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Thread: Question about electron configuration in atoms

  1. #1 Question about electron configuration in atoms 
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    I just logged into this forum to discuss an idea which I had a few months ago about electron configurations.

    I was wondering for a long time about the numbers of electrons/protons in an atom to form repeating chemical and physical properties. Everyone knows the usual explanation with the multiple shells, Pauli, and so on, so no need to repeat that. It's just that this "explanation" throws up more questions than it answers, to me. It's more a model than an explanation, imo.

    Now I found a solution which is astonishingly simple and explains all the chemical and additionally also all the physical non-nuclear properties at least as well, if not better: Simple geometry.

    I believe that electrons all move around atoms in the same direction in the same height at a very high speed, forming a band around the atom, whose shape is determined by simple centrifugal force and electric repulsion. That's all. No shells, no frills, no nothing.

    In my model, noble gases are atoms in which the electrons are spread perfectly even in this band. As when there are two electrons, 10 electrons (2x5), 18 electrons (3x6), and so on. All in a ratio of 1:2.x, and all with one even and one uneven side (for obvious reasons if you care to think about it). With 36 (4x9) it still works perfectly,only the higher numbers aren't so straightforward. 54 (6x9) and 86 (really weird) point to the "band" maybe collapsing into a torus, the latter in a more complicated but still perfectly even grid (I'll try to model it on a computer if I ever find the leisure).

    In all other configurations, some electrons are free to unbalance the atom, causing a "wobble", or to stick out on the sides of the band, causing "friction". This "wobbling" can be compensated by joining another atom with a similar or complimentary "wobble" - chemical bonding.

    Now comes the best part: When you have 26 electrons, you won't find a configuration where the band isn't very thick on one side and very thin on the other. Which means, if 2 iron atoms come close together, they could sync their spin to turn in the same direction. Thus, large colums of iron atoms easily form magnets. As no other electron number causes a similarily pronounced thickness difference (I checked it, feel free to re-check), no other atom has equally strong magnetic properties. Thus the special role of iron in magnetism can easily be explained with simple geometry. Try that with the traditional model.

    Now my question to you people, some of whom I believe are much better educated in this area: Has anyone else postulated this before? If so, can you point me there, so I can have a look? If not, did I miss anything of importance? Is there some chemical or physical property which prooves that my model is wrong? Is there something else I might have overlooked? I'm thankful for every constructive comment.

    - Carl


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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl View Post
    I believe that electrons all move around atoms in the same direction in the same height at a very high speed, forming a band around the atom, whose shape is determined by simple centrifugal force and electric repulsion.
    What evidence is there that the electrons are all at the same height? How do you avoid the problem that electrons are fermions and so can't all exist in the same energy state? And what about the quantised energy states we observe?

    In my model, noble gases are atoms in which the electrons are spread perfectly even in this band. As when there are two electrons, 10 electrons (2x5), 18 electrons (3x6), and so on. All in a ratio of 1:2.x, and all with one even and one uneven side (for obvious reasons if you care to think about it).
    I have thought about it and can't see any reason why these numbers must be distributed any differently from any other number. What does "one even and one uneven side" mean?

    In all other configurations, some electrons are free to unbalance the atom, causing a "wobble",
    Why?

    Now comes the best part: When you have 26 electrons, you won't find a configuration where the band isn't very thick on one side and very thin on the other.
    Why can't 26 electrons be evenly distributed?

    Maybe you need a diagram. Because I can't see how you think any given number needs to be distributed differently than any other.

    Which means, if 2 iron atoms come close together, they could sync their spin to turn in the same direction. Thus, large colums of iron atoms easily form magnets. As no other electron number causes a similarily pronounced thickness difference (I checked it, feel free to re-check), no other atom has equally strong magnetic properties. Thus the special role of iron in magnetism can easily be explained with simple geometry. Try that with the traditional model.
    What about the rare-earth elements which are used to make much stronger (dangerously strong) magnets?

    Apart from that, I can't see what is wrong with the standard orbital model. It fits with theory, it explains chemical bonds and valence, etc. We have even imaged the shape of orbitals and they match theory (we don't see a "band" of electrons).


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  4. #3  
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    Thanks for discussing this with me, and for all the good arguments.

    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Carl View Post
    I believe that electrons all move around atoms in the same direction in the same height at a very high speed, forming a band around the atom, whose shape is determined by simple centrifugal force and electric repulsion.
    What evidence is there that the electrons are all at the same height? How do you avoid the problem that electrons are fermions and so can't all exist in the same energy state? And what about the quantised energy states we observe?
    Is the fermion classification and the according characteristics a result of the electron-shell model, or is it an independent finding? I have an impression that this is just an elaboration of the same model, to "explain" it's properties, and accordingly not applicable to a different model.

