchemists thought though... Anyway the question as I read it was why does one proton make such a difference to chemical properties, nothing to do with transmutation really.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Masters Degree Implicate Order's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eldritch View Post
    Thank you, the both of you.
    Thank you to. PhDemon's book suggestion is now on it's way from Amazon. Peter Atkins is a master at demystifying the complexities of chemistry and physics for the lay person and I am very envious of PhDemon who had him as a tutor. I am looking forward to the read.
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