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Commonly Asked Questions in Physics by Andrew Rex

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7

Atoms and Nuclei

One of the oldest problems in physics—and in all of science—is the question of what everything is made of. There’s a natural curiosity about this that children express and that is seen throughout world cultures. The approach we have followed for many centuries is to try to understand matter by breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces, looking for fundamental building blocks. This search has led to our understanding of the atomic nature of matter. That is, all matter we normally see or encounter is made up of atoms, with the wide variety of matter explained by different combinations of atoms. More in-depth study of atoms has shown that they are not solid bodies, but instead are made up of a small atomic nucleus plus electrons. ...

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