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Science

Most Detailed Photos of an Atom Yet 229

Posted by timothy
from the one-downmanship dept.
BuzzSkyline writes "Ukrainian researchers have managed to take pictures of atoms that reveal structure of the electron clouds surrounding carbon nuclei in unprecedented detail. Although the images offer no surprises (they look much like the sketches of electron orbitals included in high school science texts), this is the first time that anyone has directly imaged atoms at this level, rather than inferring the structure of the orbitals from indirect measurements such as electron or X-ray interferometry."
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Most Detailed Photos of an Atom Yet

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  • really? (Score:3, Funny)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:11AM (#29423701)
    looks like it was done in MS paint to me...
  • by PatrickThomson (712694) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:15AM (#29423733)

    This is amazing. We'd theorised orbitals to exist, and they worked very well. We could calculate the shapes of molecules and make detailed predictions that came true to 10 decimal places. Quantum mechanics as applied to electrons in atoms is the most successful and the most rigorously tested theory ever developed.

    And yet, to finally see a real orbital, not a simulation. Looks like a 1s and a 2p, right there for the looking!

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:11AM (#29424027)
      Why? Because the "orbitals" are actually solutions of the Schroedinger Wave Equation. They are images or a probability distribution in abstract space. Electrons are not clouds or points, they are things we don't really understand but describe by means of quantum mechanics. So I am deeply suspicious of the picture, because there is no physical object of that shape to image.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vikhyat (1593841)
        It's probably like one of those long exposure photographs.
      • I think of electrons as wavicles - little chopped-off bits of waves that are bouncing-around the atom but not able to escape due to the proton's attractive force.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @10:52AM (#29426463)

        The article was extremely superficial when describing the actual experiment, but essentially a current was passed through a small chain of carbon atoms by applying a voltage across the chain. The current caused the the carbon atom at the tip to give off electrons to a phosphor screen. I would suppose that these "given off" electrons were integrated (summed) over time and this formed a pattern that reflected the shape of the probability distribution, i.e. orbital. Each electron that was "given off" constituted a sampling experiment regarding electron position, and the sum total of the samples would, over time, give rise to the orbital shape. In the case of an s orbital, electrons were given off in all radial directions. For the p orbital, certain angles gave off no electrons. This behavior corresponds to the quantum equations.

        • Pity this is AC (Score:5, Informative)

          by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @11:07AM (#29426637)
          Thanks for responding. This could do with some mod points but I can't mod and post...so I'll respond. It's interesting to think about what is happening here. It's possibly unhelpful to refer in the same sentence to "current" and "electrons" but I know what you mean, though I would rephrase it a little to help my own understanding. The "current" did not cause the carbon atom to give off electrons; rather, the potential difference enabled some electrons to pass along the carbon chain until they left the tip, and the path of the emerging electrons was probabilitistically interfered with in a way that reflected the solution of the Schroedinger wave equation for the outer electrons of the end atom. That's a very interesting experiment. The benefit of using carbon atoms in a molecule is that the bond angle presumably locks the orientation of the P orbitals sufficiently to enable the experiment. So for many atoms it simply wouldn't work, and what we are seeing here is not an image per se but something more like the result of the Rutherford/Geiger/Marsden experiment. It looks like a significant experiment, but the summary is quite wrong as to what is being shown.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by chill (34294)

            It looks like a significant experiment, but the summary is quite wrong as to what is being shown.

            Dude, this is Slashdot and the discussion is on elementary particle physics. What exactly did you expect?

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by MiniMike (234881)

        Wait until you've read the paper in Phys Rev B then, it's possible the reporter just put their own spin on it...

      • by nigham (792777)

        Why? Because the "orbitals" are actually solutions of the Schroedinger Wave Equation. They are images or a probability distribution in abstract space. Electrons are not clouds or points, they are things we don't really understand but describe by means of quantum mechanics. So I am deeply suspicious of the picture, because there is no physical object of that shape to image.

        I completely agree. Besides, from what I remember from high-school physics, how we "see" *anything* is when light falls on an atom/molecule, these electronics get excited into higher than natural states. When they go back to their natural states, they emit a photon that is characteristic of the material (color etc.). Given this, I don't see (pun intended) how it's possible for such a photograph to be taken.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        They are images or a probability distribution in abstract space... So I am deeply suspicious of the picture, because there is no physical object of that shape to image.

