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Everything is made of atoms

Everything is made of atoms

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True or false? Sugar is a chemical compound.

Everything is made of atoms

Oh, there's only one sugar lump left. You can have half of it if you want. What if I could keep on breaking the pieces in half? So every time, they got smaller. Could they get infinitely small?

Or can a piece of something be so small that you can't split it? That's a good question, Michael. The philosophers in ancient Greece asked the same thing more than two thousand years ago. Not only about sugar lumps, but about everything around us. Can matter be broken down into infinitely small parts?

Or is it made of particles that are indivisible? The Greeks had a word for such an indivisible particle - atomos. Let's zoom in about a million times on one grain of sugar. It's just on the edge of what our most powerful microscopes can show. And there they are - the atoms.

These tiny ball-shaped things make up all matter. With the exception of light and heat and some other forms of radiation, everything around us is made of atoms. There are more than a hundred different kinds of atom - different elements. They differ in size and weight, and how they attach to other atoms. Most substances consist of atoms of different elements - they are compounds.

Like sugar. It consists of three elements: carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. A sugar cube contains about two hundred thousand billion billion atoms. If you write that number out, it's a two followed by 23 zeros. There are about the same number of atoms in one sugar cube as there are grains of sand on the Earth, including all the deserts, and the ocean floors.

So to answer the question about how you can divide matter: if you split a sugar lump in two and continue dividing the pieces 77 times - you'll come down to a single atom. However, the word atomos - indivisible - wasn't a very good choice. The atoms themselves are made of even smaller particles. But we'll save that for next time.