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Q & A: combining basic ingredients

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Most recent answer: 12/22/2009
Q:
My teacher once told me that every matter in this universe are made out of atoms. And every atom consists of proton(s), neutron(s), and finally electron(s). This proves that every atom is made out of the same particles. Then why is everyting in the universe not the same? For example, if I had a box (proton), a pencil (neutrons), and a eraser (electons), how could I create something entirly differnet, like a x-box, or a car?
- bowen (age 13)
Altanta, georgia usa
A:
The basic ingredients of ordinary matter can combine in different ways. For example, a  proton and a neutron together make a deuterium nucleus. Add an electron and you get a deuterium atom, a heavy form of hydrogen.  Two of each can make two deuteriums, which can combine into a deuterium molecule, again a heavy form of the hydrogen molecule. In the molecule the two atomic nuclei stay separate.

If both protons and both neutrons lump together, they form the nucleus of a helium atom. Add the two electrons, and that helium atom is complete. So what you get depends on the detailed way the ingredients are combined.

By the way, there are other ingredients to the universe and not everything is made of atoms. Ordinary stuff is, however.

Mike W.

(published on 12/22/2009)

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