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Thread: How is carbon formed? From what?

  1. #1 How is carbon formed? From what? 
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    Anything you know about carbon, what it is, what it's made from, how it's formed etc etc. please add to the discussion.


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    Carbon is an element, No. 6. As with all elements above hydrogen and helium, it is formed in supernova explosions (a tiny amount may be the result of radioactive decay of other elements, but I'm not sure).

    I occurs in various forms such as diamond, graphite and more esoteric things like carbon buckyballs and fibres.

    It is a good electrical conductor and is able to form complex molecules including long chains and rings of carbon atoms, which is why it is fundamental to life and organic chemistry.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Carbon is an element, No. 6. As with all elements above hydrogen and helium, it is formed in supernova explosions (a tiny amount may be the result of radioactive decay of other elements, but I'm not sure).

    I occurs in various forms such as diamond, graphite and more esoteric things like carbon buckyballs and fibres.

    It is a good electrical conductor and is able to form complex molecules including long chains and rings of carbon atoms, which is why it is fundamental to life and organic chemistry.
    Only in supernovas? we cant 'put it together' ourselves?

    So a carbon atom is made from? the same sub atomic material that goes into all the others? it's a case of different protons and nuetrons with different amounts of electrons make all the atoms? and quarks in different amounts make nuetrons and protons?

    Can you tell me why it's called carbon 6...? anything to do with it's make up?
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    Because it's number 6 on the periodic table. Periodic table - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Only in supernovas? we cant 'put it together' ourselves?
    ALl the heavier elements come from supernova explosions. In the words of the song, "we are stardust".

    So a carbon atom is made from? the same sub atomic material that goes into all the others? it's a case of different protons and nuetrons with different amounts of electrons make all the atoms? and quarks in different amounts make nuetrons and protons?
    That's it. It has 6 protons and 6 electrons. There are different isotopes which have different numbers of neutrons. Most of these are not stable. Carbon-14 is important for dating remains.

    The neutrons, protons and electrons are the same in all atoms. The number and arrangement of electrons determines the chemical properties of the element.
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    Ok so are those 6 protons arranged to create a hexagon? in a disk like way? or a globular way? Is it carbon that the scientist 'worked out' when he imagined a snake eating it's own tail?

    Carbon 14 has 14 protons??

    Thanks for your help all
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Ok so are those 6 protons arranged to create a hexagon? in a disk like way? or a globular way?
    The protons and neutrons form the nucleus of the atom. Which can be though of as a blob.

    Is it carbon that the scientist 'worked out' when he imagined a snake eating it's own tail?
    That was benzene; which is based on a ring of 6 carbon atoms.

    Carbon 14 has 14 protons??
    6 protons - the number of (positively charged) protons is always the same as the number of (negatively charged) electrons. The number of neutrons is variable (and affects the stability of the atom, so only certain numbers are possible). So C14 has 6 protons and 8 neutrons.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Ok so are those 6 protons arranged to create a hexagon? in a disk like way? or a globular way?
    The protons and neutrons form the nucleus of the atom. Which can be though of as a blob.

    Is it carbon that the scientist 'worked out' when he imagined a snake eating it's own tail?
    That was benzene; which is based on a ring of 6 carbon atoms.

    Carbon 14 has 14 protons??
    6 protons - the number of (positively charged) protons is always the same as the number of (negatively charged) electrons. The number of neutrons is variable (and affects the stability of the atom, so only certain numbers are possible). So C14 has 6 protons and 8 neutrons.
    Benzene thats it.

    A proton always has only one negatively charged electron?
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    do neutrons have electrons? positive or negative?
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    A proton always has only one negatively charged electron?
    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    do neutrons have electrons? positive or negative?
    Protons and neutrons make up the nucleus - the 'blob' in the centre of the atom. The electrons are outside the nucleus.

    Neutrons are neutral (no charge) - the clue is in the name!

    Protons are positively charged, electrons are negatively charged. An atom is neutral overall so the number of protons and electrons is always the same.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    A proton always has only one negatively charged electron?
    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    do neutrons have electrons? positive or negative?
    Protons and neutrons make up the nucleus - the 'blob' in the centre of the atom. The electrons are outside the nucleus.

    Neutrons are neutral (no charge) - the clue is in the name!

    Protons are positively charged, electrons are negatively charged. An atom is neutral overall so the number of protons and electrons is always the same.
    How am i to know that beause a neutron is neutral, it has no electrons? and atom is neutral but that has electrons!
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    Yes of course, but if an atom is neutral then it shall contain the same exact number of protons and electrons. They like cancel out each other .. (as 'strange' said actually).
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    [/QUOTE]How am i to know that beause a neutron is neutral, it has no electrons? and atom is neutral but that has electrons![/QUOTE]

    Actually neutrons are neutral not because they do not contain any electrons but because they have no charge (no). An electron is negatively charged (-), while a proton is positively charged (+).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prudentibus View Post
    Yes of course, but if an atom is neutral then it shall contain the same exact number of protons and electrons. They like cancel out each other .. (as 'strange' said actually).
    I asked this:
    do neutrons have electrons?

    strange said this:
    Neutrons are neutral (no charge) - the clue is in the name! (note sarcasm,- that doesn't answer me it just tells me what i already knew.)

    to which i replied:
    How am i to know that beause a neutron is neutral, it has no electrons? an atom is neutral but that has electrons! (Note mild sarcasm)

    I asked if a neutron has electrons? not if a neutron is neutral!
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    Haha sorry, my bad Well, no, neutrons do not contain electrons and sorry again
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prudentibus View Post
    Haha sorry, my bad Well, no, neutrons do not contain electrons and sorry again
    Ok thanks, no problem.

    Substance with no electrons huh! So quarks have no eletrons either?

    Do me a favour and give me a quick guide to how matter is constituted and made from the smallest particals we know up to an atom... if you have the time and energy
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    So strange....

    Carbon 14 is found in everything? and this is used for carbon dating?

    If I am correct it is the radioactive decay stage of the carbon which gives insight into the age of the substance yes?

    But if all carbon is made in supernova explosions... then how can it's age be measured in say a rock?
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    Question For You - wikipedia provides a good starting point - Atom, Subatomic Particle, Standard Model and Carbon . For more depth - and for source material - the list of links to references at the bottom of the page is a valuable resource.

    Describing the nature of atoms and subatomic particles in easily comprehensible style is no simple matter and tends toward analogy in the absence of mathematics - I know that thinking of them as little solid bits of stuff is wrong. Atoms as orderly aggregates of quantized bundles/coils/zones of energy?

