Who discovered the element nickel? Can I see a picture of nickel?
Well, Denise, the element nickel was discovered in 1751 by a Swedish man, Baron
Axel Frederik Cronstedt. He was working with a mineral called "niccolite," which
was used in those days to color glass green. Baron Connstedt was actually trying
to get copper out of the niccolite mineral, but he found a white metal instead.
He named it "nickel" either from the name of the ore "niccolite" or from the
German word "kupfernickel" meaning "false copper." Nickel is often found in
"meteorites," the pieces of rock that fallto earth from outer space. Some of
these meteorites are as much as 20% (or one fifth) nickel! The USA 5 cent coin
that we call a nickel has some nickel in it. About 25% (or one fourth) of a
5 cent coin is actually nickel. When itâ€™s pure, nickel is a silvery white metal
that gets very shiny when you polish it. Hereâ€™s a link to a picture of what
nickel looks like all by itself: http://www.webelements.com/webelements/elements/text/Ni/key.html.
Good question, Denise. Thanks. by Jeff | Sun Apr 7 13:05:21 PST 2002 | Back to Top
What element is named for Enrico Fermi?
Well, Enrico, you have the same name as one of the great men of science! Enrico
Fermi was a great physicist who lived from September 29, 1901 until November
28, 1954. He was the first scientist to "split the atom." Atoms make up all
of the matter all around us -- all the solids, liquids and gases. Atoms are
so incredibly small that no one has ever seen one, but scientists know they
exist because they have done many, many experiments to learn about them. In
the 1930â€™s Enrico Fermi began to study particularly big atoms (big for atoms
but still incredibly small) by shooting them with a small particle (a "neutron")
that is normally a part of an atom. He found that by shooting these big atoms
with neutrons, he could make them unstable so that particles that were part
of the atom would begin to fly off. Scientists call atoms that lose particles
like this "radioactive." Later, scientists discovered that Fermiâ€™s experiment
had split the big atom (a process scientists call "fission") and that this splitting
of the atom caused it to become radioactive. In 1938, Enrico Fermiâ€™s work earned
him the Nobel Prize for physics. The Nobel Prize is given each year to scientists
in particular categories to recognize their achievements. Most people consider
the Nobel Prize the highest honor a scientist can receive. Here are some links,
if you want to learn more about Enrico Fermi: http://almaz.com/nobel/physics/1938a.html
There are countless atoms in the world, but there are very few atoms that can
make up a particular chemical all by themselves, without combining with any
other type of atom. Scientists call these special atoms "elements." There are
only 115 elements (though scientists think there must be three more but havenâ€™t
proven these three exist yet). All of the elements are listed on a big chart
called the Periodic Table. In 1952, scientists working with the University of
California in Berkeley found a unique element in the area where a bomb using
atomic fission had been exploded. This element is number 100 on the Periodic
Table, and the scientists named it "Fermium" to honor Enrico Fermi. Hereâ€™s link
to see the whole Periodic Table: http://www.webelements.com/.
If you want to find out more about Fermium, click on box number 100. Itâ€™s the
one with the letters "Fm" (for "Fermium"). Thanks for the question, Enrico.
I like your name. by Jeff | Tue Jan 15 12:20:47 PST 2002 | Back to Top
What are the orbital shapes of Phosphorous?
Well, Katherine, I know you know what an "orbital" is, but for anyone who doesnâ€™t
(or who hasnâ€™t read the answer to Calebâ€™s question), hereâ€™s a little background.
Two of the particles that make up an atom, the "protons" and the "neutrons,"
are grouped together to make up the nucleus of the atom. The electrons are in
constant motion around the outside of the nucleus. The strange and mysterious
thing about electrons is that they donâ€™t really exist in any particular place
at any particular time. Rather, scientists have determined that there are areas
an electron is likely to be, depending on the total number of electrons in the
atom and the amount of energy the atom has absorbed. Scientists call the electron
area patterns "orbitals," and each orbital can hold two electrons. At the most
basic level (what scientists call the "s" orbital) the electronâ€™s likely position
looks like a cloud around the nucleus. Beginning with 5 electrons (boron), things
get a little more interesting. Boron is the first molecule with a "p" orbital,
which looks sort of like a yo-yo with the nucleus in between the two round parts.
