By Samantha Frost
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Additional resources for Biocultural Creatures: Toward a New Theory of the Human
And among those forms is a very special one: life. Our effort to conceive of matter as variegated formations produced through the constrained interrelations of different kinds of energy will be helped along if we refigure or revise our imaginative conception of what an atom looks like. For a long while, atoms have been portrayed via a solar system model: just as our solar system has a sun around which circle various planets (and protoplanets — poor Pluto), so an atom was understood to have a center or nucleus around which orbited little particles known as electrons.
First, there are layers moving from the middle of the atom outward, which are called shells (visualize concentric ripples created by dropping a pebble into a pond). Second, within each shell is a set number of areas or spatial fields in which a set number of electrons may spin. These spatial fields are called orbitals. Now, given the foregoing discussion, it might seem that the repulsion exercised between electrons in proximity would entail that no two electrons could persist in the same spatial field or orbital.
They arrange and shift themselves around the attractive proton-filled nucleus in patterns that ensure that they are somewhat close to the nucleus yet interfere minimally with one another. If they were to go closer to the nucleus, they would become frenzied in their energetic carbon | 41 movement because of their mutual proximity. So, as Lederman and Hill (2011) explain, generally electrons persist least frenziedly in what is sometimes called a ground state, where there is a balance between the pull of the protons and the repulsion between the electrons (296 – 97).