    Re the use of Carbon for dating, I suggest wikipedia again. My (imperfect) understanding is that cosmic rays hitting Nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere turns some of them into radioactive C14 (which decays at a known rate -too quickly to have come down to us from stellar carbon). I'm not clear on the chemistry, but it ends up in CO2 at a known proportion. Living plants absorb and incorporate that along with the stable C12 and C13 isotopes into their tissues (and into the food chain). Whilst alive there is continual replacement - keeping the proportions close to the same as what is in the atmosphere. After death, without replacement, the proportions change as C14 decays and how much of it has decayed gives an indication of how long since alive.
    Last edited by Ken Fabos; August 17th, 2012 at 07:04 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    Question For You - wikipedia provides a good starting point - Atom, Subatomic Particle, Standard Model and Carbon . For more depth - and for source material - the list of links to references at the bottom of the page is a valuable resource.

    Describing the nature atoms and subatomic particles in easily comprehensible style is no simple matter and tends toward analogy in the absence of mathematics - I know that thinking of them as little solid bits of stuff is wrong. Atoms as orderly aggregates of quantized bundles/coils/zones of energy?
    Ken I really do not like wikipedia... I can know something very well, something very simple, but when i look it up on wiki i find the most long winded pile of BS imaginable. I just don't understand the language those guys use.

    I did read a book called anti matter which had a good section on some atomic particals but i don't remember that well.

    I have a basic understanding already but i continually seek to clarify that.

    What do you mean by orderly agregates? and what do you mean by quantized? bundles/coils/zones is fine by me... I like the cones idea, vortex cones. I picture a cone pointing down, and up, maybe left and right too, maybe from the diagonals also... maybe from all directions. Forming a round entity.

    Have you heard anything on the wave structure of matter? like the whole universe has this multi directional wave pattern... energy waves in each direction somehow allowing the tiniest of particals to 'manifest'?
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    If you don't like Wikipedia use it to find some reference sources. Or try Google Scholar. I don't think I have sufficient understanding to do more than help confuse matters - quantized bundles of energy is how I've thought of subatomic particles but, as accurate sources go, I'm going to be worse than Wikipedia.
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    question for you,

    It's rather silly for one of us to sit here for an hour explaining exactly what is in the links Ken Fabos provided. We'd have to use the same long winded pile of BS in order to explain it. If you don't want to put in a little effort, why should we?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    If you don't like Wikipedia use it to find some reference sources. Or try Google Scholar. I don't think I have sufficient understanding to do more than help confuse matters - quantized bundles of energy is how I've thought of subatomic particles but, as accurate sources go, I'm going to be worse than Wikipedia.
    understood, cheers ken!
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    your opinion seems a bit blinkered to me wayne.

    How do i know it will take an hour to give me a quick explaniation?

    How do you know i haven't made the effort? I opened all those pages ken gave me, none of them really explained it to me. i bet if i read them all, and understood them, then i bet i could sum up the basics in a paragraph that takes me five minutes. I wasn't looking for every detail and name... Do you really have an understanding of the subject wayne? It was actually prudentibus that i asked to give me the lo down as he seemed to have a good comprehension of subject.
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    Anyway you're right... i should do some proper research instead... so what is the point of this website?
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    your opinion seems a bit blinkered to me wayne.

    How do i know it will take an hour to give me a quick explaniation?
    That's based on the questions/answers/questions in this thread.
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    i bet i could sum up the basics in a paragraph that takes me five minutes
    Then you're doing it wrong.

    It's a fallacy to think that anyone and everyone can absorb, understand and describe scientific facts and principles in a matter of minutes - at any point in the process.

    It's not meant to be easy. We're dealing with the results of centuries of hard intellectual and physical work by many thousands of people. It's pure arrogance to think we could or should understand any given part of it with no real effort.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    strange said this:
    Neutrons are neutral (no charge) - the clue is in the name! (note sarcasm,- that doesn't answer me it just tells me what i already knew.)

    to which i replied:
    How am i to know that beause a neutron is neutral, it has no electrons? an atom is neutral but that has electrons! (Note mild sarcasm)

    I asked if a neutron has electrons? not if a neutron is neutral!
    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Do me a favour and give me a quick guide to how matter is constituted and made from the smallest particals we know up to an atom... if you have the time and energy
    Sorry, that wasn't intended as sarcasm, just a "humorous aside". Never mind.

    Lets start again. There are a small number of fundamental particles; i.e. particles which are not made up of something else. For this discussion the only important ones are quarks and electrons. There are 6 different types of quarks and a single type of electron.

    Protons and neutrons are both made up of three quarks. They are each made of a different mix of quarks which is why protons have a +ve charge and neutrons are neutral.

    You can never find a single free quark, they are always contained within other particles by a very strong force, known as "the strong force".

    You may have heard that "like charges repel and unlike charges attract".

    So, in the nucleus, we have a number of protons (and neutrons) squashed together. So why don't they repel each other? The simple version is that a little bit of the strong force "leaks out" and holds them together. Generally you need a similar number of neutrons as protons to make the nucleus stable.

    Now you have a nucleus with a positive charge (how much depends on the number of protons). This will therefore attract electrons with their negative charge. How many? the same number as there are protons. Then the whole atom is neutral and will not attract more electrons.

    That last bit is only approximately true, because atoms will share electrons to form chemical bonds with each other. But that is another story...

    So, protons and neutrons don't "have" electrons. But the three types of particles make up an atom.

    Is that all reasonably clear?

    Wikipedia has a nice table of the fundamental particles here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St..._Particles.svg

    p.s. reading the following comments, I should point out that I thought about how to summarize all that for several hours. And I know it could still be improved.

    Also, Wikipedia is generally a pretty good reference for this sort of stuff. But it isn't really well structured for learning if you don't already know quite a bit. You end up having to read through several pages multiple times to put the whole thing together. Not ideal.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MeteorWayne View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    your opinion seems a bit blinkered to me wayne.

    How do i know it will take an hour to give me a quick explaniation?
    That's based on the questions/answers/questions in this thread.
    Fair comment
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    i bet i could sum up the basics in a paragraph that takes me five minutes
    Then you're doing it wrong.

    It's a fallacy to think that anyone and everyone can absorb, understand and describe scientific facts and principles in a matter of minutes - at any point in the process.

    It's not meant to be easy. We're dealing with the results of centuries of hard intellectual and physical work by many thousands of people. It's pure arrogance to think we could or should understand any given part of it with no real effort.
    Nothing I said was arrogant. Arrogance is the combination of presumption and being over bearing... I wasn't being over bearing with my presupmtion.

    see stranges comment... yes it took him a while and it was very decent of him to make that effort. I hope he benefitted from his mental efforts as much as the rest of us have by reading his comments.

    Thank you strange.. The comment at the end about wikipedia sums up my sentiments entirely!
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    Oh no! did I just give a definition for a word???

    I got the feeling I may learn a lot more about this word now...
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  32. #31  
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    question for you - An element is defined by it's number of protons. Only protons, nothing else at all matters. Carbon has 6 protons always. Never more. Never less. If it had more or less than 6 protons it would (by definition) be another element.

    A typical Carbon atom also has 6 neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 12 (6 protons + 6 neutrons). However, some Carbon atoms have 8 neutrons, making its atom mass 14 (6 protons + 8 neutrons). That's why it is called "Carbon 14". As I said, there no requirement for a Carbon atom to have any specific number of neutrons, but most of them have either 6, 7 or 8 neutrons.