    In my model, noble gases are atoms in which the electrons are spread perfectly even in this band. As when there are two electrons, 10 electrons (2x5), 18 electrons (3x6), and so on. All in a ratio of 1:2.x, and all with one even and one uneven side (for obvious reasons if you care to think about it).
    I have thought about it and can't see any reason why these numbers must be distributed any differently from any other number. What does "one even and one uneven side" mean?
    For simplicity's sake, let's do it with the first 10 elements: Hydrogen, 1, obviously wobbles. Lithium, 3, obviously has one electron "breaking out" to the side, due to electric repulsion of the other electrons and relatively little centrifugal force. Beryllium, 4, for the same reason, forms a zig-zag line. 5, obviously unstable in every way. 6, a wonderful zig-zag line, good for forming crystals. 7, unstable. 8, nearly perfect, but thanks to slight gaps and accordingly the possiblity to form a double zig-zag line, no noble gas. 9, to easy to elaborate, if you are following. The other elements are the same.

    In all other configurations, some electrons are free to unbalance the atom, causing a "wobble",
    Why?
    Because when the distribution is not perfectly "symmetric" (I use the term very liberally), the "band" will be heavier on one side than on the other. See above.

    Now comes the best part: When you have 26 electrons, you won't find a configuration where the band isn't very thick on one side and very thin on the other.
    Why can't 26 electrons be evenly distributed?

    Maybe you need a diagram. Because I can't see how you think any given number needs to be distributed differently than any other.
    You can easily try it yourself with 26 checker pieces on a 1:2.x board where they fit in easily. I started work on this in a 3D program a while ago, but it was very time consuming (and looked clumsy with my graphics skills), and I have a job and other things to do.

    Which means, if 2 iron atoms come close together, they could sync their spin to turn in the same direction. Thus, large colums of iron atoms easily form magnets. As no other electron number causes a similarily pronounced thickness difference (I checked it, feel free to re-check), no other atom has equally strong magnetic properties. Thus the special role of iron in magnetism can easily be explained with simple geometry. Try that with the traditional model.
    What about the rare-earth elements which are used to make much stronger (dangerously strong) magnets?
    To be honest, I didn't even know about any of them being stronger than iron. However, I'm pretty sure that if you do the same checker's experiment with their atomic numbers, you get similar results.

    Apart from that, I can't see what is wrong with the standard orbital model. It fits with theory, it explains chemical bonds and valence, etc. We have even imaged the shape of orbitals and they match theory (we don't see a "band" of electrons).
    To me it looks like a complicated explanation for a simple thing. And it throws up more questions than it solves. It seems to me all the things the standard orbital model explains, can be explained much more easily.
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    Oxygen not being a noble gas is even better explained with the fact that it's 2x4 electron distribution consists of 2 even numbers, which will automatically result in a zig-zag curve.

    I forgot the quantised energy states, or, in other words, the jumps in electric power needed to split chemicals, if I remember correctly the chemical experiment (or one of them) on which this theory is based (it's been a while since I learned this). I see several possible ways to incorporate that into my model, but I don't have the means or time to think this through completely atm: 1) Certain levels of energy may be necessary to lift up the whole band of electrons, as all electrons need to be lifted up at the same time in my theory. This might point to a quantised electron, especially as it seems to be true for Hydrogen as well. 2) There might be some interaction with the protons of the atom, which makes it easier for electrons to move around atoms in certain speeds relative to the spin of the core. Very complicated, but able to explain the causes of quantum effects if we assume em-waves to be non-quantised. Haven't thought about this too much yet, but it seems plausible to me. 3) My model doesn't necessarily exclude quantised energy levels as spheres in which the electrons prefer to move, so it's also possible to use pretty much the same explanations as in the standard orbital model, just with some adaptions to multiple electrons being affected. 4) It's also possible that electrons might move to higher energy levels individually, that what I said about them being in one plane is not 100% the case (as with them forming a torus in heavier atoms). The "steps" in energy level might then either come from the properties of electrons, or from differences between "flat" and "bumpy" bands. 5) What the heck do I know? It's a detail, not a proof either way.
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    Can you point out those "imaged" orbital shapes (if it's something like a "photo", not just another graphic) to me? I don't know where I could find them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl View Post
    I believe that electrons all move around atoms in the same direction in the same height at a very high speed, forming a band around the atom, whose shape is determined by simple centrifugal force and electric repulsion. That's all. No shells, no frills, no nothing.
    Since there is no such thing as centrifugal force; since - if you remove the constraints of 'shells' - there is nothing to stop electons continuing in a straight line away from the atom; and since the nucleus is repelling the electorns, all atoms would almost immediately be devoid of any electrons. Your proposal seems fundamentally flawed.
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    Carl's idea seems to be built around the Bohr model of the atom, where the electron is like a little planet orbiting the nucleus.