        Of course there is! There's the electron, whose location is a probability function that looks like the picture in the article. So if you're trying to take an image of the atom, and since obviously you aren't going to take a picture of something using a single sample (photon, or in this case emitted electron), you're going to "see" the elec

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
      Speaking as a chemist, could you explain what exactly this means? Up until this very moment I have been under the misguided notion that the nucleus of an atom was orbited by electrons within groups called "shells", and these worked very similarly to satellites around a planet. I've looked up and read (for around 5 minutes, so give me a little time to properly read up on it) that this is not the case, and that the "shells" model given to 16 year olds is (understandably) over-simplified.

      So, could you in any
      • by PatrickThomson (712694) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:35AM (#29424129)

        Basically, a chemistry education is very much like fast-forwarding through 300+ years of science history. Some dead-ends are skipped, but by and large, the simpler and more self-contained a theory was, the older it is and the earlier it's taught in school. The university-taught molecular orbital theory is (debatably) too rich and complex to be taught any earlier.

        The moons-orbiting theory fit with all the available evidence at the time it was developed. Think of orbitals as clouds of probability where, if you tried to pin down the electron, it might be. A moons-orbiting theory would give this probability cloud as a thin donut around the atomic waist. The shapes of orbitals as depicted in wikipedia etc. are consequences of the maths of quantum mechanics. It's annoyingly non-intuitive.

        • by Nursie (632944)

          Over here in the UK we threw away the orbital theory at the age of 16/17 in favour of the probability clouds. I'm sure it was still a simplification of (or precursor to) whatever theory was cutting edge at the time, but it was part of a pre-university chemistry education. And quite interesting too.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            I don't remember learning any chemistry in my U.S. government-run school. Although I did get an A in drivers ed and sewing/cooking (home economics).

            • by tibman (623933)

              That's because it was optional, you had to decide you wanted to take that class. They can't make you learn chemistry. I was actually in the US Government DOD school system my entire life. Every school had a decent chem, bio, and physics lab (comp labs didn't get nice until aound 2000).

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward
              Based on your previous posts, your lack of education was never in doubt.
          • Same in Canada.

            I was rather disappointed when I got to university and they taught us the same stuff again! I'd figured that pbty clouds were yet another lie. :)

            In all seriousness, E=even in the earlier grades when we were taught orbitals, valence shell electron respulsion theory, etc were told that it was a simplified model which worked well most of the time. Same deal for the Ideal Gas Law, Newtonia Physics, etc.

            • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

              For probably 99.9% of chemistry, valence shells work predictably and simply. Same with Newtonian physics for 99.9% of gravity problems. It's only when you get to extreme scales that these theories break down. Frankly, probability clouds are useless to a chemist most of the time, as it's easier to accurately predict how a molecule will behave with the valence electron models.

              Basically, probability clouds are useless until you start working on RWS (Really Weird Shit).

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by berwiki (989827)
            damn, the UK is so great. I wish more people actually wanted to move into your country and got the hell out of mine.
      • by PvtVoid (1252388) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:37AM (#29424137)

        Speaking as a chemist, could you explain what exactly this means? Up until this very moment I have been under the misguided notion that the nucleus of an atom was orbited by electrons within groups called "shells", and these worked very similarly to satellites around a planet.

        You're thinking of the Bohr model [wikipedia.org].

        So, could you in any way explain how we get from "think of it as a planet with many moons" to this or more importantly, what gives orbitals this shape?

        It's because the Schrodinger equation is a Laplacian [drexel.edu], and the hydrogen atom is a spherically symmetric problem [gsu.edu]. The natural basis for the Laplacian in spherical coordinates is spherical harmonics [wikipedia.org]. The shape you are seeing is the characteristic shape of different spherical harmonics, corresponding to the angular momentum of the electron.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by S3D (745318)

        Up until this very moment I have been under the misguided notion that the nucleus of an atom was orbited by electrons within groups called "shells", and these worked very similarly to satellites around a planet.

        Think of a satellite randomly teleporting around the planet, leaving ghostly afterglow behind. The "glow" would have the shape of those shells. Or the "brightness" of the shell is the probability of existence of "satellite" in the point of space. What gives orbitals their shape is the Schrodinger e

        • by mwlewis (794711)
          You probably mean that the Schrodinger equation describes the shape of the orbitals.
          • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

            Don't get your panties in a bunch over semantics, of course the equation doesn't create the behavior. Jeeze.

      • by The_Duck271 (1494641) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:45AM (#29424171)
        At atomic scales electrons cannot be thought of as points; instead they are smeared out probability distributions. They don't exist at any given point, there's a chance for a given electron to be found throughout a whole region of space, and the probability of finding it at any given point is given by a probability distribution. These probability distributions are called wave functions, and given an electron's wave function you can calculate the likelihood of getting different results when you take a measurement of the electron. It is a strange aspect of quantum mechanics that you can't calculate exactly what you will measure, you can only establish the probabilities of each possible outcome.

        Another aspect of quantum mechanics is that if you measure, say, the energy of an electron in an atom, you can only get one of a certain set of discrete values, and never any energy in between those values. The energy of the electron is quantized. In general, if you measure an electron's energy you have a certain probability to get a result corresponding to the first energy level, a probability to find it in the second energy level, and so on. This is also the case for some other things you can measure, like angular momentum.

        However, there are certain wave functions that correspond to exactly one value of energy; that is, if you have an electron with this wave function, you are guaranteed to get a certain energy value when you measure it. In fact, there is a special set of wave functions with the following three properties:
        • They each have a definite energy level.
        • They each have a definite total angular momentum around the nucleus.
        • They each have a definite angular momentum around the z axis.

        These wave functions are the atomic orbitals that are so important in chemistry. If you calculate the shapes of the wave functions that satisfy these properties, you get the shapes shown on the Wikipedia page. They are listed in a table indexed by the variables n, l, and m. n corresponds to the energy level, l corresponds to the total angular momentum, and m corresponds to the angular momentum around the z axis. For example, you can see that orbitals with high m (angular momentum around the z axis), like the ones on the very right of the Wikipedia table, are sort of flattened out by the centrifugal force from spinning fast around a vertical axis.

        • by Nimey (114278)

          That's an excellent explanation. I've saved that to a text file to refer to later.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Barterer (878209)

          Very informative, thanks. When you say the electrons have a definite momentum about the Z-axis, do you mean just one chosen axis (depending on your perspective and axes you assign) or does it have something to do with which way is "up" or gravity?

      • by locofungus (179280) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:55AM (#29424207)

        It's wrong to think of the electron as a particle when it's "orbiting" in an atom. Instead you should think of it as a probability density. This is Schroedinger's cat all over again, the electron is "smeared out" all over its "orbit" but instead of being "half dead, half alive" it's x% here, y% there.

        This is also like the two slit experiment. The electron doesn't go through one slit or the other, it goes through both slits (not 50% dead and 50% alive; 50% went through that slit and 50% went through this slit) but when it hits the phosphor screen it's a particle as its "where is it" probability function collapses to a point.

        The "wavefunction" is (as far as we can tell) a mathematical curiosity that when squared gives us the observed probability function. The probability distribution is real, the wavefunction gives us a convenient handle to calculate probabilities and how they evolve.

        But now that I've said that the wavefunction is an imaginary curiosity, imagine a sine wave on a string and then join the two ends of the string together. There will only be a few discrete lengths of string where the sine wave will "join up" correctly (ok there's an infinite number but the length of the string is limited). It turns out that, with rather a lot of unpleasant maths (see the wikipedia page for spherical harmonics), our wavefunction works like that sine wave and we find that there are only certain orbitals where the wavefunction is well behaved.

        Tim.

        • by master_p (608214) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:37AM (#29424397)

          Could it be that we can't pinpoint the exact position and velocity of an electron at the same time because they are interlinked with all the surrounding particles? i.e. the act of measurement affects the outcome.

        • by fredrik70 (161208)

          intersting, however, why does the probability wave collaps by the phosphor screen and not by the slits? because observation?

          IIRC if you place measuring equipment by the slits you collapse the waveform there already (i.e. the electron goes through one slit or the other), this would destroy the interference pattern as well, no?

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by emjay88 (1178161)
            Yep and if you do an even more elaborate experiment, where you put detectors at each slit, but then wire the detectors up to the same output (ie, the electron is detected, but you don't know which one detected it), the wave function doesn't collapse until it hits the screen!
          • intersting, however, why does the probability wave collaps by the phosphor screen and not by the slits? because observation?

