The Structure of the Atom


Author: Richard Lewis

Last update: 1st November 2001




The theoretical model of the structure of the atom based on protons, neutrons and electrons is useful in explaining the periodic table of elements with each element having a different number of protons neutrons and electrons. The model is not helpful in trying to understand the internal structure of the atom.

The curved space theory applies the concept of space-time curvature to the structure of the atom. This is the start of an attempt to provide a unifying theory which explains phenomena on a very small (atomic) scale and on a very large (cosmological) scale.

The concept of the equivalence between mass, energy and space curvature is described in the curved space theory of the structure of the universe (

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It is important to clarify the definition of a particle in this context. We refer to electrons and photons as particles even though they have wave-like properties. When we talk about particle-like properties we mean that it is a discrete entity which is localised in space.

The actual behaviour of electrons and photons is such that they are discrete entities which are localised in space during emission, absorption or detection but behave like non-localised 'packets of wave energy' during transmission. The particle-like properties of photons and electrons are only applicable during emission, absorption and detection. The particle-like behaviour is due to the quantum effect which means that discrete units of wave energy are transferred during emission or absorption.

It is therefore not correct to think of a light beam as a stream of photons since the particle-like behaviour occurs only when the photon is emitted, absorbed or detected. Any particle like behaviour that we detect occurs only because light may behave like a particle when we detect it.

There is a logical difficulty in trying to define the structure of the atom in terms of smaller and smaller sub-atomic particles such as protons, neutrons and electrons and then quarks. The problem is that at each stage of subdivision we have to describe the structure of the sub-atomic particle and the nature of its binding forces. The curved space theory of the structure of the atom proposes a model in which the emphasis is placed on wave-like properties. In this model the structure of the atom does not depend on the concept of sub-atomic particles.

The idea of wave-particle duality is replaced with a wave model on the basis that only one physical model is needed to explain all physical properties. Quantum theory can become part of a unifying theory when particle models are excluded.

The attempt is made to explain all phenomena in terms of wave energy and space curvature taking into account the quantum rules regarding discrete energy states.

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Light is described as an electromagnetic wave. It has wave-like properties, as can be seen from the interference pattern generated when light from a single source passes through a barrier with two slits. The discrete quantum emissions of light are called photons. The particle-like character of light relates to the way in which light appears to behave as discrete bundles of energy during emission and absorption. This means that when light is emitted, the amount of energy can not take all possible numerical values but must take discrete values or quanta of energy.

Electrons behave in a similar way. The equivalent electromagnetic wave will also produce the interference pattern in the double slit experiment as with light. When the interference experiment is modified so that we try to determine which of the two slits the electron passed through, we can only recognise an electron by any detection mechanism if we detect the entire quantum of energy. As soon as we modify the experiment to determine which slit the 'electron' passed through, the quantum nature of the energy means that we have changed the conditions of the experiment and the interference pattern disappears.

Light and electromagnetic waves in general behave like waves during propagation and are emitted or absorbed in quantum units.

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Space Curvature

A central hypothesis in the curved space theory is the equivalence of mass, energy and space curvature. The concept of space curvature is a special case of the space-time curvature which is part of the general theory of relativity.

One of the properties of space is its ability to support electromagnetic wave propagation. This wave propagation can be considered to be equivalent to the propagation of changes in space curvature.

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The concept of the equivalence of mass, energy and space curvature implies that the atom is itself a small scale curved space structure. In the same way as an electromagnetic wave results in a local but moving curvature of space, so an atom is a static electromagnetic wave or curved space entity.

Let us examine the implications of this model. The atom can be considered as stored electromagnetic energy conforming to the formula E = mc2. We have earlier proposed to consider an electromagnetic wave as a propagation of a change in space curvature. It is then consistent to describe an atom as a static or bound electromagnetic wave or as a curved space structure.

How is it possible that a mass as small as an atom can cause a curved space effect? A clue must lie in the fact that gravitational effects are proportional to mass and inversely proportional to the square of distance. So for a fixed mass, that of the atom, the gravitational effect will rapidly increase with decreasing distance. The mass at the centre of the atom is so close together that it results in the curved space structure which is the atom.

The concept of an atom as a curved space structure is helpful in the following ways:

- It explains why we can not apply the macroscopic laws of linear space to the structure of the atom.

- It explains the physical resilience of the atom within a defined spatial region.

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The conclusion that the atom contained a nucleus was based on an experiment in which alpha particles from a radioactive source were fired at a very thin gold foil. Most of the time, the alpha particles only changed direction a little, but very occasionally the particles were deflected through a very large angle. Measurements of the number of particles deflected led to the conclusion that the atom contains a nucleus which is 100,000th of the size of the atom. An alpha particle is described as consisting of 2 protons and 2 neutrons. This is equivalent to a helium atom with no electrons. The conclusion that the atom has a nucleus was based on an assumption about the physical nature of the collision between the alpha particle and the gold atom.

An alpha particle has non-zero mass. It is considered as a curved space structure with atomic number 2. Gold has atomic number 79 and is a much larger curved space structure. The conclusion of the alpha particle experiment was that the alpha particle was able to pass though the outer shell of the atom and only in the very rare occurrences of a head-on collision with the nucleus did the alpha particle get deflected by a large angle.

Because we are dealing with the collision of curved space structures, we have to revise our thinking and consider the 'wave-like' properties of the collision. It is proposed that the deflections through a very large angle only occur when there is a direct collision which results in all of the wave energy associated with the alpha particle being reflected back from the gold atom. For indirect hits, the wave associated with the alpha particle can pass through or around the gold atom with little or no deflection.

