The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Can one atom change into another?  (Read 15247 times)

Reuben

  • Guest
Can one atom change into another?
« on: 07/04/2011 12:30:02 »
Reuben asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Dear Chris,

I am a fifteen year old boy from South Africa, and I am obsessed with finding a way to teleport large objects across large distances. But that isn't really what this is about, well it is indirectly, but... I'll just cut to the point.

I'm not sure of ANY of this, but as I understand it, a radioactive particle spits out alpha particles, which, as far as I understand it (from websites), is that those alpha particles are actually helium nuclei.

My question is, if the amount of protons, neutrons and electrons determine what kind of atom an atom is, if you could fire protons, neutrons and electrons at that helium nucleus, would it change into another kind of atom, say that of oxygen?

And now I remembered something else too. How can it be that the only difference between atoms is the amount of protons, neutrons etc.? In my mind its like me having four apples, four peaches, and four lichees, each representing a neutrino. Now if I take away one lichee, one peach, and one apple, I still have a combination of fruits, they don't suddenly change into vegetables surely... and if this is one of those things that "Its just so", what proof is there to prove those are the only three neutrinos? And in that case what is the proof that atoms exist at all?

Excuse my terrible grammar, and asking you things that you have already answered on 702, but that I didn't hear about unfortunately.

Kind regards
Reuben

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 07/04/2011 12:30:02 by _system »


 

Offline Supercryptid

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 606
    • View Profile
    • http://www.angelfire.com/sc2/Trunko
Can one atom change into another?
« Reply #1 on: 28/04/2011 07:38:36 »
What? Nobody went for this one?

Yes, you can change one type of atom into another type by smashing other kinds of particles into them. This is how nuclear fusion works. If you get hydrogen gas hot enough, the atoms will be moving fast enough so that they can collide and transform into helium. It happens all the time in the Sun.

Similarly, physicists can create (or rather, discover) new elements by accelerating nuclei of one element and smashing them into a target made of another element. That's how most of those superheavy elements on the periodic table are made.

Neutrinos are a rather different topic, and they in themselves are not that well understood (since they are difficult to "see" in experiments). They are, as far as we know, fundamental particles in themselves with no internal structure (i.e. they are much simpler than atoms).

As far as there being more than 3 neutrino types, I have heard of theories that there could be a 4th type. It just hasn't been discovered yet if it does exist.

Atoms have actually been photographed using electron microscopes, and there are tons and tons of chemical evidence that suggests their existence. We can detect the mass of molecules using mass spectrometry, and we can see that the mass of molecules lines up with our predictions of atoms.
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
Can one atom change into another?
« Reply #2 on: 01/05/2011 19:30:53 »
Also: nuclear fission and spontaneous decay (radioactivity).
« Last Edit: 05/05/2011 12:59:03 by lightarrow »
 

Offline CZARCAR

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 686
    • View Profile
Can one atom change into another?
« Reply #3 on: 01/05/2011 20:29:54 »
wonder what it takes to turn H or HE into LI?
 

Offline Supercryptid

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 606
    • View Profile
    • http://www.angelfire.com/sc2/Trunko
Can one atom change into another?
« Reply #4 on: 03/05/2011 07:30:40 »
In principle, it would seem that one could fuse tritium (hydrogen-3) and helium-4 together to make lithium-7. I don't know if it can be done in practice, since I'm not much of an expert on nuclear physics.
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
Can one atom change into another?
« Reply #5 on: 03/05/2011 15:24:12 »
Not even me. However I know for certain that lithium can be made fusing two or more nuclei: all elements heavier than hydrogen are generated by nuclear fusion inside the stars  :)
 

Offline CarlosG

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Can one atom change into another?
« Reply #6 on: 07/05/2011 16:59:45 »
Just an aside, remember that an element's identity is based solely on the proton count, but of course electrons and neutrons affect the nature of that element (isotopes and ions etc) and their interactions.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Can one atom change into another?
« Reply #6 on: 07/05/2011 16:59:45 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums