Author: Vincent Guo
Editors: Eric Lin and Shirley Chen
Artist: Jade Li
Atoms are among the smallest things in the world. It is what makes up matter. Every day when we wake up, we are laying on a bunch of tiny atoms. Everything in our daily life is made of small atoms; our beds, floors, and even the universe. Atoms, composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons, are present in all the elements on the periodic table. Each element has a specific number of proteins; for example, oxygen has only eight protons, and it cannot have any more or any fewer protons. If the number of protons changes, the element is no longer oxygen. Neutrons in an element can vary, causing different isotopes. Neutrons also affect mass when the same element has 2 different isotopes with one having more Neutrons. Some atoms have unstable isotopes, which become radioactive. In this state, they decay to achieve stability. Electrons of the atom are negatively charged and they are in what scientists call shells. They orbit around the nucleus of the atom, which contains the neutron and protons. As electrons are negatively charged, they are attracted to positively charged things. Which in this case is the proton. The electrons can hop from one shell to another. When they do that, the atom is in an excited state. That is what causes the fireworks you see on July Fourth. There are more than 90 atoms that exist in nature. Other atoms that don't exist in nature are man-made. Scientists can create atoms with different amounts of protons, forming a new element. However, some of these atoms are unstable and decay rapidly. The time they take to decay to half their original amount is called half-lives. Some of the new atoms scientists make have super short half-lives, so they are unable to observe the new atom. They can also add a proton to an atom, transforming it into an element like gold. However, the cost of this process often exceeds the actual value of gold, making it pointless. We interact with atoms no matter what we do, because even we are made up of atoms. If atoms didn't exist at all, our world would just be space.
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