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Introduction to the Atom
Image: iStockphoto.com/awstok

Introduction to the Atom

Look at your hand, your computer, a wall. Does it seem solid? Actually, it’s 99.99% nothing. Just empty space.

To understand how this can be, you have to understand the structure of atoms, the building blocks of matter. The sites here will help you do that — and show you how people could map out something so small you have to magnify it over 100 million times to see it.

Khan Academy
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Just How Small Is an Atom?

Just How Small Is an Atom?

Imagine a blueberry the size of a football stadium, a grapefruit the size of a planet. Using images like these, an animator and a science teacher show you how small and empty an atom really is. More...

Video
TED-Ed/Jonathan Bergmann
Amazing Atoms

Amazing Atoms

How accurate are the pictures of atoms you see all the time? What would an accurate one look like? And what do these questions have to do with Central Park in New York City? Find out. More...

Video
NOVA/PBS
How Do I Make a Model of an Atom?

How Do I Make a Model of an Atom?

This site will guide you in making a model or drawing of an atom, whether super-basic or more realistic. You'll also learn why nothing you make will be very accurate. More...

Activity
Jefferson Lab
Bond Breaker

Bond Breaker

This game challenges you to grow into an atom from the humble beginnings of a single proton. Along the way, collide and break atoms. Good luck, agent Breaker...Bond Breaker! More...

Game
TestTube Games
I’m Atoms

I’m Atoms

Want a musical way to remember some basic facts about atoms? Then check out this scientific cover of Jason Mraz's "I'm yours." More...

Video
Veritasium
A Boy and His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie

A Boy and His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie

If atoms were the size of oranges, an orange would be the size of the Earth. Yet scientists have made a movie by moving single atoms around. Watch it here, as well as a video showing how it was made. More...

Video
IBM
Atomic Model

Atomic Model

Find out about the experiments that revealed the basic structure of the atom. Then test your knowledge of this subject with a quiz. More...

Video
BrainPOP
How Big Is a Mole? (Not the Animal, the Other One)

How Big Is a Mole? (Not the Animal, the Other One)

Atoms and molecules are so small that chemists have bundled them into groups called moles. Find out how a number with 23 zeros after it helps us calculate the tiniest particles in the world. More...

Video
TED-Ed/Daniel Dulek
Just Ask: What Would a Supersized Atom Look Like?

Just Ask: What Would a Supersized Atom Look Like?

If an atom's nucleus were the size of a marble, its outer edge would lie almost a football field away. You wouldn't see much between the nucleus and the edge, though. More...

Article
PBS NewsHour
Models of the Hydrogen Atom

Models of the Hydrogen Atom

Spend some time with this simulation, and you'll understand how physicists could figure out the structure of an atom without being able to see one. More...

Interactive
PhET
Electrons, Protons, and Neutrons: Standard Model of Particle Physics

Electrons, Protons, and Neutrons: Standard Model of Particle Physics

We hear about electrons, protons, and neutrons, but what are they, really? And how do they produce the complexity around us? This video makes particles eerily beautiful. More...

Video
Cassiopeia Project
Q & A: Atom’s Shells and Orbitals

Q & A: Atom’s Shells and Orbitals

So are electrons like planets in a solar system or aren’t they? This site really sorts it out. More...

Article
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Q & A: Why Don’t Atoms Crash?

Q & A: Why Don’t Atoms Crash?

Why don’t negatively charged electrons crash into positively charged protons? The answer will give you a taste of quantum mechanics. But even a taste may fry your brain. More...

Article
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The Development of the Atomic Model

The Development of the Atomic Model

It was easy to picture the atom as an indivisible chunk of stuff, a plum pudding, or a solar system. But modern physicists realize they can't really picture it at all. More...

Article
ScienceBlogs
What Are Atoms and Isotopes?

What Are Atoms and Isotopes?

If you change the number of protons in an atom, you get a different element. What if you change the number of neutrons? More...

Video
Veritasium

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