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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 19:09, 27 February 2013


Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 6 xkcd comics, and only 2094 (34900%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

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Go to this comic explanation

Models of the Atom
J.J. Thompson won a Nobel Prize for his work in electricity in gases, but was unfairly passed over for his "An atom is plum pudding, and plum pudding is MADE of atoms! Duuuuude." theory.
Title text: J.J. Thompson won a Nobel Prize for his work in electricity in gases, but was unfairly passed over for his "An atom is plum pudding, and plum pudding is MADE of atoms! Duuuuude." theory.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a CONFUSED ATOM. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

This comic humorously describes the changing view of how atoms work.

The first model shown, in 1810, is said to be a "small hard ball model." Around this time, John Dalton came up with the most famous maxim of chemistry: "All stuff is made of atoms." Dalton used the idea to explain what is today known as stoichiometry. Thus humans thought up the idea of atoms-- but in lieu of any ideas of how they work, the scientific community likely thought of them as "hard round balls"; thus the name described here.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the study of these "atom" things faced a crisis: where would the newly discovered "electrons" go? In 1904, physicist J. J. Thomson, who discovered electrons, had an idea: maybe the electrons were small point charges moving around in a big mass of positive charge. This was the "plum pudding model," the second model on the comic, called this because people imagined the positively charged mass as a "plum pudding." (The title text references Thomson as well, along with the humorous observation that plum puddings themselves are made of atoms.)

This was one of many competing ideas in the formative years of what-are-atoms-made-of-ology, where Randall claims a 1907 "tiny bird model" (the third model shown) would fit in well. But ultimately, the tentative winner in the battle was the model of Thomson's student Ernest Rutherford, who discovered that the positive charge seemed to be in the center of the atom, and put down his Rutherford model, or "planetary model", in 1911, where electrons orbit a positive charge. This is the fourth model put down.

Transcript

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