            We don't know why the wave function collapses. That post a few days ago about playing "Schroedinger's Cat" with a virus was a tiny step towards understanding.

            IIRC if you place measuring equipment by the slits you collapse the waveform there already (i.e. the electron goes through one slit or the other), this would destroy the interference pattern as well, no?

            Correct. If you detect the

        • by brian0918 (638904)
          Its only when you document the traditional QM interpretation so clearly - as you have - that it becomes so obviously absurd and anticonceptual. No wonder I had so much trouble in my QM and QED courses.

          It's wrong to think of the electron as a particle when it's "orbiting" in an atom.

          It's only wrong in the sense that it doesn't follow a traditional trajectory. As with the double-slit experiment, if one conceives of it following a wave trajectory, the results are the same. So you've got a physical particle the entire time, but it follows the path of a wave. In the case of the double-slit ex

          • by rangek (16645)

            Another chemist here.

            What predictions does Bohmian mechanics make that traditional (Copenhagen) QM does not?

            • by brian0918 (638904)

              What predictions does Bohmian mechanics make that traditional (Copenhagen) QM does not?

              The right question to ask. Check out this paper on arXiv: Understanding Bohmian mechanics: A dialogue [arxiv.org]. The whole paper is a good introduction, but the "Second Day" section should answer your question. What it really comes down to is which should we accept: a theory tied to reality, which is understandable, or a theory that is not understandable, and is divorced from reality, but whose equations work just the same? The former is the Bohmian interpretation, the latter is the traditional QM interpretation.

          • In the case of the double-slit experiment, this makes much more sense: an electron goes through one or the other slit, depending on where it happens to be in its wave trajectory. The apparent interference pattern on the phosphor screen is simply the result of many electrons having their own initial wave trajectories. The pictures are identical, but one is conceivable (ie, conceptual), while the other is not.

            I'm not sure what you're trying to say here and I might be misinterpreting but it's explicitly not ma

            • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @01:27PM (#29428555)

              You can turn down the beam current in the two slit experiment until you're talking about orders of magnitude less than one electron in the apparatus at any one time on average and you still get the diffraction pattern.

              That's not correct. See experiment and photos here [hitachi.com] (Figure 2). Single electrons produce single dots. It's only after you dump many electrons through that you get a pattern - that's simply because the electrons follow wave trajectories rather than the standard trajectory visualized from classical motion. In reality everything follows these same wave trajectories, it's just that for macroscopic objects, the individual oscillations of the individual particles cancel out.

              I don't know why it's any more conceptually obvious that a "variable" should be smeared out than an "electron" should be smeared out.

              The phrase "smeared out" conveys nothing, so it should be no surprise that it can be used for situations that are completely different.

              • Sorry but I've got absolutely no idea what you are talking about. What does "that's simply because the electrons follow wave trajectories" mean?

                Of course the diffraction pattern is built up from an ensemble of electrons. The probability of detecting the electron at the point of detection is 1. That's precisely what "collapsing the wave function" means mathematically. We don't have a handle on what it means physically.

                If we "label" the electrons as they pass through the slit then we don't get the diffraction

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by gribbly (39555)
                It *is* correct. GP said "less than one electron in the apparatus at any one time on average and you still get the diffraction pattern" which is right. Even if you only ever send one electron through it will be detected in a location consistent with the fringe pattern.

                From the link you included in your reply:

                "Although electrons were sent one by one, interference fringes could be observed."

                You say "Single electrons produce single dots. It's only after you dump many electrons through that you get a p
      • To all of the replies above / below, thanks for your efforts. However, I'm afraid I'm going to have to stick with "moons orbiting a planet." I get around three lines into each comment, and my mind wonders to images of Keira Knightly wearing nothing but a strategically placed Kinder Egg.
      • by Sinbios (852437)

        Huh? You didn't have to memorize 1s 2p etc in high school chemistry?

      • by sjames (1099)

        You learned the Bohr model which was proposed and widely accepted before the development of quantum theory. It was a decent theory for it's time as it did a good job of modeling observations up to that time. Even then, we knew there were limitations to the model (for example, an object in orbit experiances constant acceleration yet the electrons didn't radiate their orbital energy away and crash to the nucleus).

