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Atom Basics

Atoms Around Us

You are made of different types of atoms.

Atoms are building blocks. If you want to create a language, you'll need an alphabet. If you want to build proteins, you will need amino acids. If you want to build molecules, you will need atoms of different elements. Each element is a little bit different from the rest. Those elements are the alphabet in the language of molecules.

Why are we talking about elements? This is the section on atoms. Atoms are the general term used to describe pieces of matter. You are made up of billions and billions of atoms. However, you may only find about 40 elements inside of your body. You would find hydrogen (H) atoms, oxygen (O) atoms, and a bunch of others. Those other atoms are made of the same basic pieces, but they are organized in different ways to make each element unique.

Common Elements

Common elements can build very different molecules.

Let's work with that idea for a bit. If you read a book, you will find a bunch of words on a page. Letters make up those words. In English, we only have twenty-six letters, but we can make thousands of words. In chemistry, you are working with around 120 elements, and when you combine them you can make millions of molecules.

Molecules are groups of atoms bonded together in the same way that words are groups of letters. An "A" will always be an "A" no matter what word it is in. A sodium (Na) atom will always be a sodium atom no matter what compound it is in. While the atoms may have different masses and organization, they are all built with the same parts. Electrons, protons, and neutrons make the Universe the way it is.

If you want to do a little more thinking, start with the smallest particles of matter. Those super-tiny subatomic particles are used to create atoms. Atoms are used to create the molecules around us. As we just learned, there are almost 120 known types of atoms. That means there are almost 120 elements that can be found in the molecules we know. Smaller molecules can work together and build macromolecules. It just goes on. Everything you see is built from something else.

You could start really small...
- Particles of matter
- Atoms
- Molecules
- Macromolecules
- Cell organelles
- Cells
- Tissues
- Organs
- Systems
- Organisms
- Populations
- Ecosystems
- Biospheres
- Planets
- Planetary Systems with Stars
- Galaxies
- The Universe
...And finish really big.

Wow. All of that is possible because of atoms.

Related Activities

Chemistry Quiz General Chemistry Quiz
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Atoms Quiz General Atoms Quiz
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> Overview
- Structure
- Orbitals
- Electrons
- Ions
- Neutrons
- Isotopes
- Bonding
- Compounds
- Compound Names
- Advanced Ideas


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