As the atoms increase in size, the patterns of electron locations get even more
complicated. Phosphorus has 15 electrons, and it has electrons in both "s" and
"p" orbitals. i can't really draw you a picture, but I do know some sites that
can help. For a good discussion of electron orbitals generally, go to http://library.thinkquest.org/3659/structures/electronconfig.html
(click at the bottom for the next page on the topic, too). For help with the
arrangement of phosphorus electron orbitals in particular, go to http://www.webelements.com/webelements/elements/text/P/econ.html
. Thanks for the question Katherine. by Jeff | Thu Jan 3 17:04:58 PST 2002 | Back to Top
I am making a 3-D display of a xenon molecule with electrons and protons.
Are the electrons and protons spread out over the ball or are the in groups?
Well, Caleb, as you probably know, two of the particles that make up an atom,
the "protons" and the "neutrons," are grouped together to make up the nucleus
of the atom. The electrons are in constant motion around the outside of the
nucleus. The strange and mysterious thing about electrons is that they donâ€™t
really exist in any particular place at any particular time. Rather, scientists
have determined that there are areas an electron is likely to be, depending
on the total number of electrons in the atom and the amount of energy the atom
has absorbed. Scientists call the electron area patterns "orbitals" and each
orbital can hold two electrons. At the most basic level (what scientists call
the "s" orbital) the electronâ€™s likely position looks like a cloud around the
nucleus. Beginning with 5 electrons (boron), things get a little more interesting.
Boron is the first molecule with a "p" orbital, which looks sort of like a yo-yo
with the nucleus in between the two round parts. As the atoms increase in size,
the patterns of electron locations get even more complicated. Xenon has 54 electrons,
so it will make for a very interesting 3-D diagram! Here are some sources that
might help you. For a good discussion of electron orbitals generally, go to
(click at the bottom for the next page on the topic, too). For help with
the arrangement of xenon electron orbitals in particular, go to http://www.webelements.com/webelements/elements/text/Xe/econ.html.
Good luck Caleb! by Jeff | Thu Jan 3 17:02:08 PST 2002 | Back to Top
How did phosphorus get its name?
The name "phosphorus " comes from the Greek work "phosphoros," which means "bringer
of light. " Seems like a good name for such an element that glows, doesn't it?
Thanks for the question, Allison. by Jeff | Tue Dec 11 17:20:38 PST 2001 | Back to Top
How many kinds of atoms are there in the world?
Each type of atom that makes a type of matter all by itself, without combining
with another atom, is called an "element." Right now, Victoria, scientists have
identified 115 different elements, or unique kinds of atoms. All of the common
atoms have been discovered, but scientists are still working to discover new
atoms that exist only very briefly in chemical reactions. Experiments already
show there should be three more types of atoms, but scientists havenâ€™t yet become
sure enough about these atoms to make them part of the list. All of the elements
that scientists have discovered are listed on a big chart called "the periodic
table." Here are two sites you can visit to see the periodic table and find
out more about any individual element: http://www.dayah.com/periodic/
(big version of the table); http://www.webelements.com/
(smaller version). For fun, hereâ€™s a link to a periodic table that will give
you information about the elements using pages from old comic books! http://www.uky.edu/Projects/Chemcomics/.
Just another way to have fun with science! Thanks for the question, Victoria.
by Jeff | Mon Dec 3 11:05:07 PST 2001 | Back to Top
Which noble gas is present in the largest amount in the
The mixture of gases that make up the air in our atmosphere is mostly nitrogen
(78%) and oxygen (21%). However, one of the noble gases, argon, is present as
well, though itâ€™s only 1% of our air. Other gases, like carbon dioxide or ozone
(a special kind of oxygen) are part of our air, though in very small amounts.