        Once the Schrodinger equation was accepted, finding the shape of the orbitals was a matter of sol

    • by Richard Kirk (535523) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:38AM (#29424405)

      They do look like the classical orbitals, don't they?

      However, there are some problems with interpreting the image as a photograph of an orbital. What the FEEM does is to charge up a very sharp point. The actual voltage may not be very big, but the local field strength depends on screening and curvature, so you can get very large electrostatic fields around sharp features, and if you get the balance right, electrons will leave the sharp points, zoom down the field lines, and get imaged. I remember seeing a sharp tungsten needle in a FEEM back in the seventies, and seeing the individual atoms. This sort of thing provided the first real evidence of a screw dislocation. You got a strange projection of the tip of the needle, as the electrostatic field tended to map the roughly spherical tip onto a flat plane.

      So what is happening here? Our field stripping an electron from the orbital. We are getting a map of the electron flows as focused by the electrostatic field. We calculate the trajectory back through the electrostatic field and guess some sort of map of emission. They must have stripped hundreds or thousands of orbital electrons from the same atom, and replaced them to get each image. However, if an orbital 'pokes out' of the atom, or forms a 'sharp feature' (inverted commas because they are wave functions, so these concepts are a bit hard to define) then we get a bright spot. The really cool bit is getting the atom to go back to the same hybridization state hundreds of times, so we got the two-lobed picture.

      It's dead clever. However, for my money, the atomic force probes are cooler as they can measure the fields without stripping the electrons. But, as the reviewer said, it takes all sorts...

    • by tsa (15680)

      Actually, as the article says, you can make electron orbitals visible with AFM for atoms in a crystal or other structure. This is the first time orbitals of a single, lone atom have been resolved. Very cool stuff, this.

    • This is amazing. We'd theorised orbitals to exist, and they worked very well. We could calculate the shapes of molecules and make detailed predictions that came true to 10 decimal places. Quantum mechanics as applied to electrons in atoms is the most successful and the most rigorously tested theory ever developed.

      And yet, to finally see a real orbital, not a simulation. Looks like a 1s and a 2p, right there for the looking!

      I know. It's like with waves of electromagnetic force. We see the drawings of magnetic fields and assume those lines are for our benefit, that it doesn't really look that way. And then you stick a magnet under paper and sprinkle iron filings on it and sure enough, magnetic lines! It feels like cartoon physics made real. Gonna take me a magic marker and draw a little door on my office wall so I can open it up and go inside during lunch and catch zome z's.

    • by pla (258480)
      And yet, to finally see a real orbital, not a simulation. Looks like a 1s and a 2p, right there for the looking!

      Yeah... That part makes me just a tad suspicious of this image...

      First of all, carbon has 2p2 in the ground state - So we should never actually see the s orbitals.

      Second, "ground state" amounts to an abstraction rather than a description - Electrons don't really sit around in the ground state configuration, they constantly bounce around between higher orbitals. And FTA, "They placed a rigi
  • by Maddog Batty (112434) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:22AM (#29423771) Homepage

    "Leo Gross and his colleagues at IBM in Zurich, Switzerland, modified the AFM technique to make the most detailed image yet of pentacene, an organic molecule consisting of five benzene rings"

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17699-microscopes-zoom-in-on-molecules-at-last.html [newscientist.com]

     

  • by romit_icarus (613431) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:28AM (#29423793) Journal
    The ability to directly measure electron density is quite an old technique. STMs and AFMs have been doing this since the very beginning.. I agree with the researcher's quote in the article that it's good to develop a complementary technique(FEEM) abd at best that's its contribution. I'd be happy to hear what else it contributes. though I don't quite agree with his or the editors spelling! ;) "it's always good to have complimentary approaches,"
    • by Genda (560240) <mariet@got.nERDOSet minus math_god> on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:41AM (#29423887) Journal

      The ability to directly measure electron density is quite an old technique. STMs and AFMs have been doing this since the very beginning.. I agree with the researcher's quote in the article that it's good to develop a complementary technique(FEEM) abd at best that's its contribution. I'd be happy to hear what else it contributes. though I don't quite agree with his or the editors spelling! ;) "it's always good to have complimentary approaches,"

      In this particular application, its simply a very cool thing to be able to prove theory with direct measurement. In the future I can imagine viewing electron orbitals for test samples of high temperature superconductors or producing high resolution images of the electron cloud density for a protein (get a better idea of the quantum component for protein folding) might prove extremely useful and interesting.

