Friday, January 9, 2009

The Diameter of the Atom


Everything in the universe is composed of atoms--yet atoms are almost entirely empty space. The reason is that 99.9 percent of the atom's mass is concentrated in it's nucleus. If the atom were the size of a basketball, its nucleus would still be invisible to the naked eye. If the nucleus was magnified to the size of a softball, the nearest electron (in the first shell) would be located about 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometer) away. In reality atoms are about 1 angstrom (one-ten-billionth meter) in diameter.

~The NY Public Library Science Desk Reference, 1995

Of Note: We learn the rudiments of science starting in grade school. Most of us don't get past the bare essentials so rely on "experts" to tell us what we don't know about the world. Ageless Wisdom brings a person smack-dab in the middle of science once again. These new scientific teachings are difficult because they often turn our old crystallized beliefs upside down. The inquirer comes to realize that the effects viewed by scientists are subject to interpretation that may or may not approximate the Truth. Thing is, the scientists themselves don't admit their lack of certitude. Often unsubstantiated "facts" become purported "truths." Once printed, crystallization ensues. What to do? One idea--hold judgment, act as the Observer. This sounds easy until we butt up against such entrenched concepts as Black Holes or Red Shift, for example. Each is a mathematical hypothesis and not proven fact. If that is a surprise, then it might be time to stand back and realize how little we really know for lack of direct observation. Even the description of the atom above is open to debate as one has never been directly observed. (If an atom were to be seen, however, it might resemble the skyward formation Marie captured in this recent photo...a little imagination might help as well.)

Today's Weather Report: 20 below zero again greeted us upon rising. With the sun shining, though, the temperature has finally risen above zero, but Jim said running at 10 below this morning was a real treat. Reports have it that next week we are to get a blue norther' streaming down from the Arctic and temps may be minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit in NYC! Here, who knows. 30 below maybe? That will make the 45 degree temp in the unheated bedroom seem like Florida.

Watch For Change Snippet: Whether science knows exactly WHY something works does not stop it from innovation and inventions that DO work. Technology can be bane or boom depending on how it is utilized. One innovative use of technology put wireless Internet access into Grapevine, Arkansas school buses. The program called the Aspirnaut Initiative gives high-performing students laptops or video i-pods so they can take online courses for the long rides to and from school--sometimes 60 minutes or more in this rural area. The program was the brainchild of a local who was on the verge of dropping out of school when a mentor helped kindle an interest in science. The man later became an renowned kidney specialist in a big city. A few years ago, he and his physician wife went back to Grapevine to return the favor and find a promising student to mentor. After accepting a school bus ride, however, these two visionaries realized that many students could be served rather than just one, and the Aspirnaut Initiative was born. On-line classes now allow regular interaction with far-flung teachers. The response has been enthusiastic though tempered by the fact that balancing a computer on a lap with the distractions on a bus can be challenging. The project is slated to grow to all of Arkansas and into parts of Kentucky and Tennessee if additional funding can be procured.

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