    That model has long been discarded.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl View Post
    I believe that electrons all move around atoms in the same direction in the same height at a very high speed, forming a band around the atom, whose shape is determined by simple centrifugal force and electric repulsion. That's all. No shells, no frills, no nothing.
    You are forgetting that electrons aren't classical little "balls", they are quantum mechanical objects, and as such are subject to the laws of quantum mechanics. This specifically includes the Heisenberg Uncertainty Relation, and the fact that their orbits can only be computed in terms of probability amplitudes.
    What this means in practical terms is that you can only tell the probability of finding the electron in a certain area ( thus the shell model ), but not its exact position, unless you make a measurement. Also, the energy levels of the electron are quantized, so not all areas within the atom are equally likely.
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    To add to the above two posts: As I understand it also, it is not merely a problem of not being able to measure where the electrons are at any given time, they actually exist in a haze of probability until a measurement is taken. All the probable positions are superimposed, which is why it is talked about as an electron cloud, even when only one electron is present.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl View Post
    Is the fermion classification and the according characteristics a result of the electron-shell model, or is it an independent finding? I have an impression that this is just an elaboration of the same model, to "explain" it's properties, and accordingly not applicable to a different model.
    I'm not familiar with the details of the history. My understanding is that the Pauli exclusion principle was based on the understanding of quantum mechanics (at the time) to explain various spectroscopic observations. It then contributed to the modern understanding of orbitals. (The "shell model" is a rather poor description of this.)

    An important point is that it is based on objective data (more on this below).

    For simplicity's sake, let's do it with the first 10 elements: Hydrogen, 1, obviously wobbles. Lithium, 3, obviously has one electron "breaking out" to the side, due to electric repulsion of the other electrons and relatively little centrifugal force. Beryllium, 4, for the same reason, forms a zig-zag line. 5, obviously unstable in every way. 6, a wonderful zig-zag line, good for forming crystals. 7, unstable. 8, nearly perfect, but thanks to slight gaps and accordingly the possiblity to form a double zig-zag line, no noble gas. 9, to easy to elaborate, if you are following. The other elements are the same.
    Firstly, this model seems to be based on the idea that electrons are like little ball-bearings or something. They are not.

    Also, I'm sorry but your descriptions still doesn't make sense. How does 6, say, make a zig-zag line more than any other arrangement. I can't help feeling you are deciding on the stability or otherwise of various numbers based on what you know of the reactivity of the elements.

    Unless you can come up with an objective (i.e. quantitative/mathematical) description that reproduces the know reactivities and valencies, then this isn't a very useful approach. (As opposed to the standard model.)

    Because when the distribution is not perfectly "symmetric" (I use the term very liberally), the "band" will be heavier on one side than on the other.
    I think the fact you are using the term "liberally" shows that it is purely subjective. Why is 10 any more stable than 8 or 6? Or even 3, 5 or 9, for that matter. As an analogy, if you build a wheel and distribute point masses around it, it can be stable with any number greater than 1.

    And if these are not point masses but distributed (which is closer to the way electrons actually behave) then every number will be stable.

    You can easily try it yourself with 26 checker pieces on a 1:2.x board where they fit in easily.
    Maybe part of the problem visualising this is that I don't know what you mean by a 1:2.x board. I thought you said they were just evenly distributed in a band.

    To me it looks like a complicated explanation for a simple thing. And it throws up more questions than it solves. It seems to me all the things the standard orbital model explains, can be explained much more easily.
    It is often made to appear more complicated than it is because it uses a mixture of older terminology based on spectroscopy and and more modern terms based on the quantum mechanical description. The way these are related is often not well explained.

    Of course, it is fairly complicated at a deeper level because the math of QM is not exactly trivial.

    But despite all that, if you just use the basic rules about the number of electrons in each shell (and the shape of each) it provides an incredibly good match to reality.

    Furthermore, it can make quantitative predictions which makes it the basis of computational chemistry. If you can extend your model to be equally useful, you might be on to something...
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl View Post
    Can you point out those "imaged" orbital shapes (if it's something like a "photo", not just another graphic) to me? I don't know where I could find them.
    I can't remember who did it (I imagine several labs have repeated it since). I think it was originally a French lab. I'll see if I can find it.