      In my experience, no sooner does someone come up with a better device for viewing, then someone comes up with a exquisite need for that device.

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      ...it's good to develop a complementary technique... ...though I don't quite agree with his or the editors spelling! ;) "it's always good to have complimentary approaches,"

      You are quite correct, I hadn't paid any attention to that before, from Grammatically Correct: [uhv.edu]

      In its verb form, the word complement refers to emphasizing the good qualities of another person or thing by adding something.

      In its verb form, the word compliment refers to the act of praising someone or something.

      It's kinda odd to have homophones that have nearly, but not quite, the same meanings, but that's English for you.

  • Unscaled photo link (Score:5, Informative)

    by UPi (137083) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:39AM (#29423873) Homepage

    The unscaled photo is here:

    http://insidescience.org/polopoly_fs/1.918!image/671260397.jpg [insidescience.org]

    • by PGC (880972) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:31AM (#29424117)
      Unscaled, wow. That is one HUGE atom.... no wonder they were capable of photographing it.
    • by fastest fascist (1086001) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:27AM (#29424347)
      Not to pick nits, but is a picture that is the result of electrons striking a surface actually a photograph?
      • by kimvette (919543)

        Sure, just as much as a UV or IR photograph is, or a radio telescope image, or an X-ray or MRI for that matter.

        However, if you like, we could call it a "visual representation of an object using some property of elctromagnetic theory via apparatus applying that theory" - or, we could simply call it a photograph and not worry about what detection and imaging techniques were used.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pclminion (145572)

          or, we could simply call it a photograph and not worry about what detection and imaging techniques were used.

          I would kind of prefer that we limit the use of the word "photograph" to include images produced by illumination by photons. There's a reason that the imagery produced by electron microscopes are called "micrographs," not photographs. The images are produced by the irradiation of the specimen with electron waves, not photons.

  • by houghi (78078) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:45AM (#29423919)

    There are other ones like this one [earthinpictures.com] or even the inside of one like here [alaporte.net]

  • Magnification (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Butterspoon (892614)
    On my monitor, the unzoomed images are about 3cm across. This corresponds to a magnification factor of around 100 million! Awesome!
  • I have always imagined atoms as I saw them in textbooks, a nucleus with balls spinning around it so fast it would look like a sphere. Now the first image holds up to this and looks about what I expected a photograph of an atom to look like. But I don't quite understand the second image. If those two ovals represent a single atom then why does it appear to split?

    It states in the article that the photo is of "two states' of the atom. Does the electron cloud just flow around the atom in such a way as to make i

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mattr (78516)

      Electrons act like both particles and waves, following the laws of quantum mechanics. They are not really like moons traveling around planets in a neat circle.

      I'm not a physicist but my understanding is that each element has a different number of electrons balancing the positive charge of the protons in the nucleus. These electrons form electron shells which are at different energy levels, and the shells are composed of a combination of atomic orbitals.

      Quantum physics says that one cannot know where an elec

  • Wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:51AM (#29424183)

    So this is what's powering my netbook!

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @08:52AM (#29424909)
    ... you can see Bigfoot in the background!
  • Cool (Score:2, Funny)

    by Elwar123 (1053566)
    Atoms are blue. I guess that explains why the sky is blue...it's full of atoms.
  • They placed a rigid chain of carbon atoms, just tens of atoms long, in a vacuum chamber and streamed 425 volts through the sample.

    Bad day to be a carbon atom, eh?

  • From TFA: "While tools like the scanning tunneling microscope already map the structure of electrons in a sample of many atoms, 'it's always good to have complimentary approaches,' Goldhaber-Gordon said."

    It is indeed good to have approaches that are 'on the house,' so to speak...

    "Complimentary coffee, muffins and electrons in the lobby every morning". :)

  • Is that there's no way for a measurement to show the phase, so we could only see two P orbitals (l=1, |m|=0, 1) in the carbon atom. I wonder if they could compel the P orbital electrons to assume different quantum numbers and see if the pictures show the expected differences between the three different possibilities (both with same m, opposite m, m=0 and |m|=1). Or experimentally verify how electric/magnetic fields distort the orbitals and still get the emitted electrons to form a picture.

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