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I don't know why but I find electrons are the connective element--there they are in the deepest physics; there they are in chemistry, and there they are in biology.

What I mean is, I have a sense that it's worth spending my time getting to understand electrons and charge because if I can really get them clear (ignoring the complicated business about wave/particle...at least for now!) then...I can use them as the base upon which to build...heh....if only things were that simple!

btw, have you (or has anyone?) read Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World?

A great book, which looks closely at free radicals--oxygen stripping electrons from molecules, charging them and then creating chains of ripping--that's what I mean when I say electrons are in biology--ach!

How do you envisage electrons?

Heh....for my own strange reasons I need to know enough Chemistry to be comfortable with all elements to GCSE level.  The more I delve into valence electrons--the more I get my head round them the easier the rest becomes.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 05:30:33 PM EST
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You covered it earlier - chemistry is electron sharing. There's not a lot else going on.

'Proper' chemistry needs the wave/particle stuff because it explains why electrons in atoms do what they do - e.g. why is there are a pattern in the maximum number of electrons in the outer shell of each element?

But you can do all of GCSE chemistry without worrying about that, and just counting the number of available electrons and how they're being shared.

I have a rather metaphysical approach to the wave particle stuff which not everyone shares, and which could be completely wrong - no one really knows what's really happening under the wave particle, so there are all kinds of interpretations.

The traditional old-physics approach is to think of electrons like very, very small billiard balls which happen to have an electric charge.

The more metaphysical approach is to think of electrons as areas in space in which something might happen, and which - randomly - does.

This is for a hydrogen atom. The red and blue areas show where electron-like things are most likely to happen as the electrons hold more energy.

This is useful because if you think in terms of fields - they're called orbitals in chemistry - you don't just get the basic electron counting chemistry of

2H20 -> 2H2 + O2

but also tells you what shapes atoms are going to make as they join up. With the wave/particle stuff you can calculate the geometry, size and shape of molecules. E.g. for water:

As I said, this is not needed for GCSE. But for physics it seems to be more useful to ask what things do and how they behave than what they are.

No one knows what an electron is. It may turn out to be a kind of vibrating membrane, like a small and very weirdly shaped bell in space which rings when certain things happen to it.

Or it could be something else entirely.

Because we don't know, all we can do is look at how electrons behave. And because what electrons do seems to spread out in a way that small billiard balls don't, understanding how the spreading works is useful.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 06:44:22 PM EST
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ThatBritGuy:
But for physics it seems to be more useful to ask what things do and how they behave than what they are.
Maybe this is a hint that ontology is just a load of humanure.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:12:47 AM EST
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Not if it gets you asking interesting questions.

There's a difference between unknown and unknowable. It's unscientific to assume that ontology is unknowable unless that can be proved rigorously.

Until that happens, we're left with unknown - and some interesting open questions.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 11:18:49 AM EST
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Oh boy.. physics do not address the question of what things are... just how apparently behave...Nailed.

I like your phrasing..."physics seems to be more useful..." one of my physics teacher said to me.. "ei.. no doubt about it, the question of "what things are" is very interesting , that's why it should be discussed in the bar as any other interesting stuff and not in the lab".

We belong to the same subsect of the same sect. Electrons are nothing.. they behave as something (and we created the name and the concept becasue it is useful and relevant to explain the world)...either this or one believes that matehmatical entities exist in reality (which some friends of mine do).

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:37:37 AM EST
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