Finally, the air also contains water in its gaseous ("vapor") form, and this
vapor can be from 0% to 7% of the air in a particular place, depending on weather
conditions. Good question, Dude. Thanks. by Jeff | Mon Dec 3 11:02:20 PST 2001 | Back to Top
When we did the experiment with the vinegar and the baking
soda, why did the mixture of those two mixing together make the explosion?
Thanks for the question, Joanna. When we put vinegar and baking soda together,
their atoms "react" together, meaning the atoms combine together in new ways.
Specifically, this particular solid (baking soda) and this particular liquid
(vinegar) combine to make something new â€“ a gas (carbon dioxide). A carbon dioxide
molecule is made up of a three atoms (one carbon and two oxygen atoms) all joined
together. Like all gases, the carbon dioxide molecules produced in the vinegar/baking
soda reaction are in a very excited state. (They got that way in the vinegar/baking
soda reaction because the reaction produces a lot of energy as the atoms rearrange
themselves into new combinations.). The molecules in the gas are vibrating so
fast that they canâ€™t stand to get too close to each other. As the reaction produces
more and more gas, the gas molecules push on the inside of the bottle and on
the inside of the plastic cap on top of the bottle, trying to keep their distance
from each other. The gas molecules pushing on the inside of the bottle build
up pressure, but the glass wonâ€™t give. Finally, the pressure gets high enough
that the weakest part of the container holding the gas gives way â€“ the top pops
off! The force of the pressure in the bottle causes the top to fly up, and the
sound of the gas escaping out of the opening of the bottle when the top comes
off makes the "POP" we hear. The same thing happens when you pop a balloon.
All the air in the balloon rushes out through the hole you make in the container
(the balloon) and the sound of the gas escaping makes the "POP." Iâ€™m glad you
enjoyed the experiment, Joanna. Itâ€™s a fun way to learn about atoms, gases and
pressure. by Jeff | Mon Dec 3 10:25:58 PST 2001 | Back to Top
Are planets and stars made out of atoms?
Why sure, Victoria, the earth and the stars are all made out of atoms. In fact,
most atoms are made inside the stars. Stars are really big balls of gases, mostly
hydrogen, that have come together and grown so big that the gases on the inside
of the star get pushed together with a lot of pressure. This pressure gets so
intense that the hydrogen atoms start to smash together to form helium atoms.
When the hydrogen atoms start to make helium atoms, the reaction gives off a
lot of energy, which only makes the whole reaction continue even more. Soon
the big ball of gas is giving off a lot of energy in the form of light and heat.
We see this energy as a little twinkling star because weâ€™re so far away. If
we were closer, though, weâ€™d see that most of these stars are just like our
own sun. (And if we could see our sun from far, far away in space, it would
look like a star.) The star can go on like this, making helium atoms out of
hydrogen atoms, for a long time. When the star runs out of hydrogen, the pressure
in the star tries to keep the reaction going by smashing other atoms together
to make still more types of atoms. The bigger the atoms the star tries to make,
the harder and harder it is to keep the reaction going. Some stars just burn
out, but others BLOW UP. When a star blows up (becomes a "nova"), the star make
s many, many atoms of all different types and scatters the atoms out into space.
These atoms might drift around for a long, long time until they become part
of another star, or part of a planet (like the earth) or part of something on
a planet (like you or me.) Great question, Victoria, as you can tell, itâ€™s a
BIG one. by Jeff | Sun Dec 2 21:27:20 PST 2001 | Back to Top
Are the four elements (wind, water, fire, earth) made out
Three out of four of them are, Victoria, and the fourth is kind of close, in
a way. Water is made of two types of atoms: hydrogen and oxygen. When the smallest
part of something (like water) is actually made up of more than one type of
atom, scientists call this ball of atoms a "molecule." A water molecule is two
hydrogen atoms connected to one oxygen atom. Earth is actually a mixture of
solids like rocks and pebbles, sand, dust, and plant material, and all of these
parts of the mixture are made of atoms. Air is also a mixture, but of gases
instead of solids. The biggest part of the air around us is a gas called nitrogen,
but the air has oxygen and carbon dioxide (two oxygen atoms connected to a carbon
atom) and other gases mixed in as well. Each of these gases is made up of atoms.
