Home > Science > Not to Bohr you or anything

Not to Bohr you or anything

November 2, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s important to start at the beginning, and it all begins with hydrogen.


That's a hydrogen atom, son! Actually, it's the Rutherford-Bohr model of a hydrogen atom with an electron jumping between two orbital states and creating the first line of the balmer series, but that's neither here nor there.

It’d be rather ridiculous to have an argument over which element is the best, since they all are important in their own unique way, and a number of them combined are absolutely essential to life, the universe, and everything. But if such an argument were to take place, hydrogen would win, hands down.[1]

It’s the most common element in the universe, not to mention Earth’s surface. It makes up 90% of the number of known atoms, and 75% of the mass of the universe. Considering that it’s the lightest of the elements, that statistic should be even more impressive.

Though we’re most used to thinking about it as a gas, hydrogen exists throughout the universe mostly in its plasma state. This occurs mainly within stars, which hydrogen makes up most of. Despite its abundance in the universe, hydrogen is the third most common element on Earth. It exists mostly in water, and is very rarely found in the atmosphere.

The best part about hydrogen is antihydrogen. Since hydrogen is made of an electron and a proton, an antihydrogen atom is made of a positron and an antiproton. Antihydrogen was first created by the CERN laboratory in 1995 by shooting antiprotons at xenon clusters. By doing this the antiproton can sometimes capture a positron from the xenon nucleus, however the probability of this is extremely rare (10-19). In 2002 the process was refined using positrons from a sodium radioactive source; this resulted in a much greater probability of synthesis. Typical rates occurred at 100 atoms per second. The reason for synthetically creating antihydrogen is to figure out better ways to detect its existence throughout the universe.

[1] The term hands down originated as a horse racing term. When a jockey was assured victory he would let go of the reigns and drop his hands to his side; similar to dancing across the end zone, but I wonder how many jockeys ever lost the race by being a hot dog.


(Image taken from wikipedia using the GFDL under wikimedia commons)

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