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Thread: Origins of atoms

  1. #1 Origins of atoms 
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    When physicists say everything is composed of atoms, what does this mean? Where were the atoms of an animal before they joined to form that animal? In my limited learning on this subject, I've heard that there are three basic types of atoms, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon atoms, and that everything is composed of various quantities or combinations of these. How do they just happen to be present at, say, the conception of a child, or the polination of a seed?Am i to believe that they are present in the pollen grains themselves, and if so how did they originate? What happens if I smash a glass - are the atoms that composed it suddenly dispersed into the air? And, most confusingly of all, if I were to slice through, say, an apple, presumably that apple is made up of many microscopic atoms, so how come the knife does not split these atoms as it cuts?


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  3. #2  
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    You need to study more, the periodic table shows 118 different types of atom, not 3... Animals are mostly composed of compounds complicated arrangements of different atoms, and atoms are so small your cutting an apple/splitting atoms idea is pretty silly.. Do a little study and you'll see your questions as asked are not very meaningful.


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  4. #3  
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    You need to learn some basic chemistry (there are over 100 kinds of atoms, not 3) and biology.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Zonenblick View Post
    When physicists say everything is composed of atoms, what does this mean? Where were the atoms of an animal before they joined to form that animal? In my limited learning on this subject, I've heard that there are three basic types of atoms, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon atoms, and that everything is composed of various quantities or combinations of these. How do they just happen to be present at, say, the conception of a child, or the polination of a seed?Am i to believe that they are present in the pollen grains themselves, and if so how did they originate? What happens if I smash a glass - are the atoms that composed it suddenly dispersed into the air? And, most confusingly of all, if I were to slice through, say, an apple, presumably that apple is made up of many microscopic atoms, so how come the knife does not split these atoms as it cuts?
    Agree with the other responses. Living organisms grow (=gain in total number of atoms) by incorporating atoms from their nourishment into their bodies. As for seeds, yes of course these are made of atoms too and when they germinate the same process takes place.

    A knife does not split atoms because atoms are mostly empty space, held together by interatomic forces. The mass of an atom is concentrated in the nucleus (the "hard" bit), which is tiny compared to the distance between one atom and the next. The atoms of the knife pass between the atoms of the apple, dividing it in two. The resistance to cutting that you feel is due to the resistance from these interatomic forces, as the atoms of the apple are forcibly separated from one another by the atoms of the knife. A knife can cut an apple because the forces between the atoms of the knife blade are stronger than those between the atoms of the apple. So it is the apple that is split and not the knife.

    But your questions are strange, coming from someone who can obviously write coherently. Are you home-schooled or something? Or is there a crank agenda of some kind, waiting in the wings here, I wonder?
    Last edited by exchemist; September 6th, 2018 at 04:48 AM.
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    I am a bit disheartened by these responses. I am sorry if my questions seem too simplistic, I come at this subject very new, previously all of my experience has been in the Arts, and Science was, for me, a kind of mysterious and slightly intimidating territory that I've only just begun to explore with anything approaching confidence. The answer above poses two questions, but these are surely rhetorical: presumably you are not expecting me to reveal some kind of, as you put it, "crank agenda" (whatever that is.) I have spent a lot of time over the years running and participating in poetry groups and workshops - online and real world - and I must say I would never respond to beginners, or anyone else, in such patronizing terms, and I understand that many people will be coming to the subject without any experience or knowledge. You are obviously highly proficient when it comes to scientific knowledge, but I think you could probably brush up a bit on your basic interpersonal skills; although I'm sure it wasn't intended, I feel totally disinclined to stick around on here. Of all the forums on this site, the Physics one was the one I was most uneasy about venturing on to, due to my memories of Physics at school being taught by stern, humourless men who made the subject seem exclusive and unfriendly, and this forum has only reinforced that negative stereotype.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Zonenblick View Post
    I am a bit disheartened by these responses. I am sorry if my questions seem too simplistic, I come at this subject very new, previously all of my experience has been in the Arts, and Science was, for me, a kind of mysterious and slightly intimidating territory that I've only just begun to explore with anything approaching confidence. The answer above poses two questions, but these are surely rhetorical: presumably you are not expecting me to reveal some kind of, as you put it, "crank agenda" (whatever that is.) I have spent a lot of time over the years running and participating in poetry groups and workshops - online and real world - and I must say I would never respond to beginners, or anyone else, in such patronizing terms, and I understand that many people will be coming to the subject without any experience or knowledge. You are obviously highly proficient when it comes to scientific knowledge, but I think you could probably brush up a bit on your basic interpersonal skills; although I'm sure it wasn't intended, I feel totally disinclined to stick around on here. Of all the forums on this site, the Physics one was the one I was most uneasy about venturing on to, due to my memories of Physics at school being taught by stern, humourless men who made the subject seem exclusive and unfriendly, and this forum has only reinforced that negative stereotype.
    Sorry if the responses seemed condescending. Upon looking them over, I don't see it -- just a directness that you may have interpreted that way. As to the speculation that you might have a "crank agenda" I observe that exchemist didn't accuse you of having one. He simply wondered. In case you are curious, there is a good reason for his uncertainty. It is a common tactic among crackpots to start with seemingly innocent questions, embedded with seemingly innocuous misconceptions, and then proceed to go full crank within a couple of posts.

