Out Of Sight - From Quarks To Molecules





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Published on Sep 26, 2009

http://www.facebook.com/ScienceReason ... Complexity (Chapter 3): From Quarks To Molecules

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There are two kinds of quarks (physicists call them flavors of quarks) that are found in normal matter These quarks are the UP quark and the DOWN quark. A proton is formed from two up quarks and one down quark while its slightly heavier cousin, the neutron, is formed from two down quarks and one up quark.

The red, green, and blue colors of the quarks represent a property that attracts them to one another ... it is this color-charge property of the quarks that holds them together in a proton or neutron.


These protons and neutrons can then combine to form the nucleus of each element in the periodic table. One proton in the nucleus makes hydrogen, two form helium, 6 carbon, 8 oxygen, 79 is gold and 92 uranium.

Neutrons help hold the protons together. Because of their electric charge, protons would repel each other more strongly if neutrons were not present, and the heavier elements would come apart. There are approximately as many neutrons in each element as there are protons.


Atoms are formed when the positively charged protons in the nucleus capture negative electrons. Neutral atoms have captured one negative electron for each positive proton in the nucleus.

So Hydrogen has one electron to go with its one proton, Helium two electrons, Carbon has 6, Oxygen 8, Gold has 79 and Uranium 92.

There are nearly 90 stable elements. The largest of them can contain close to 800 fundamental particles, joined in a complex but stable structure. But electrons cannot just gather around in a crowd. Once again the strange, wonderful world of the tiny has some idiosyncrasies.

Electrons arrange themselves in shells inside an atom like the layers of an onionand only two electrons can fit per layer. So, the more electrons an atom has, the further away from the nucleus the outer shells must beand that means these electrons are more loosely held.

It is this difference in how tightly electrons are held in each different kind of atom that determines the chemical properties of that element. This accounts for the ability of metals to conduct electricity, the aloofness of noble gases, and the formation of molecules.


It turns out that protons in two or more different nuclei can sometimes capture (and fight over) the same electron. And when that happens, atoms of different elements are joined together to form molecules.

This oxygen molecule is sharing two of its electrons with two hydrogen atoms this is how a water molecule is formed. Some molecules can be quite large and complicated. Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen join together to form some of the most important large molecules.

Amino acids are molecules that are necessary for carbon-based life, and recently, it was discovered that amino acids form naturally and spontaneously in the vast gas clouds of outer space. Since these molecules are precursors of life, it is important to know how abundant and universal they have turned out to be.

Somewhere about here, our measurement of simplicity starts to edge toward the complex. At the level of complex molecules, existence is pretty reliable.

Molecules such as adenine are too large and heavy for the uncertainty principle to enter into their description and Quantum Mechanical oddities are rarely encountered at this level. But every adenine molecule is still identical with and interchangeable with every other. There isn't sufficient complexity to generate uniqueness.

And a movie of even a complex molecule forming looks equally plausible running both forward and backwards. So reversibility still indicates simplicity.


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