Science Lesson Size and Behavior of Electrons

A science lesson featuring a number of examples of the size of electrons to help one understand size on an atomic scale.

CONCERNING ELECTRONS

Inconceivably small though individual molecules may appear to us, they are still of vast proportions when compared to electrons.

If, after the Flood (supposed to have taken place around 3000 B.C.), Noah had set himself to string electrons on a thread at the rate of one a second for eight hours a day, the chain so formed would today still be only two tenths of a millimeter long! Composed of hydrogen atoms, the chain would be something like 25 meters (80 ft.) by now.

In hydrogen the electrons travel along their orbital paths with a velocity of 2,000 kilometers per second, i.e., at a speed about one hundred times as great as that attained by any rocket or missile yet launched by man, but light travels a good hundred times as fast as the electrons.

In a conductor, however, their progress may be very slow indeed. For example, when a current of 1 ampere flows through a copper wire with a cross-sectional area of 1 square millimeter, the speed of the electrons is as if a walking man would cover 6 meters (6.6 yd.). per 24 hours. Their forward motion is then like that of a very viscous fluid pressed through a narrowgauge tube; it is only the tremendous number of electrons in transit which results in the transfer of an appreciable amount of energy.

Consider now a 100-watt lamp burning for 1 second at 100 volts. If the displaced electrons were to be represented by an army of soldiers marching shoulder to shoulder in ranks half a meter apart, each rank would contain the population of the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg: 24 million) and the front and rear ranks of the column would be separated by the distance between the earth and the sun (about 150 million kilometers, or 93 million mi.)!

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