    Edit: Can't find the original article I read about this. Here are a few related bits:
    http://blogs.nature.com/news/2009/09...g_is_beli.html
    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceno...ntimately.html
    http://iramis.cea.fr/en/Phocea/Vie_d...nt&id_ast=1560
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...ving--orbitals
    Last edited by Strange; April 13th, 2012 at 05:19 AM.
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    Thanks for all the replies. There's some great stuff among it I'll definitely try to wrap my head around. The best so far was the links to articles with images, of which especially the last one was interesting. Unluckily, that article didn't state clearly which was computer graphics and which was measurements and calculated results of those. I assume, only the fuzzy brown clouds were actual measurements, while the rest was graphics for illustration. With that, it seems there's not yet any 100% definite answer possible that way, especially as one of the articles admitted that the scientists didn't know why the blob was elliptical and that the pictures which didn't fit theory weren't shown - i.e., a potential case of experimenting until the results fit the ideal.

    John: I think you are deliberately obstructive. The counterforce to what I (incorrectly, maybe) called centrifugal force in the direction away from the core is obviously the electric attraction between positive and negative charges of protons and electrons. Inertia would also not be perfectly good a word, because it usually applies to mass, not to charges, even though the force to the outside is actually determined by the mass of the electron, while the force to the inside is determined by the charge. The difference is necessary to explain why there is a stable orbit, and not an eventual spiralling in or out (which would also answer other questions, I think). I assumed that this (easy part) would be clear. What I tried to describe (maybe clumsily) was the force which would drive the atoms from a position near to the poles to a position near to the equator, if I may use those words without nitpicking.

    Alex: I know this model, too (even though I don't remember all the details anymore), because where I come from, science is mostly taught in historical order (so that people who leave school early have a pretty outdated idea of the world). There are a few differences, one being that Bohr used it with shells, while I don't. Also, I'm quite aware of why the model was dropped, or, better, improved upon - imo, the modern view is pretty much the same, with lots of corrections to account for findings which didn't fit.

    Markus, Kalster: I strongly prefer Schroedinger over Pauli, and it seems to me that there has been quite a movement towards converging those two competing ideas in the last few decades, with more and more things being explained with wave functions, and fewer and fewer with quantum mechanical ideas like the postulated dualism between waves and matter (which I find completely pointless, as waves can explain everything this dualism can explain and is pretty self explanatory, while this dualism throws up an extreme amount of new questions without giving answers which can't be given more easily). But let's try to stick to electron orbits only, as everything else would lead too far astray. I unluckily don't have unlimited time to discuss everything. If anyone is interested, Schroedinger can easily be found on Wikipedia. To make it clear, I see electrons as electromagnetic waves of extreme frequency (which has already been measured) and I believe those waves (unlike photons and similar em-waves) form a circle due to their own miniature curvature of spacetime. You'll find all that discussed in string theory, m-plane theory, or other such theories, so no need to go into details here, especially as I wouldn't be able to get too much into specifics anyways. If I'd draw an electron, it would look a little like a tornado, stretched out according to it's movement and position in the atom, because that analogy to our world of physical objects seems fitting. Heisenberg's theory, if I recall correctly, is based on the simple observation that you can't measure amperage without affecting the voltage, and vice versa, in an electric circuit, and that such applies to any measurement, the more so the more basic the measured forces become. Afaik, it's still discussed, even among top scientists, and one reason is that it is quite abvious that you can't measure something if there is nothing small or light enough to do so without causing interference. The uncertainty principle is, imo, just a (sometimes, thinking about dead cats, not necessarily realistic) elaboration of this. In a certain sense, however, it's a no-brainer and fits my theory as well as yours - in my model, it would also be impossible to say something about individual electrons without affecting them, and accordingly making it impossible to determine another property at the same time, despite all of them running in one band, as affecting one electron in the band affects the whole band.

    Strange: The properties I'm discussing here are electric repulsion between electrons and electric attraction between electrons and protons. Additionally mass and velocity of electrons. We can take exactly the already established properties for that. If we just assume the orbit as a given for now, if only as a thought experiment, we can concentrate on the interaction between the electrons, or, what I call the band of electrons. Those electrons are held in their relative positions by their electric repulsion in all directions, while the forces of inertia keep them away from the poles, like coins in a spinning bowl. If you cut a sheet of steel in the ratio 1:3 and bend it so that it forms a circular band whose girth you can adjust to a ratio between 2 and 2.5 times the width of the band, you have my band. If you attach magnets to it (26, for instance), and try to space them out evenly (simulating electric repulsion), you get a pattern which differs in many fundamental aspects depending how many magnets you attach. Unluckily, I'm too long out of school to remember all the things like the mass of electrons, how to calculate electric fields, and so on. But my model is imo easy to understand, and most people here should be able to put it in formulas, or even in a 3D animation. The fun really starts when you see how complex interactions between atoms are already possible to model with just those four properties, even if my model is still far from complete - I tried that, but I stopped after just the first few elements because of lack of time (and quality of what I could get out of the tools I had available with my skills). Thanks for your input, it's been really useful to me.
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