Fire is the only one of the four elements thatâ€™s not made of atoms. When enough
energy (heat) is applied to some atoms (fuel) and thereâ€™s oxygen around, the
fuel starts to burn. Burning is a chemical "reaction" and the molecules in the
fuel and the air switch around and join with each other ("reacting") in new
combinations. As all the atoms switch around and combine, the whole reaction
gives off energy in the form of heat and light. We see and feel this heat and
light in the form of fire. So, air, earth and water are all made of atoms and
fire is a form of energy we see from atoms as they react together. Good question,
Victoria. by Jeff | Sun Dec 2 21:23:21 PST 2001 | Back to Top
How do scientists know there are atoms?
Excellent question Sandra! Atoms are so small that to this day, no one has really
seen them. Instead, scientists learned that there were atoms by thinking about
the world around them and by doing experiments. Scientists often learn about
things they donâ€™t know or canâ€™t see in this way. First, a scientist will think
of an idea for explaining something. (Scientists call this a "hypothesis.").
Without some kind of proof, though, this idea might or might not be true. Then,
the scientist thinks of an experiment to test the idea. If the experiment shows
that the idea was wrong, the scientist has to think of a new idea. If the experiment
turns out in a way that shows the idea might be right, then the scientist thinks
of another experiment to try to test the idea in another way. Scientists know
that there are atoms because they have done many experiments in many ways to
test the idea that the solids, liquids and gasses around us are made up of atoms.
For instance, scientists found that they could make water break down into two
different gasses, hydrogen and oxygen. The weight of the oxygen was always 8
times the weight of the hydrogen, no matter how much of each they made from
the water. This experiment showed helped to show that water is made up of two
kinds of atoms and that these atoms combine in specific amounts to make water.
Scientists used many ways to test to see if atoms were real, like measuring
how much adding atoms in gas form increases the force of the gas pushing on
the container. From this experiment, scientists learned that gas atoms want
to keep a distance away from each other and that they would rather push on the
inside of the container than get closer together. Scientists have developed
many, many experiments (some simple and some very complicated) to learn about
atoms. Since these experiments all show that atoms exist, scientists know they
do (and know a lot about them) without ever actually seeing an atom. Thanks
for the question, Sandra! by Jeff | Tue Nov 20 12:14:08 PST 2001 | Back to Top
How are atoms made and why are they so strong?
Good question, Victoria. No one really knows how atoms were made originally.
Scientists believe that the first atoms were created from energy when the universe
was created, but that was so long ago, no one can be sure just how it happened.
We do know that atoms are being made inside our sun, which is so hot and under
so much pressure that it can combine smaller atoms together to make bigger atoms.
Atoms are so strong because of the connections they make to other atoms. Atoms
themselves are made of particles called electrons, protons and neutrons. Usually
an atom has the same number of protons and electrons, but not always. When an
atom has more of one kind of these particles than the other, it behaves like
a magnet. The atom will attach to another atom thatâ€™s the other way around (so
atoms with more protons than electrons will attach to an atom with more electrons
than protons). Another way that atoms combine together is when they share an
electron. Some atoms have more electrons than they want and some have less.
When these atoms get together, they will share an electron between the two of
them. Even though theyâ€™re still separate atoms, they link together very strongly
because of the electron theyâ€™re sharing. Thanks for asking about atoms, Victoria!
by Jeff | Tue Nov 20 12:11:36 PST 2001 | Back to Top
What solid and liquid combine to make a gas?