    In your case, your misconception about the number of atoms is so surprising that the crank theory becomes more plausible, based on our experience. Again, that doesn't mean that we are accusing you of having a crank agenda. But it does mean that we wonder.

    As to directly advising you to go study some basic science, you may find that unwelcoming, but it is good advice. Suppose I were to visit a poetry forum and say, "I don't know anything about poetry, but I've read that there are iambs and dactyls. How are antonyms formed from pentameters?" I would fully expect to be given advice to consult at least a wikipedia article or two, and to be told that my question was gibberish. I would not take offense if I were sufficiently self-aware that I had no knowledge in these areas, and worse -- that I had expended zero effort to repair basic deficiencies. Someone as intellectually lazy as that is unlikely to profit from the knowledge that they are asking of the group. Hence the direct advice you received, and unfortunately perceived as offensive.

    People here are infinitely patient if they perceive the questioner to be sincere and self-aware. By making assertions in your original post, despite having acknowledged not having studied science much, you unfortunately triggered warning alarms.

    If you are truly interested in learning, then please ask away. Don't be put off if the reply is "your question makes no sense." What that means is "your question makes no sense", not "you're an idiot".

    If you aren't willing to expend effort to learn, then you shouldn't expect anyone to expend effort to teach. Remember, no one here is paid to do it. We're here because we like the subject.
    Last edited by tk421; September 7th, 2018 at 08:17 PM.
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  8. #7  
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    https://www.theguardian.com/science/...articlephysics
    I do hope that link has posted correctly, this is the first time I’ve ever tried to post a link from a portable device(dumbphone).
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    Lucky me. Lucky mud.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Zonenblick View Post
    I am a bit disheartened by these responses. I am sorry if my questions seem too simplistic, I come at this subject very new, previously all of my experience has been in the Arts, and Science was, for me, a kind of mysterious and slightly intimidating territory that I've only just begun to explore with anything approaching confidence. The answer above poses two questions, but these are surely rhetorical: presumably you are not expecting me to reveal some kind of, as you put it, "crank agenda" (whatever that is.) I have spent a lot of time over the years running and participating in poetry groups and workshops - online and real world - and I must say I would never respond to beginners, or anyone else, in such patronizing terms, and I understand that many people will be coming to the subject without any experience or knowledge. You are obviously highly proficient when it comes to scientific knowledge, but I think you could probably brush up a bit on your basic interpersonal skills; although I'm sure it wasn't intended, I feel totally disinclined to stick around on here. Of all the forums on this site, the Physics one was the one I was most uneasy about venturing on to, due to my memories of Physics at school being taught by stern, humourless men who made the subject seem exclusive and unfriendly, and this forum has only reinforced that negative stereotype.
    I think tk421 sums it up very nicely.

    Look, I am always delighted to explain science - to the best of my limited ability - to people who ask about it in good faith. And you may well be such a person. However this is the internet and you are unknown as yet. Science fora are a magnet for all kinds of cranks and trolls with anti-science agendas and pet theories, unfortunately. All of us here are scarred by the experience of dealing with such people, who often come posing innocent questions, but with initially undisclosed agendas that are then progressively revealed, after we have all wasted valuable time crafting answers in accessible language.

    Hence when an obviously well-educated person, such as yourself, comes forward professing a lack of knowledge about science that suggests they have never attended primary school - in your case perhaps even expressing scepticism about the existence of atoms! - suspicions are bound to be aroused. So I make no apology for voicing the obvious mild suspicion that I felt on reading your initial post. I've been burnt before, you see.

    I did expect my voicing of my reservations about you might elicit a reaction. You do seem to be very easily disheartened, though. After all, you did get answers to your questions. All I'm really hoping for from you is to feel confident that you won't suddenly run up the Jolly Roger on me and come out as a creationist or anti-science crank of some sort, after about 10 posts or so. I'm sure that if you put yourself in my shoes, you will understand the issue.