    As far as electrons, electrons come and go. Usually the number of electrons is the same as the number of protons, but if there's a strong electric charge nearby, some of those electrons may be attracted to or repelled by it, causing the number to be different. Also any given electron can freely leave and be replaced by another. Electrons are just "guests". Only the Protons and Neutrons really live there.

    Also electrons have a much smaller mass than a proton or a neutron, so they don't affect the overall mass of the atom much.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    question for you - An element is defined by it's number of protons. Only protons, nothing else at all matters. Carbon has 6 protons always. Never more. Never less. If it had more or less than 6 protons it would (by definition) be another element.

    A typical Carbon atom also has 6 neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 12 (6 protons + 6 neutrons). However, some Carbon atoms have 8 neutrons, making its atom mass 14 (6 protons + 8 neutrons). That's why it is called "Carbon 14". As I said, there no requirement for a Carbon atom to have any specific number of neutrons, but most of them have either 6, 7 or 8 neutrons.

    As far as electrons, electrons come and go. Usually the number of electrons is the same as the number of protons, but if there's a strong electric charge nearby, some of those electrons may be attracted to or repelled by it, causing the number to be different. Also any given electron can freely leave and be replaced by another. Electrons are just "guests". Only the Protons and Neutrons really live there.

    Also electrons have a much smaller mass than a proton or a neutron, so they don't affect the overall mass of the atom much.
    Excellent stuff kojax, thanks.

    I dun forgot what makes a proton, a proton! a proton has a positive charge... but it doesnt have electrons does it? electrons belong to the atom rather than the proton... What is it again which makes a proton positively charged?

    Is it something to do with the combination of quarks?

    Quarks combine in 3's ecetera... What is the difference between an up quark and a down quark?
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    I dun forgot what makes a proton, a proton! a proton has a positive charge... but it doesnt have electrons does it? electrons belong to the atom rather than the proton... What is it again which makes a proton positively charged?

    Is it something to do with the combination of quarks?

    Quarks combine in 3's ecetera... What is the difference between an up quark and a down quark?
    A proton is made of three quarks which all have a charge of + so it has a charge of +1.

    A neutron is made of one quark with a charge of + and two quarks with a charge of of 1. So overall it has zero charge.

    There are six types of quarks, known as flavors: up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top. They each have different properties (such as charge).
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    Thank you strange.

    What is this charge within quarks? Why does it vary?

    What is a charge?
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Thank you strange.

    What is this charge within quarks? Why does it vary?

    What is a charge?
    Charge, as in electric charge. You know, a battery has a positive end and a negative end.

    Different types of quark have different charge (always either +2/3 or -1/3). They are combined so that the particles they make up always have a charge of 0, +1 or -1.

    Note, the mathematics of how quarks behave (known as quantum chromodynamics) is very, very complicated. I certainly don't understand it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Thank you strange.

    What is this charge within quarks? Why does it vary?

    What is a charge?
    Charge, as in electric charge. You know, a battery has a positive end and a negative end.

    Different types of quark have different charge (always either +2/3 or -1/3). They are combined so that the particles they make up always have a charge of 0, +1 or -1.

    Note, the mathematics of how quarks behave (known as quantum chromodynamics) is very, very complicated. I certainly don't understand it.
    embarressingly enough I don't know what an electrical charge is! let me cast my mind back to high scool physics... damn i didn't get along with my physics teacher! though i very much doubt he explained this whilst i was busy chatting up the girl next to me.

    A charge is a potential current?
    A charge is the either positive or negative... positive or nagative what? electro magnetism? polarity? this doesn't explain what a charge is.

    If a charge is the electrical polarity of a thing... then it is determined by the polarity of... electrons? electrons are not in quarks so how can a charge be in a quark?

    volts, amps, current, charge, polarity... what does it all mean???

    I forgive you if you don't have the patience to answer that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    I forgive you if you don't have the patience to answer that.
    Thank you. I think you need a beginners guide to physics. Or wikipedia: Electric charge - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Charge is just a property that certain particles have. It provides the forces between atoms. And electricity. That's it. That is all there is to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    Question For You - wikipedia provides a good starting point - Atom, Subatomic Particle, Standard Model and Carbon . For more depth - and for source material - the list of links to references at the bottom of the page is a valuable resource.

    Describing the nature atoms and subatomic particles in easily comprehensible style is no simple matter and tends toward analogy in the absence of mathematics - I know that thinking of them as little solid bits of stuff is wrong. Atoms as orderly aggregates of quantized bundles/coils/zones of energy?
    Ken I really do not like wikipedia... I can know something very well, something very simple, but when i look it up on wiki i find the most long winded pile of BS imaginable. I just don't understand the language those guys use.

    I did read a book called anti matter which had a good section on some atomic particals but i don't remember that well.

    I have a basic understanding already but i continually seek to clarify that.

    What do you mean by orderly agregates? and what do you mean by quantized? bundles/coils/zones is fine by me... I like the cones idea, vortex cones. I picture a cone pointing down, and up, maybe left and right too, maybe from the diagonals also... maybe from all directions. Forming a round entity.

    Have you heard anything on the wave structure of matter? like the whole universe has this multi directional wave pattern... energy waves in each direction somehow allowing the tiniest of particals to 'manifest'?
    I

    I know there must be a way on a simple level to show evidence of some of these things that are said on the forum. I still say that people quoting other people does not mean the understanding is present. All the big words seems to be hiding something that cannot be exposed. If one understands something then that person must be able to give an example of that thing. There can be no understanding without images. Our images are all from the earths perspective and our environment, we have to use them to explain phenomena. I can understand some of the questions you are asking QFY, I am not sure the answers are helping because they seem to be coming from a book, you can go look it up yourself and read the answer. It seems we need more self knowledge. I could tell you to get a peice of charcoal and study in in all its forms by burning it, wetting it, breaking it down to its oily form, you see what I mean?
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    If one understands something then that person must be able to give an example of that thing.
    That's sometimes true. But there's a big problem, we've learned it from the legal sphere.

    For a long time there's been a movement towards "plain" language in legislation. The result? We use twice as many words, sometimes more, and still have problems because the concepts themselves are complex and surrounded by conditions, provisos, boundaries and limitations. They need lots and lots of 'simpler' words which bury the meaning in convoluted, run-on sentences.

