What's an Atom? Parshat shEmot

Composition of the human body


Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Only about 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. All 11 are necessary for life. The remaining elements are trace elements, of which more than a dozen are thought on the basis of good evidence to be necessary for life. All of the mass of the trace elements put together (less than 10 grams for a human body) do not add to the body mass of magnesium, the least common of the 11 non-trace elements. (Wiki)


An atom is the smallest constituent unit of ordinary matter that has the properties of a chemical element. Every solid, liquid, gas, and plasma is composed of neutral or ionized atoms.

Every atom is composed of a nucleus and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus. The nucleus is made of one or more Protons. and typically a similar number of neutrons. Protons and neutrons are called nucleons. More than 99.94% of an atom's mass is in the nucleus. The protons have a positive electric charge, the electrons have a negative electric charge, and the neutrons have no electric charge. If the number of protons and electrons are equal, that atom is electrically neutral. If an atom has more or fewer electrons than protons, then it has an overall negative or positive charge, respectively, and it is called an ion.

The number of protons in the nucleus defines to what chemical element the atom belongs: for example, all copper atoms contain 29 protons. The number of neutrons defines the isotope of the element. The number of electrons influences the magnetic properties of an atom. Atoms can attach to one or more other atoms by chemical bonds to form chemical compounds such as molecules. The ability of atoms to associate and dissociate is responsible for most of the physical changes observed in nature, and is the subject of the discipline of chemistry. (Wiki)

Shell Basics

Let's cover some basics of atomic shells:

1. The center of the atom is called the nucleus.

2. Electrons are found in areas called shells. A shell is sometimes called an energy level.

3. Shells are areas that surround the center of an atom.

4. Each of those shells has a name (K, L, M...).

Oxygen atom
Carbon atom
Hydrogen atom
Nitrogen atom

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