Thanks for the question, Andrew. We saw in our experiment ("Hello to Redding
School Room 8!") that vinegar (a liquid) and baking soda (a solid) will combine
to make a gas (carbon dioxide). Hereâ€™s a link to some simple experiments you
can do at home. The "Quick Foam" one is similar to vinegar and baking soda,
though a little more complicated. http://chem01.usca.sc.edu/proton/ppdemo.htm
(Please be sure to only do any of these experiments with an adult to help you
do it safely.) Another example you may have seen around Halloween time happens
when you put "dry ice" in water. Dry ice is really the same gas that vinegar
and baking soda make, but it has been cooled down so much that it is a solid
instead of a gas! (We have to cool any gas down a LOT before that happens.)
The solid piece of dry ice is so cold that even putting it in normal cold water
feels like a hot bath. When the carbon dioxide molecules in the dry ice heat
up, they go back to being a gas really fast. The gas bubbles up through the
water and escape as the "fog" you see. This reaction is a little different than
vinegar and baking soda because the water and the dry ice are not really combining
(what scientists call "reacting") to make the gas. Instead, the water is heating
the very, very cold dry ice and the atoms in the dry ice are changing from solid
to gas. They do it so fast they skip right over being liquid! Wow! Isnâ€™t science
fun, Andrew? by Jeff | Tue Nov 20 12:09:22 PST 2001 | Back to Top
What does phosphorus look like? Can you show us a picture
Janet and Hongmai both asked this question. Here's a link you can go to for
a picture of two kinds of phosphorus, yellow and red. http://www.smls.on.ca/academic/Chemistry/Phosphorus/PICTURE.html
If you'd like to know more about this element, read some of the other questions
and answers on this page. It's a very interesting subject. Thanks for the question
janet and Hongmai. by Jeff | Tue Nov 20 10:03:38 PST 2001 | Back to Top
What is Phosphorus?
Thanks for your interest in phosphorus, Jo. Please look below to see my answer
to Lonnie's question about phosphorus and Cindy's question about the discovery
of phosphorus. by Jeff | Wed Oct 24 08:31:58 PST 2001 | Back to Top
Who founded the atom element phosphorous?
Thanks for your question, Cindy. Phosphorus is an element that existed in nature
long before human beings knew what it was. Still, human beings have known about
phosphorus since ancient times, so no one can tell who was the first person
to discover that phosphorus existed. We do know who first "isolated" phosphorus,
meaning he separated it from everything else so that we could see it all by
itself. Phosphorus was first isolated by a German man named Hennig Brandt back
in 1669, or about 332 years ago. Mr. Brandt was an "alchemist." An alchemist
is someone who tried to find out about the nature of the solids and liquids
and gases of our world before the establishment of the formal science we now
call chemistry. Hereâ€™s a link if youâ€™d like to know more about how Mr. Brandt
isolated phosphorus for the first time. http://www.smls.on.ca/academic/Chemistry/Phosphorus/Historical%20Background.html
No one was there to take a picture of the discovery of phosphorus. (And there
werenâ€™t any cameras back then anyway!) Still, there is a famous paining by an
English artist named Joseph Wright that imagines what that moment might have
been like. Even though the painting is make believe, it shows the surprise and
wonder early alchemists probably did have when they first saw the glow from
this special element. Hereâ€™s a link if youâ€™d like to see the painting. http://www.alchemylab.com/discovery_of_phosphorus.htm
If youâ€™d like to know more about phosphorus, please see my answer below to Lonnieâ€™s
question "What is Phosphorus? (June 13, 2001). by Jeff | Wed Oct 24 08:29:31 PST 2001 | Back to Top
what was the element used to make the first compounds
of an element in the noble gases
Good question, Brooklyn. The noble gases are each a special kind of chemical
called an "element," meaning they are some of the basic building blocks of chemistry.
Elements are chemicals that are all one type of atom. All of the elements are
listed on a famous chart called the "periodic table." (Hereâ€™s a link if you
want to see the whole periodic table: http://www.webelements.com).