    There's not quite the same need for long sentences in non-legal writing, but 'simple' words always need more and more of them to describe complex phenomena. And scientific descriptions themselves are also burdened by specifying conditions, uncertainties and boundaries.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mother/father View Post
    I know there must be a way on a simple level to show evidence of some of these things that are said on the forum. I still say that people quoting other people does not mean the understanding is present. All the big words seems to be hiding something that cannot be exposed. If one understands something then that person must be able to give an example of that thing. There can be no understanding without images. Our images are all from the earths perspective and our environment, we have to use them to explain phenomena. I can understand some of the questions you are asking QFY, I am not sure the answers are helping because they seem to be coming from a book, you can go look it up yourself and read the answer. It seems we need more self knowledge. I could tell you to get a peice of charcoal and study in in all its forms by burning it, wetting it, breaking it down to its oily form, you see what I mean?
    I know what you mean.
    It's almost as if to understand something like this, I need to be able to visualise it in my minds eye... So the creative writing style of explaination suits my learning style. I suppose watching a good video with all this stuff would be good, but are they on youtube and which ones can we beleive? And does it get lost in translation between scientist and animation?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mother/father View Post
    I know there must be a way on a simple level to show evidence of some of these things that are said on the forum.
    Well, the easiest way is to provide documentary evidence. (But I realise you don't have a good impression of that.) There are sometimes simple practical experiments that can be done - for example, on another forum a simple experiment involving a compass and a balloon was suggested to demonstrate the difference between electricity and magnetism. In another thread on this forum, there were examples of the optical effects of different materials; the reader can go and look at these things themselves.

    The challenge is how to show something to someone remotely...

    I still say that people quoting other people does not mean the understanding is present.
    That is slightly insulting. There may be people who just copy stuff from a web page or a book without understanding. But I'm sure most people here who try to present a description of some area of science will understand it. References to books (or wikipedia or whatever) are provided as confirmation that the writer is no just making something up; it is generally accepted science.

    You seem to dislike information that comes from a book rather than information you gained yourself. But we don't all have the time, skills and resources to do every scientific experiment ever done and prove everything for ourselves.

    Think about why the information is in a book. It is because someone did an experiment or made an observation and then wrote it down so other could know the result and, importantly, so others could repeat and extend the experiment.

    Information doesn't get into a book just because one person did an experiment (*); rather it is because many people have done the experiment and confirmed it. In fact, many of the people here will have done several of the experiments described in books for themselves. This is one of the important points when you study science: you are not just learning facts, you are learning how those facts were found and how they were tested and then testing them yourself.

    (*) This does happen occasionally; one person claims to have done an experiment that overthrows all of known science. Oddly, no one else has ever got the same results. It is usually a good sign of pseudoscience.
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mother/father View Post
    I know there must be a way on a simple level to show evidence of some of these things that are said on the forum. I still say that people quoting other people does not mean the understanding is present. All the big words seems to be hiding something that cannot be exposed. If one understands something then that person must be able to give an example of that thing. There can be no understanding without images. Our images are all from the earths perspective and our environment, we have to use them to explain phenomena. I can understand some of the questions you are asking QFY, I am not sure the answers are helping because they seem to be coming from a book, you can go look it up yourself and read the answer. It seems we need more self knowledge. I could tell you to get a peice of charcoal and study in in all its forms by burning it, wetting it, breaking it down to its oily form, you see what I mean?
    I know what you mean.
    It's almost as if to understand something like this, I need to be able to visualise it in my minds eye... So the creative writing style of explaination suits my learning style. I suppose watching a good video with all this stuff would be good, but are they on youtube and which ones can we beleive? And does it get lost in translation between scientist and animation?
    I think you have hit the nail on the head in the question, what can you beleive. I agree with what some of Strange is saying about the book. We cannot just neglect the written word on one hand but we cannot forget self knowledge on the other. I do not think I am unique in the sense that images give me more authentication than words from a book. If you show me something and then tell me about it I am better able to grasp than the other way round. If people are thought in terms of finding a pratical experience for themselves, I mean one that they could verify I think ideas would be better understood and the information would be better transported around in a truer form rather than just theory. Some of the stuff on youtube make a whole lot of sense to people who do not have the vocabulary to compleatly follow the textual form of things. There are some who uses mathematics and can follow the thread of information, however visualisation is a prerequisite for understanding. If I said to you imagine something you have never seen before, it would not be possible, anything you visualise would have some components of what you know from sight.
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    That is slightly insulting. There may be people who just copy stuff from a web page or a book without understanding. But I'm sure most people here who try to present a description of some area of science will understand it. References to books (or wikipedia or whatever) are provided as confirmation that the writer is no just making something up; it is generally accepted science.

    I really do not intend to be insultive at all, its just my observation. people seem to understand better when information is passed down through images rather than word. I think it is not that references to books are not helpful but one cannot rely on the word of another to verify anything. If you can give me some idea of what you are saying because you have tried out what you are saying I will have a better chance of understanding what you are trying to get across to me.

    You seem to dislike information that comes from a book rather than information you gained yourself. But we don't all have the time, skills and resources to do every scientific experiment ever done and prove everything for ourselves.

    Strange, its not so much that I dislike information from a book but I find I cannot call it mine unless I fully understand the idea and can give it back to someone. You are right in that every one cannot do a scientific research, however there are ways in which the form of experimentation can be taught simply. There must be evidence around us that can be compared to give us a picture of what we visualise.

    You mention pseudoscience but there are different ways of looking at that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    If one understands something then that person must be able to give an example of that thing.
    That's sometimes true. But there's a big problem, we've learned it from the legal sphere.

    For a long time there's been a movement towards "plain" language in legislation. The result? We use twice as many words, sometimes more, and still have problems because the concepts themselves are complex and surrounded by conditions, provisos, boundaries and limitations. They need lots and lots of 'simpler' words which bury the meaning in convoluted, run-on sentences.

    There's not quite the same need for long sentences in non-legal writing, but 'simple' words always need more and more of them to describe complex phenomena. And scientific descriptions themselves are also burdened by specifying conditions, uncertainties and boundaries.
    I think basic science should be accesible to the everyday person, I know we are what we study. I know for me the study of English has been the main obstacle in studying anything as I constantly get cought up in trying to find some base word. I am not saying that langusges in general do not pose the same problems, but as you say some of the meaning gets burried in the too many words to explain in detail the jest of what is meant.
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    embarressingly enough I don't know what an electrical charge is! let me cast my mind back to high scool physics... damn i didn't get along with my physics teacher! though i very much doubt he explained this whilst i was busy chatting up the girl next to me.

    A charge is a potential current?
    A charge is the either positive or negative... positive or nagative what? electro magnetism? polarity? this doesn't explain what a charge is.

    If a charge is the electrical polarity of a thing... then it is determined by the polarity of... electrons? electrons are not in quarks so how can a charge be in a quark?

    volts, amps, current, charge, polarity... what does it all mean???

    I forgive you if you don't have the patience to answer that.
    Imagine charge as a force that expands like a balloon from either an electron or proton, and the force gets weaker as the balloon expands.

    What is charge? Well... I don't know. But it's there, just like men and women are here and attract one another.

    There are electric fields and there are magnetic fields. Electric fields are always active. Magnetic fields are caused from speeding up or slowing down electrons(electrons can be moving without magnetic fields).

    Volts= A difference of charge between two "objects." It's basically the amount of electron difference between one side and the other side. The bigger the Voltage, the bigger the force.