    So, there, why not reassure me by responding to the science content of the responses you have received? Do they make sense to you, or is anything still puzzling you?
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Zonenblick View Post
    Where were the atoms of an animal before they joined to form that animal? In my limited learning on this subject, I've heard that there are three basic types of atoms, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon atoms,
    Hydrogen atoms were formed 13.8 billion years ago in the very Big Bang. The heavier elements were formed in supernovae.
    Our world is literally made up of elements formed deep within the cores of stars now long dead. As Britain’s Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees said, “We are literally the ashes of long dead stars.” When you buy a party balloon that floats in air, it is filled with helium gas – most of which was created when the universe was only 3 minutes old!
    Examples of element making (nucleogenesis) in helium burning reactions:

    • 3 helium atoms fusing to give a carbon atom26: 3 @ 4He → 12C
    • carbon atom + helium atom fusing to give an oxygen atom: 12C + 4He → 16O
    Yep, we are composed of atoms quite a lot older than their rearrangements in our bodies.
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  11. #10  
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    Hey Simon, don't feel so bad. I've asked plenty of questions over the years that stem from a layperson's perspective but have learned to manage to do so without a hidden agenda. It's all about gaining the trust of the membership. However I think you made a fundamental error right from the get go. Let me explain....

    We all look at at the thread title: Origins of Atoms. My first thought was: someone wants to know where the first atom came from. A reasonable question to ask and it's something I can see myself asking, no problem. Then in the first line of the OP you say :
    When physicists say everything is composed of atoms, what does this mean?W
    Doesnt follow, in fact there's nothing in the OP concerning the origin of an atom. Could be this is why people's guards go up and maybe why some might think there's a hidden agenda. IDK

    My first thought after reading the title was that someone wants to know how first atoms formed at the BB. So that so that's where I'm going to go with this........

    Fellow members, if the singularity at the BB contained all matter, space and time for the universe then at what point did matter form an atom and how is it theorized to have happened?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    The first atoms did not form in the Big Bang but about 300000 years later. Before this point the universe was too hot for atoms. Immediately after the Big Bang there would only have been electromagnetic radiation, as the universe expanded it would have formed into a quark-gluon plasma, then after further expansion a normal plasma and only then after further expansion and cooling could atoms form.
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    Does the complexity of the universe put a lower limit on the "size" of the universe in its "earliest" moments?(I don't think anyone subscribes to the early universe being infinitely small ,do they?)
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  14. #13  
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    Dunno, not my area...
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    Dunno, not my area...
    I am just tweaking my final calculations
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    The first atoms did not form in the Big Bang but about 300000 years later. Before this point the universe was too hot for atoms. Immediately after the Big Bang there would only have been electromagnetic radiation, as the universe expanded it would have formed into a quark-gluon plasma, then after further expansion a normal plasma and only then after further expansion and cooling could atoms form.
    Thanks PhD. There you go Simon, an answer to begin your quest plus it's related to the thread title.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Zonenblick View Post
    When physicists say everything is composed of atoms, what does this mean?
    Everything isn't made of atoms. Atoms are made of other things. Atoms are the elements. The building blocks of molocules which are the building blocks of life, rocks, water etc

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Zonenblick View Post
    Where were the atoms of an animal before they joined to form that animal?
    They came from the food the parent ate to make the offspring. Before that they came from the air for carbon, from water for the oxygen, and hydrogen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Zonenblick View Post
    In my limited learning on this subject, I've heard that there are three basic types of atoms, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon atoms, and that everything is composed of various quantities or combinations of these.
    Hydrogen, oxygen and carbon atoms are the majority of the atomic elements in living things. But there are many other atomic elements in living things. Salt, for instance is a molecule made of the atomic elements sodium and chlorine. There are other atoms in other non living things.

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Zonenblick View Post
    How do they just happen to be present at, say, the conception of a child, or the polination of a seed?Am i to believe that they are present in the pollen grains themselves, and if so how did they originate?
    They don't just happen to be in the seed, pollen, or conception. The seed is made of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Zonenblick View Post

    What happens if I smash a glass - are the atoms that composed it suddenly dispersed into the air? And, most confusingly of all, if I were to slice through, say, an apple, presumably that apple is made up of many microscopic atoms, so how come the knife does not split these atoms as it cuts?
    The electrons are what makes atoms stick together. The property of sticking is called bonding. Some elements bonds are stronger than others. When we break or cut something we cut the weaker bonds. Some bonds take a lot of energy to break or cut. But that only breaks the bond of atoms from each other. It doesn't break the atom. It just moves them far enough apart so they cant stick together.
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