The curved space model of the atom does not include the concept of a nucleus with protons and neutrons and orbital electrons. Instead we have a curved space structure with discrete energy levels corresponding to the atomic number of the atom.

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The periodic table of elements classifies each atomic element by atomic number. This atomic number defines the number of 'protons' in the nucleus. In the curved space theory, the atomic elements are the set of stable (or partially stable) curved space structures which can exist. The energy levels are in discrete steps which correspond to the atomic number of the element.

It is hard to visualise the precise 'geometry' of these curved space atomic structures. Is the curved space energy stored at the surface? Is it a multi-layer structure with each layer corresponding to a line of the periodic table? Is it a spherical, or a nearly spherical torus structure giving it polarity? How are chemical bonds made to form molecules? Can we visualise or measure the interaction between the curved space structure and its non-curved space surroundings? With the curved space theory in mind, we may be able to devise experiments which can answer these questions.

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Uncertainty Principle

The uncertainty principle of quantum theory places limits on the precision with which the position and momentum of a 'particle' can be measured. Since we are excluding the concept of a 'particle' and considering only wave characteristics, the uncertainty principle does not form part of the conceptual basis for this theory. Instead of considering probability distributions of particles, the approach is to consider the equivalent wave properties.

Probability distributions of particles lead to problems at the theoretical model level such as:

- The conceptual problem regarding the use of probability in physical laws. I am referencing here Albert Einstein's famous comment 'God does not play dice'.

- The conceptual problem with the idea of a point particle of zero radius.

An important distinction is made here between probabilistic effects and probabilistic entities. There is no conceptual problem with probabilistic effects such as a bell curve distribution outcome in an experiment or an equation to determine the probability that electromagnetic wave energy will result in absorption at a particular point in space. There is a conceptual problem with a model in which atoms are proposed to have an electron 'cloud' which equates to a probability distribution of a point particle.

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Nuclear Forces

The concept of strong and weak nuclear forces has been put forward to describe the nuclear forces of the atom. The strong nuclear force is said to provide the force which holds together the nucleus of the atom. In a model which excludes the concept of a nucleus of neutrons and protons, the concept of nuclear forces has to be revised. The curved space structures which make up the set of atomic elements have an inherent stability. This stability of a static electromagnetic structure can be overcome by sufficiently high energies. It therefore appears that the atom is held together by a strong nuclear force, but in a model in which there are no sub-atomic particles, there are no separate parts of the atom to be held together. Instead, we have to find a way of modelling the curved space structure itself to gain a better understanding of the nature of its stability.

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Subatomic Particles

In the field of nuclear physics, the theoretical models relating to 'sub-atomic particles' are complex. Much of the experimental research into the structure of the atom has been conducted using accelerators which create energy beams of millions of electron volts which have the capability of 'splitting the atom'. The variety of 'particles' detected by this process are the result of the interaction between the high energy beam, the target and the detection mechanism. The resulting 'sub-atomic particles' can be considered as different forms of wave energy which are produced by the accelerator. The assertion that these 'particles' are the building blocks of the atom is not valid since the energy applied by the accelerator has to be considered as a major contributor to the output of the collision. Once the collision has taken place, the original structure of the target is destroyed and converted into completely different energy entities.

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By considering material objects as comprising atoms which are curved space structures, we have a new way of considering the concept of inertia, momentum and acceleration. The interaction between a curved space structure and its non-curved space environment is such that it requires an external force to displace the object from rest in a given frame of reference.

From the special theory of relativity, we know that if we accelerate an object from rest, its mass will increase and tend to infinity as the speed of the object approaches the speed of light. It is known from this that it is impossible to accelerate an object with non-zero mass to the speed of light or beyond. When we think of the object with non-zero mass as comprising curved space structures, any attempt to accelerate the object to the speed of light would, in effect, transform the atoms in the object from a static electromagnetic form to a dynamic electromagnetic wave travelling at the speed of light. In such a 'thought experiment', we would not expect the static structure to retain its rest structure as it approaches the speed of light.

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Properties of Space

The following summary of the properties of space is based on the theories of special and general relativity, quantum theory and the curved space theory.

1. Space is finite.

2. Space has a boundary which is receding at the speed of light.

3. Space is uniformly expanding at the rate of approximately one part in 15 billion per year.

4. The expansion of space results in the release of energy and the creation of matter.

5. Space supports electromagnetic wave propagation.

6. The speed of light in a vacuum is a universal constant for all uniformly moving observers.

7. Within space, stable electromagnetic structures may be formed, for example atoms, stars.

8. Electromagnetic energy is constrained to exist in discrete quantum units. This applies to atoms and the emission, detection and absorption of electromagnetic waves.

9. Space is curved in the vicinity of a massive object.

10. The universe as a whole has a curved space structure.

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The structure of the atom is explained using a curved space model. The objective has been to provide a new theoretical model which can provide the impetus for a different approach to experimental investigation and mathematical modelling. It may be possible to derive a mathematical model for the structure of the atom by finding specific solutions to the General Relativity equations for space time curvature, constrained by quantum energy levels.

Also, considering electromagnetic energy as a wave and discarding the concept of an electromagnetic particle also offers a new insight into the function of the human brain (

Taken together with the curved space theory of the structure of the universe, this offers the potential for a unifying theory. The understanding of our physical environment depends fundamentally on the full understanding of the behaviour of three dimensional space in all its forms.