    Amps= The amount of electron flow at any given point in an object. Think of it like a garden hose spouting water. However much water is coming out of the hose at a certain point in time is basically like amps.

    Current= Same as amps.

    Charge= You can also think of this like Men(proton) or Women(electron). They may be of different gender(polarity), they may attract one another and repel the same gender, but they're both just Human(same distinct force).

    P.S. I always think of an atom like a solar system if that helps at all.
    --
    I wish I knew more about quarks, but I'm only at High School physics level of understanding of all of this.

    QFY, you do bring up a good question about electrons and protons attracting one another when electrons aren't made of quarks. I was thinking about the same thing when reading this. If there are -1/3 quarks, couldn't electrons possibly be made up of 3 of these just like protons and neutrons have 3?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mother/father View Post
    I really do not intend to be insultive at all, its just my observation. people seem to understand better when information is passed down through images rather than word.
    Some people do, some don't. I have never found pictures or images particularly useful. I prefer detailed explanations in words and mathematics. In particular, I find video the worst possible medium for explaining something. But I seem to be in a minority there.

    Strange, its not so much that I dislike information from a book but I find I cannot call it mine unless I fully understand the idea and can give it back to someone.
    And, I guess that is my point. Those here who reference books, etc. for support have made that information "theirs" by fully understanding it (and looking at the evidence, etc). The thing is this isn't easy. Science is complex. It takes years of hard work to fully understand. But you are right that one way of getting a deeper understanding is to try and explain it to others (that is partly why I am on this forum).
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    Welcome, Haserath. Interesting analogies. Hopefully, your "word pictures" will help...

    Quote Originally Posted by Haserath View Post
    P.S. I always think of an atom like a solar system if that helps at all.
    That is a reasonable way of thinking at the start. But be careful, because it is very inaccurate so you will have to drop it if you go further in physics (or chemistry).

    QFY, you do bring up a good question about electrons and protons attracting one another when electrons aren't made of quarks. I was thinking about the same thing when reading this. If there are -1/3 quarks, couldn't electrons possibly be made up of 3 of these just like protons and neutrons have 3?
    The thing is, when we collide protons and look at the angles they bounce of one another, it shows that they are not little spheres, but that there is internal structure. We have no such evidence for electrons; they appear to be very small spheres. So small, they are treated as zero size. The same is true for quarks.

    There is speculation that electrons and quarks might be made of smaller particles but at the moment there is zero evidence for this. (Look up preons, for more.)
    Last edited by Strange; August 20th, 2012 at 07:34 AM. Reason: speeling, gramerr, clarify
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    My Chemistry teacher in first year of secondary school described an atom as being " a hole, in a hole, through a hole, round a hole". That image was extremely useful to me because it demonstrated that at the atomic and sub-atomic level there are only two ways we can deal with things: through analogies, or through mathematics. Most of us, currently, lack the mathematics and have to fall back on analogies. The important thing is to use the analogies as if they were real to promote understanding, but simultaneoulsy recognise that they are completely false.

    Separately, I want to echo a point made by Strange and adelady: learning science is hard work. And in line with that, question for you, if you really want to learn anything substantial you had best get to grips with wikipedia. In most instances it is accurate, informative, relevant and has less BS than a operating theatre. Your current view of it is a relfection on you, not on Wikipedia.
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    Hasereth Thanks for your descriptions of charge, volt, current etc... this was a good reminder.
    As for electrons being made from three quarks... I cannot help you, I literally have no idea how it works on that scale and the best of scientist don't seem all that clear either... Can't wait to find out about these tiny forces and substances that make up the universe.

    Galt: Yes it is a reflection on me, I realise wikipedia conforms to a reasonable accademic standard and is a good starting place... I am not educated to a high accademic standard which just means that for me to research from wikipedia takes more effort than for somebody who has a grasp of the subject in question. For example when reading an artical on wikipedia, I'd probably need to click on 70% of the links in order to understand those technical terminologies, when I get to one of the linked pages to check up on the word, I may find I need to open another 50% of the links to fully understand that... The thing is I like to be thourough or not bother, therefor I need to dedicate a lot of time to the research... if this isn't possible I will still try asking people who seem like they called give a good sumery of a subject, you be suprised how much understanding can come, so easily, from people who truelly understand a subject.

    Adelady, mother/father and others I beleives we were discussing technical terminology in different feilds of knowledge... Today while flicking through the paper I saw this on the health page:

    Distal: a term describing a part of the body that is further away from the central point of refference, such as the trunk. for example, the fingers are distal to the arm and the foot distal to the knee.

    Proximal: A term describing a part of the body that is nearer to a point of reference, such as the trunk. For example, the hip joint is proximal to the knee and the knuckles are proximal to the fingernails.

    Without looking it up on google, what application could these terms actually have? except to encode information so that it isn't understood by a patient? Somebody I imagine got paid to invent those, but why? whats the point? I'm keeping an open mind here and look forward to being enlightened...
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    As for electrons being made from three quarks... I cannot help you, I literally have no idea how it works on that scale and the best of scientist don't seem all that clear either...
    Science is absolutely clear on this. Electrons are not made of quarks or anything else. They are fundamental particles.

    Here is a nice little picture (I posted a link to this before, but I assume you didn't look) of the known elementary particles:


    Note that they kindly named one of the quarks after me. Or was it the other way round...
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    I didn't mean to say science isn't clear on whether quarks make up electrons, even I had an incling that this electrons don't come from quarks... (we have spoken about that) I just meant science doesn't seem to understand subatomics fully yet...which is true isn't it? it's not known how a neutrino is somehow form is it? it's not know how whatever will be found inside a neutrino is formed is it? it's not known how an electron is formed is it?

    Why is it that there is no kaon, in that sub atomic chart? is it a kaon? a kao? a chaon? some thing like that, i remember from my book.
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    I didn't mean to say science isn't clear on whether quarks make up electrons, even I had an incling that this electrons don't come from quarks... (we have spoken about that) I just meant science doesn't seem to understand subatomics fully yet...which is true isn't it?
    I suppose. Depending on your definition of "fully". The standard model provides an extremely accurate and complete description of the world. That doesn't mean it will never be improved or replaced. That is the nature of science.

    it's not known how a neutrino is somehow form is it? it's not know how whatever will be found inside a neutrino is formed is it? it's not known how an electron is formed is it?
    A neutrino does not have anything "inside"; look, it is there in the table of elementary particles.

    What do you mean, how a neutrino/electron is formed?

    Why is it that there is no kaon, in that sub atomic chart?
    A kaon is made up of quarks. Before the standard model, there was a complete "zoo" of particles (kaons, pions, dozens of others). The standard model tidied all this up and replaced them all with the elementary particles.
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    By 'how a neutrino, electron is formed' I mean... what it is, what makes it what it is, what it's made from, what it can be broken down into, what forces hold them together, where do they come from, how do they originate... that kind of thing.