The noble gases are in what is called "Group 18" and they are all located in
a column along the on the right hand side of the periodic table. The noble gases
are helium (atomic number 2) neon (number 10), argon (number 18), krypton (number
36), xenon (Number 54) and radon (number 86). Elements arenâ€™t made up of other
chemicals, but many can combine with other elements to make combination chemicals
called "compounds." Compounds usually form between elements because of the number
of particles called "electrons" ace they have available for electrons and often
will form compounds to share electrons to fill up available space. Other times,
elements will come together like magnets when one atom has one electron too
many and another element has one electron too few. The noble gases are referred
to as gases because each of them is a gas at room temperature (instead of a
solid, like carbon, or a liquid, like mercury). These gases are called "noble"
because for a long time after they were discovered in 1922, scientists couldnâ€™t
combine them with any other atoms to make a compound. The name "noble gases"
suggests that these gases behaved like royalty because they didnâ€™t mix with
the other elements on the periodic table. (Scientists usually call chemicals
that wonâ€™t react with any other chemicals "inert"). The noble gases werenâ€™t
really being rude, though, just special. Each one of the noble gases has just
the right number of electrons for its availabe, and they arenâ€™t attracted to
other elements with too many electrons or too few. In 1962, scientists discovered
that the noble gases can combine with other elements to form compounds if the
mixture is just right.e elements with the noble gas xenon and succeeded in creating
a compound with all three. Since that time, other compounds of xenon and fluorine
have been discovered as well as compounds with xenon and oxygen. Scientists
have also formed compounds of fluorine and another noble gas, krypton. Thanks
for your question, Brooklyn. If youâ€™d like more detailed information about noble
gas compounds, check out these websites: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/~che210/xenon/
| Back to Top
What is phosphorus?
Lonnie asked, "What is Phosphorus?" Phosphorus is a special kind of chemical
called an "element," meaning itâ€™s one of th. Elements arenâ€™t made up of other
chemical the â€˜Periodic Table." Phosphorus is number 15 on the chart. Hereâ€™s
a link for phosphorus on the Periodic Table if you want to see what it looks
phosphorus. White phosphorus is the most famous kind. Hereâ€™s a link if you want
to see a picture of white and red phosphorus side by side: www.smls.on.ca/academic/Chemistry/Phosphorus/PICTURE.html
The name This name sure fits phosphorus because white phosphorus glows in the
dark! When itâ€™s out in the air, white phosphorus turns a yellowish color and
has a faint glow. It also burns very well. For these reasons, white phosphorus
is used in fireworks. Pure white phosphorus is very poisonous, but pure s have
to make (or "isolate") pure phosphorus from other compounds in the laboratory.
Even though you canâ€™t find pure phosphorus in nature, you can find plenty of
compounds with phosphorous all around and even INSIDE you. Compounds with phosphorus
in them are important for our good health, especially healthy bones and teeth.
Phosphorus compounds also help the cells in our bodies use and store energy.
The best sources for phosphorus are the protein-rich foods like meat, poultry,
fish and eggs, and dried beans. Whole-wheat cereals and graiittle phosphorus
in most fruits and vegetables. Phosphorus is also important for healthy plants,
so itâ€™s often used in fertilizers. People also use phosphorus in making detergents
and china plates. Itâ€™s even part of the scratch pad on the side of a box of
matches. Thanks for asking about phosphorus, Lonnie. Itâ€™s a very special element
and a fun thing to know about. by Jeff | Wed Jun 13 15:59:11 PST 2001 | Back to Top
What is WhyizZat all about?
WhyizZat is a fun site to learn about science and ask science questions. My
name is Jeff, and I have been interested in science since I was in about the
4th grade. I like all kinds of science subjects, including how our bodies work,
what makes up the world around us, what the stars and planets are like. I'm
not a scientist myself, but I've learned a lot about science and what I don't
know I can usually find out.