Helium Atom in Disguise:

My, my, even atoms are being altered and played with, you’d think we’re out of things to play with already 😛 (Holding sarcasm sign)

Donald Fleming of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and his colleagues, are playing around with a helium atom, trying to make it look like a hydrogen, in order to test to see whether the size of the nucleus affects the rate at which atoms react.


You see, a helium atom is bigger than a hydrogen one. Helium has 2 protons (positively charged) and 2 neutrons in it’s nucleus, which gives it an atomic mass of 4. While hydrogen has only one proton in its nucleus, which gives it an atomic mass of 1.

What Fleming doing is, since helium has two electrons (negatively charged) orbiting its nucleus, and hydrogen has one electron only, Fleming wants to replace one of the helium electrons with something called “muon” (small particles – duh of course small! – that are similar to electrons but has a bigger negative charge). That way the more negative muon would be more attracted to the positively charged protons in the nucleus and it would come closer in distance to the nucleus, thus making the helium atom looking like it has one electron orbiting, just like our friend hydrogen. And hydrogen would think the altered helium is just another cousin (a fat cousin) and would react with it.

Then Fleming would see how the difference in atomic masses affects the speed of the reactions of atoms.

To make it short, after finishing his experiment, as Fleming expected, the reaction was slower!

That, that is pretty interesting, but then again, I thought of that before 😛 (just kidding…. or maybe not… You’ll just never know :P)


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