    I'm sure in the book I read, which is fairly recent, it said something about attempts to break down a neutrino and discover what is inside... my brain is telling me that it said, the theory is, it can be broken down to reveal another complexity of particals/substances on an even smaller scale.
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    By 'how a neutrino, electron is formed' I mean... what it is, what makes it what it is, what it's made from, what it can be broken down into, what forces hold them together, where do they come from, how do they originate... that kind of thing.
    Electrons are made from electron-stuff. They are what they are. And, as far as we know, they can't be broken down. And so nothing holds them together.

    But even if it turned out that they were made of some simpler particle, you would just ask what are those made of. It never ends!

    As for where they came from, most were formed in the big bang. New electrons and neutrinos can be created in various nuclear reactions, etc.

    I'm sure in the book I read, which is fairly recent, it said something about attempts to break down a neutrino and discover what is inside... my brain is telling me that it said, the theory is, it can be broken down to reveal another complexity of particals/substances on an even smaller scale.
    I am not aware of anything like that. Got any more info?
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    isn't carbon formed in nucleosynthesis at secondary to iron oxygen etc?

    Then what are the order of elements formed this way. Hydrogen, Helium ------- Carbon ------ Iron. Then how are the other elements formed. Or by degradation? or by other cosmic forces? Or are they all constructed in the same nucleosynthesis?

    Then maybe even more importantly. Why does carbon have the properties is has. It's stability. Is it just because it has it's first electron shell full, and can totally empty it's secondary shell with 4 electrons, and share those with surrounding atoms. And why does it react differently with oxygen, then other atoms do with oxygen?
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    I am not aware of anything like that. Got any more info?
    The book was called 'antimatter' oxford press, frank close.

    Don't bank on finding the sentence I think I remembered reading, but take a look anyway if you haven't already.
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    I've read this thread with interest, and could probably have contributed quite a bit, but for reasons I won't go into here (regarding the levels of hostility on this forum by DETAIL OBSESSED pedants) I've been giving this site a bit of wide birth of late.

    Anyway, I have a question for Strange regarding the 'known fundamental particles'; where is the Higgs Boson on this diagram? Or is that not a known fundamental particle?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom_Eddison View Post
    DETAIL OBSESSED pedants
    You mean "details" like mistaking the speed of sound for the speed of light (*) and then building an entire conspiracy theory on it. Right.

    Anyway, I have a question for Strange regarding the 'known fundamental particles'; where is the Higgs Boson on this diagram? Or is that not a known fundamental particle?
    If/when it is confirmed to exist, it would appear in the "Gauge boson" column on the right.

    (*) Which you still haven't even acknowledged. Nor any of your other schoolboy howlers. You seem to be in denial about your own fallibility.
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    Hi Strange, WHENEVER I have made a mistake I have acknowledged it! But there have been instances when people have not been able to understand what I have posted (which is hardly my fault), and have asked questions, which I have patiently answered in increasing detail, and so increasing complexity, which have just confused them even more. I'm not going to just put more and more complexity on here ad infinitum, for one thing I haven't the time. On EE I'm prepared to let history be the judge!

    * I think sometimes other people need to acknowledge their own fallibility (like by just saying thankyou to me for reminding you about the Higgs Boson, instead of trying to mask your omission under a torrent of abuse), and less time asking if I am fallible.
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    Anything you'd like to add to the carbon discussion tom, feel free you're more than welcom.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom_Eddison View Post
    Hi Strange, WHENEVER I have made a mistake I have acknowledged it!
    Sorry, I must have missed the post where you said, "oh yes, I meant light not sound" and withdrew your silly claims about MSL.


    But there have been instances when people have not been able to understand what I have posted (which is hardly my fault)
    Well, as a writer, if anyone doesn't understand what I say, I know it is always my fault.


    I think sometimes other people need to acknowledge their own fallibility (like by just saying thankyou to me for reminding you about the Higgs Boson, instead of trying to mask your omission under a torrent of abuse), and less time asking if I am fallible.
    Not my omission; I just linked to wikipedia. Feel free to update the diagram. But thanks for bringing the Higgs bosn up.

    "Torrent of abuse"? Where? Oversensitive much?
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    A quick question that might deem appropriate for this thread...

    So an ion is basically an atom that has charge due to it having more or less electrons than protons. Are these ions still called "atoms" are does the structure have to be neutral? And is it right to say "carbon ion"?
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    Quote Originally Posted by epidecus View Post
    So an ion is basically an atom that has charge due to it having more or less electrons than protons. Are these ions still called "atoms" are does the structure have to be neutral? And is it right to say "carbon ion"?
    Yes, an ion is a charged atom (or molecule). I suppose strictly speaking an atom should be neutral, but you can talk about an ionized atom (or molecule). I guess professional chemists might be stricter / more pedantic in their usage.

    And, yes "carbon ion" is the correct terminology.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom_Eddison View Post
    I've read this thread with interest, and could probably have contributed quite a bit,
    Nah.
    Its the way nature is!
    If you dont like it, go somewhere else....
    To another universe, where the rules are simpler
    Philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy
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    I guess it could make sense that electrons are elementary particles. Protons and Neutrons seem to bond to one another like atoms while electrons never bond to anything.

    Thanks for the welcome.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    isn't carbon formed in nucleosynthesis at secondary to iron oxygen etc?
    Yes, carbon is formed by nucleosynthesis in the cores of giant stars. When the temperature in the core reaches about one hundred
    million degrees Kelvin, helium fusion begins. The overall effect of this reaction is that three helium nuclei produce one carbon nucleus.



    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post

    Then what are the order of elements formed this way. Hydrogen, Helium ------- Carbon ------ Iron. Then how are the other elements formed. Or by degradation? or by other cosmic forces? Or are they all constructed in the same nucleosynthesis?

    Then maybe even more importantly. Why does carbon have the properties is has. It's stability. Is it just because it has it's first electron shell full, and can totally empty it's secondary shell with 4 electrons, and share those with surrounding atoms. And why does it react differently with oxygen, then other atoms do with oxygen?
    Some elements are formed by nuclear fusion reactions in stars, while others are formed by neutron-capture and beta-decay reactions (the r-process and the s-process) in supernovae and stars.

    Each element has its properties as a result of its unique atomic structure. There is nothing special about carbon having its first electron shell full of electrons. In fact, with the only exception of hydrogen, all elements have a full first shell.


    Carbon does not tend to 'empty' its second shell of electrons by losing all the four electrons in that shell (that would require huge amounts of energy). But yes carbon likes to share its four outer electrons with other atoms and form pretty strong bonds as a result.
    "The end of the evolution of the chemical elements was the spark that started another evolution journey the evolution of life on Earth." From The Cosmic History of The Elements by M. Eesa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Note that they kindly named one of the quarks after me. Or was it the other way round...
    I don't know, but you should stop being so negative.

