from the world's big
This is not what an atom really looks like
Artistic depictions of the atom have deceived us all.
Dr. Michelle Thaller is an astronomer who studies binary stars and the life cycles of stars. She is Assistant Director of Science Communication at NASA. She went to college at Harvard University, completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif. then started working for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's (JPL) Spitzer Space Telescope. After a hugely successful mission, she moved on to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), in the Washington D.C. area. In her off-hours often puts on about 30lbs of Elizabethan garb and performs intricate Renaissance dances. For more information, visit NASA.
MICHELLE THALLER: So, Wendy, you've asked the question, do electrons orbit around the nucleus of an atom the same way planets orbit around the star? If you think about the way we depict atoms in art, we actually have the nucleus in the center. And that the nucleus of course is where you find the protons and neutrons, and then we have electrons in these circular rings around the nucleus. And sometimes in physics, they'll have the rings as sort of nested circles. They are smaller circles and there are bigger circles, and we talk about electrons jumping between those different orbits. Calling what an electron is and where it is around an atom in orbit is actually very misleading.
In truth, electrons don't move around a nucleus the same way the planets move around a star at all. That's very, very different. And part of that has to do with what an electron really is. Elementary particles are not tiny, tiny little balls that are actually moving through space. They're more properly described as waves. And an electron does not exist in only one location around an atom. It actually exists as a wave. And what that means is that there are volumes around the nucleus of an atom that electron will fill in. A single electron can actually be an entire sphere around the nucleus of an atom. Or these orbitals as we call them-- and, again, I caution you nothing's actually moving around like a planet around a star-- some of these orbitals are shaped like dumbbells. And a single electron actually fills out a volume that looks like a dumbbell. Or sometimes they look like a disk.
So these actually are mathematical solutions which show you where the probability of finding this electron is around an atom. We call these electron shells. And it's not that a single electron is moving around inside the shell, it's in the whole shell all at once. The electron actually fills in that volume, and all you're looking at is a probability area of where that electron may be. So there really isn't any circular motion around an atom. It's true the electrons have angular momentum. They have something that we can actually measure as spin, but they're not actually spinning. They're not actually moving around. You can sort of think of them as clouds that can exist in different locations around the nucleus based on how much energy they have. So despite our depictions of atoms with the nucleus in the middle and electrons going around the outside reality is nothing like that.
Electrons form these volumes, and some of those volumes even go through the nucleus. Some of these dumbbells actually have electrons existing inside the nucleus, as well. What an atom really is is far more complicated than our artistic depictions of it far more mysterious. And I think really wonderful. One of the best things to study in quantum mechanics is how electrons form these volumes.
- Though artistic renderings suggest otherwise, electrons do not, in fact, move around a nucleus the same way the planets move around a star — at all.
- Electrons also are not tiny balls, they're more wavelike. Also, in regard to their location, a single electron can also be an entire sphere around the nucleus of an atom.
- As for their movement, electrons do have a spin, but they're not actually spinning. They're not actually moving around. You can think of them as clouds that exist in different locations around the nucleus based on how much energy they have.
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- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
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