    By the way, thanks for your response to my question.
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    It took me a moment to get that. I was about to take you to task for being rude to Strange. Now I realise it was just your way of showing your Charm.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    It took me a moment to get that. I was about to take you to task for being rude to Strange. Now I realise it was just your way of showing your Charm.
    Doh. It went straight over my head too!
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Now I realise it was just your way of showing your Charm.
    Hahaha, nice. It might've been better if I left a smiley so it wouldn't be seem so serious, but all's be good now.
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    Carbon is formed in stars that still burn via the Helium burning process it can be formed in the proces of 3 capture of alpha particles of via capture of alpha particles by Berylium. It produces energy in said process. (7.2575 MeV)
    Carbon can also be used in the same cycle to form oxygen. After this we enter the region beyond helium burning and carbon forms into heavier nuclei. In general at the end of helium burning the core of a star consists out of carbon and oxygen only.
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    Considering carbon is formed in stars as reapeted in this thread... can anybody explain to me how measuring the radioactivity of carbon can give an accurate date of an object?

    A tree doesn't take carbon fron the soil does it? it takes nutrients... are all of those nutrients made from carbon?
    How is it that the carbon in a tree trunk can be dated? or the carbon in a rock?

    Many thanks
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Considering carbon is formed in stars as reapeted in this thread... can anybody explain to me how measuring the radioactivity of carbon can give an accurate date of an object?

    A tree doesn't take carbon fron the soil does it? it takes nutrients... are all of those nutrients made from carbon?
    How is it that the carbon in a tree trunk can be dated? or the carbon in a rock?
    Firstly, this can only be used to date organic matter (dead organic matter) not rocks.

    Carbon exists as a number of isotopes (same number of protons (6), differing numbers of neutrons) Carbon-12 and C13 are stable. C14 is not stable and decays with a half life of about 5,730 years; in other words half of any given sample will have disappeared in 5,700 years.

    You might expect that this would mean there should be no C14 around - it should have all decayed ages ago. But new C14 is constantly created in the atmosphere by the impact of cosmic rays. So there is an equilibrium ratio of C14 to other carbon isotopes.

    Plants get all their carbon from the atmosphere and there is a constant exchange of carbon, via metabolisom and respiration. This means that while a plant is alive, the ratio of C14 to total carbon is the same as the atmosphere. Animals eat plants and respire so the same is true for them as well.

    Once the organism dies, this exchange of carbon with the environment stops. At that point the ratio of C14 to other carbon would be fixed. Except that C14 is radioactive. This means that the amount of C14 gradually decreases (at a known rate).

    By measuring the ratio of C14 in the sample and comparing with the ratio at the time it was alive, you can calculate how much has decayed and hence the age of the sample.

    Does that help?
    Last edited by Strange; August 30th, 2012 at 08:12 AM.
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    Yes that helps greatly, thanks strange.

    How do we compare with the carbon 14 levels at the time of life though? this is ok for something that we can measure whilst alive and then measure after death... but with much of the ancient things we carbon date... we do not know the levles of crabon 14 present befor it died.

    Also, do you know how rocks are dated if not by carbon14 decay?
    Is a rock alive? minerals are made from carbon too are they not?

    Plants breath carbon dioxide... does that contain carbon 14? what is a dioxide I wonder.

    So many more questions I won't bother you with yet!
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    How do we compare with the carbon 14 levels at the time of life though? this is ok for something that we can measure whilst alive and then measure after death... but with much of the ancient things we carbon date... we do not know the levels of carbon 14 present before it died.
    This is complicated (and I don't know all the details). The proportion of C14 has changed over time with changes in cosmic ray levels and, more recently, with human activity pumping large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.

    The main things is to calibrate radio-carbon dates against other methods. From this a calibration curve can be craeted which is used to adjust the calculated dates.

    Also, do you know how rocks are dated if not by carbon14 decay?
    There are a wide variety of other radioactive materials which can be used. I don't understand the details. They can also be dated by looking at where they occur (depth, other layers of material above and below). Someone else could probably say a lot more than me on all that.

    Is a rock alive? minerals are made from carbon too are they not?
    Rocks are not alive. Some rocks do contain carbon. That is often because they came from organic sources originally. For example, many limestones are formed from the skeletal fragments of marine organisms. I believe there have been attempts to date some minerals using radio-carbon.

    Plants breath carbon dioxide... does that contain carbon 14? what is a dioxide I wonder.
    Carbon dioxide is a molecule containing one carbon and two oxygen atoms: CO2. This is the main (only?) source of carbon for plants. The carbon atom can be C12, C13 or C14.
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    Thanks again strange! So are you saying not everything is made from carbon? I was taught in highschool science that everything when broken down, is carbon based.

    If anybody has anymore knowledge of how we can accurately use carbon to date dead organic matter then please contribute to this thread.

    Thanks
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    Just to give you an idea for the range of other techniques used, some of the main ones are:
    • uranium-lead
    • samarium-neodymium
    • potassium-argon
    • rubidium-strontium
    • uranium-thorium
    • chlorine-36
    • argon-argon
    • iodine-xenon
    • lanthanum-barium
    • lead-lead
    • lutetium-hafnium
    • neon-neon
    • rhenium-osmium
    • uranium-lead-helium
    • uranium-uranium
    • fission track dating
    • luminescence dating
    • I129-Xe129 chronometer
    • Al26-Mg26 chronometer
    • dendrochronology
    • ice cores
    • lichenometry
    • varves
    • magnetostratigraphy
    • marker horizons


    These vary by the type of material they can be applied to and the timescales they are valid for.
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    I was taught in highschool science that everything when broken down, is carbon based.
    Living or organic matter is carbon-based, but it is not made up exclusively of carbon; there is carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, along with very small amounts of other elements.
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    Just for the benifit of anybody veiwing this thread... I am now wondering if carbon dating is as acurate as we are lead to believe... the question is:

    How can we measure the decay of carbon 14 in dead organic matter when we don't know the levels of carbon 14 in that matter when it was living? All we have is todays levles as a guide.

    Can anybody answer this question?

    Thanks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Just for the benifit of anybody veiwing this thread... I am now wondering if carbon dating is as acurate as we are lead to believe... the question is:

    How can we measure the decay of carbon 14 in dead organic matter when we don't know the levels of carbon 14 in that matter when it was living? All we have is todays levles as a guide.

    Can anybody answer this question?

    Thanks.
    By finding out how much Carbon 14 there was during various periods in the past, by calibrating with other dating techniques. They don't simply guess it was the same. They do everything they can to make sure the sample was not contaminated and that the C14 levels are known for the specific animal to a given error margin. For instance, it has been found that carbon dating for some aquatic plants and animals and those that feed on them can be inaccurate.

    What do you mean by "lead to believe"?

    Again, Wiki has a good article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dating
    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
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Just for the benifit of anybody veiwing this thread... I am now wondering if carbon dating is as acurate as we are lead to believe... the question is:

    How can we measure the decay of carbon 14 in dead organic matter when we don't know the levels of carbon 14 in that matter when it was living? All we have is todays levles as a guide.

    Can anybody answer this question?

    Thanks.
    The scientific instruments used in dating are highly accurate and can measure extremely small amounts of a substance. The present level of carbon-14 in dead organic matter is measured using a technique called accelerator mass spectrometry. Basically, we can separate carbon-12 and carbon-14 from each other based on the fact that they have different masses (C-14 is heavier than C-12).

    The level of carbon-14 in living matter is pretty much constant at about 0.0000000001%. In other words, out of every trillion carbon atoms, there is one single atom of radioactive carbon-14. This level is constant, so we can assume that when the organism was alive, the level of C-14 in it was 0.0000000001%.

    I hope this helps.
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    Right.. yes i think i can.

    Carbon 14 is an element which is formed in the upper athmosphere. It can bind to oxygen to radioactive CO2, which plants can use to build their structure. But the "old" carbon which has not been alive, has not absorbed the radioactivity. It solely has lost radioactive particles.

    Living things, contain a certain amount of radioactive carbon, because it's in the transmissable system. If it exits this quick absorb/release system, (dies) it'll be static. And with halflife of 5700 years you can calculate how long it took.

    This is why carbon is such an ideal element for this.

    They take a core sample of a fossil/carbon layer. Measure the radioactivity of C14. If normal amounts in living things would be 300 ppt (parts per trillion), and you measure 37 ppt.. then you can guess the age of the sample to be somewhere between 45.000 and 47.500 years old..

    Does this somewhat answer your question?

    "whoa late check and i was the third to answer... should have done it faster"
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    This information is all brilliant guys, thanks very much, keep it coming
    The three previous posts are very interesting and do somewhat answer the question. However, i'm not sure it has been answered completely.

    There is only a tiny amount of C14 in organic matter to begin with... with a half life of 5700. ok... How do we know that when the dead organic matter was alive, that it contained the same parts per trillion of C14 that organic matter typically contains today?
    Also, out of interest... what mass does a trillion parts have? is there a trillion parts in a pin head?
    Does all organic matter share the same parts per trillion of C14? a sea shell the same as a peice of wood or a bone? Actually Kalstar answered this... but,
    How do we know that once apon a time organic matter didn't contain a higher ration of C14 to carbon etc, or a lower ratio?



    Kalstar: Once agian, I have learnt so much more from this chat than I would have from 3 hrs reading and understanding that wiki page... So please don't get onto me about researching on wikipedia instead of asking here. I will attempt to make sense of it though and will time myself to see how quickly i can read through that page, I will also see how many other pages I have to open to understand a technical term which isn't explained on the first page and how long they take to read, and also the other pages i need to open to understand technical terms used in the explaination of the first technical term and so on and so on. I am not promising I will be able to see my experiment through to the end...

    By 'lead to beleive' I meant 'led to beleive'. By which I did not mean to suggest we are being misled or lied to... I just meant it is implied if not stated boldly that carbon dating is accurate (to the nearest 10,000 years or whatever), and i'm wondering just how accurate it really is and how it works, thats all.

    This information is all brilliant guys, thanks very much, keep it coming
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    Although the level of C-14 in the atmosphere is usually assumed to be constant, there is evidence that some variation might have occured at certain times in the past. Such 'spikes' in the level of C-14 were caused by a sudden and intense increase in radiation from space. Radiation helps convert nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere into C-14, so more radiation means more nitrogen converting into C-14.
    "The end of the evolution of the chemical elements was the spark that started another evolution journey the evolution of life on Earth." From The Cosmic History of The Elements by M. Eesa
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    How can we factor those changes into the equation sci? How do we know when carbon 14 is increased by radiation and when it was reduced? how do we know how long between the production of c14 in the atmosphere and the absorbtion of c14 in organic matter? Does the amount found in organic matter depend on the amount created in the atmosphere?

    Radiation is constantly changing in quantity as well and types... So can c14 decay really be accurately measured without a lot of assumptions that could potentially change the results dramatically if not accurately assumed?
    Science isn't supposed to be based on assumption so I didn't expect to see that word used.
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    Is c14 the only carbon formed in the atmosphere?
    Do nitrogen levles change? does the amount of nitrogen affect the amount of C14 produced? Is c14 produced anywhere else?
    Can carbon 12 change into c14?
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    How do we know that when the dead organic matter was alive, that it contained the same parts per trillion of C14 that organic matter typically contains today?
    Well, scientists have clever 'tricks'.. First of all, scientists figured out how C-14 is formed here on Earth from the interaction of cosmic radiation (from space) with nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere. Now, the mechanism of this reaction is well known, so we know how the reaction proceeds and how much nitrogen converts into carbon-14. If the level of nitrogen and the cosmic radiation are both assumed to be constant over a certain stretch of time (we have no reason to believe otherwise), then it is only logical to conclude that the outcome of the process will also be constant.

    This is not to say that we are certain that the level of C-14 has always been the same. In fact, some research shows that 1200 years ago a (mysterious) cosmic event caused an increase of about 1% in the level of C-14 over one year.
    "The end of the evolution of the chemical elements was the spark that started another evolution journey the evolution of life on Earth." From The Cosmic History of The Elements by M. Eesa
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    How do we know that once apon a time organic matter didn't contain a higher ration of C14 to carbon etc, or a lower ratio?
    It has changed at various times. This is why carbon dating has to be calibrated against other measurements. From a measurement of the C14 ratio you get a "raw" date. This is then mapped on to an "actual" date by using the calibration curve.

    Note that at every stage there are (known) errors. For example there is an error bound on the half life, on the measurement of C14, on the calibration curve, etc. This is why you will always see dates with a +/- uncertainty. (This is, of course, true for all science.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Radiation is constantly changing in quantity as well and types... So can c14 decay really be accurately measured without a lot of assumptions that could potentially change the results dramatically if not accurately assumed?
    As far as we know, radioactive decay is completely predictable. (There is another thread I started recently regarding some research that found very small variations over the course of a year; later studies have failed to replicate this. Anyway it was too small to affect dating.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by question for you View Post
    Is c14 the only carbon formed in the atmosphere?
    As far as I know that is the only significant source. It wouldn't actually matter if there were other sources as we are only ever concerned with ratios.

    Do nitrogen levles change? does the amount of nitrogen affect the amount of C14 produced?
    As far as I know the proportion of nitrogen in the atmosphere is pretty constant. Any variations would not have a significant effect on C14 production anyway.

    Can carbon 12 change into c14?
    No.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    As far as we know, radioactive decay is completely predictable.
    No, it's not predictible. But the huuuuuge numbers, and the average we measure does show a predictible result. But one can not predict when a single atom will decay.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    No, it's not predictible. But the huuuuuge numbers, and the average we measure does show a predictible result. But one can not predict when a single atom will decay.
    Good point! Thank you.

    It is both random at the atomic level and, as you say, absolutely regular at the bulk level.
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