Relatively speaking, “man stands somewhere midway between the stellar universe and the atom.” The one is well nigh infinitely large — so large that it stretches out into space far beyond the reach of his most powerful telescopes. The other is almost infinitely small — so small that it diminishes into incredible minuteness, and then shaves off into the virtual nothingness of some of its particles, far beyond the reach of man’s most powerful electron microscopes. Both the universe of the stars and the world of the atoms witness to the almighty power and infinite wisdom of our God.
Science defines the molecule as “the smallest particle of any chemical compound.” Most all matter on earth is made up of these tiny particles called molecules. They are the “basic building blocks” of all chemical compounds, such as salt (a compound of sodium and chlorine) and water (a compound of hydrogen and oxygen). Over a million different kinds of molecules (hence that many chemical compounds) are known to modern science.
Yet molecules are small — very small. So small in fact that “a ¼-ounce teaspoon of water has in it 9,940,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules!”
All molecules, even though so small, are divided into yet smaller units called atoms. If a substance is made up of atoms of one kind, it is called an element; but if a substance is made up of two or more kinds of atoms, it is called a chemical compound. While there are, as stated above, over a million known and classified chemical compounds, nature has only around 100 essential elements. *
* In recent years scientists, through modern atom-smashing machines, have created some 12 to 15 more “elements” that are not found in nature. These are usually very unstable, and are beyond the atomic weight of uranium. To science, there are about 107 elements, with nearly 100 of them found in nature.
Sixty years ago the “atom” (word derived from the Greek word that means “that which cannot be cut or divided”) was defined as “the smallest indivisible particle of a chemical element.” In this century scientists have discovered “with mounting astonishment” that the atom is so small that a tungston atom has been estimated to be only 5/1000ths of one-millionth of an inch in diameter.
Inside the Atom
Today we know that all atoms except the hydrogen ** are composed of (1) a nucleus, made up of (a) positively charged protons and (b) uncharged neutrons; and (2) electrons, negatively charged particles that revolve at high speed around the nucleus. Electrons are about 1840 times lighter than protons and neutrons.
** The hydrogen atom has only a proton and an electron. All other elements, from helium on up the atomic scale, have protons, neutrons and electrons.
The nucleus of an atom is so small that it is only “a millionth of a millionth of a millimeter” in diameter! And the electrons whirling around the nucleus are so small it would take roughly 500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them to weigh one pound.
Up to 1930 scientists had discovered only protons and electrons in the atom. In 1932 James Chadwick discovered the neutron. Now scientists have evidence that convinces them that in each atom there are not only protons, neutrons and electrons, but also an impressive list of several dozens of particles in each atom, so that it all becomes very confusing to the average untrained layman. They tell us not only of “photons” (the “quantity unit of radiation”) but also of “pions,” “positrons,” “neutrinos,” “mesons,” and a fantastic array of other particles — and even “anti-particles” — that theoretical and experimental physicists have found evidence for. *
* In the September ‘58, Scientific American Magazine are listed 32 subatomic particles of matter and energy presently known to physicists. In 1962 University of California physicists listed ‘75 subatomic particles and ‘resonances.’ “
It is clear that the minute “indivisable” atom is unbelievably complex — so much so that it is fair to say that scientists never will be able fully to fathom its depths and to know and understand all that constitutes the “sub-atomic world.”
The Six “Miracles” of the Atom
As we consider the marvels of the atomic world, we are literally FORCED to see the Hand of the Almighty Creator — for outside of Divine creation there is absolutely no theory that can adequately account for the wonders of the atom. We list here but six of the many “marvels” of the atom.
(1) The Miracle of the Minute SIZE of the atom, and its Constituent Particles
If an atom is so unbelievably small that “it takes 2,500,000,000,000 protons in a row to make a line an inch long” — how small are some of its lesser particles? Who but an infinite God could create such wonders?
Look around you: you see the dirt, the trees, the houses, the people; look above into the sky and see the stars. ALL things in all the universe are made up of these tiny atoms, each a miracle of creation! How marvelous is our God!
(2) The Miracle of the Tremendous SPEEDS of the electrons in Revolution Around the Nucleus of Each Atom
Each atom is a miniature “solar system,” with the electrons whizzing around the nucleus (protons and neutrons) at astonishing speeds. These minute “electrons” dash around the nucleus “millions of times per second!” Moreover, the electrons revolve around the nucleus “in orbits whose diameters are about 10,000 times larger than the nucleus.”
“Electrons revolve around the nucleus in an orbit less than one-millionth of an inch in diameter; and they make the revolutions several thousand million times every second.”
(3) The Miracle of the “Empty SPACE” in Each Atom
An atom is built like our solar system. IT IS ALMOST ALL EMPTY SPACE. This seems incredible, but it is factual.
“Within the atom, electrons revolve around their nucleus several thousand million times a second. Each electron has as much room to move within the atom as a bee has to move around in a cathedral.” (Sir Oliver Lodge).
Scientists say that “if you eliminated all the empty space in every atom in the body of a 200-pound man he would be no bigger than a particle of dust” (Arthur S. Eddington, in “The Nature of the Physical Universe”). And if the entire earth were likewise compacted “it would become a ball only one-half mile in diameter.”
(4) the Miracle of the ELECTRIC CHARGE IN EACH ATOM
Each proton in an atom has a positive charge of electricity, and each electron has a negative charge that exactly balances the positive charge in the proton, with as many electrons outside the nucleus as there are protons inside. Who put the electricity in the atom, and balanced the normal atom so finely?
(5) The Miracle of the Immense COHESIVE FORCE in the Nucleus of the Atom
Ordinarily, like charges of electricity in different objects that are close to each other REPEL each other; but in the nucleus of the atom God has reversed the law of nature scientists are familiar with (called Coulomb’s Law). In the nucleus of the atom, in which all the protons have a positive charge, instead of repelling each other, they are held together by some unknown force of tremendous power! This phenomenon, to scientists, is the most mysterious thing about the atom; in fact, they call it “the basic mystery of the universe.” (World Within Atoms).
In an article on “Pions,” by Robert E. Marshak, in the “Scientific American,” we read:
“The cement that holds the Universe together is the force of gravity. The glue holding the atom together is electromagnetic attraction. But the glue that holds the NUCLEUS of the atom together is a mystery that defies all our experience and knowledge of the physical world. It is a force so unlike any we know that we can hardly find words to describe it.”
Seeking to explain this mystery, modern atomic physicists have come up with the theory that “in some way, not yet understood, pions (nuclear particles) are certainly involved in the nuclear binding force.”
“The proton and neutron, once supposed to be the ultimate building blocks of matter (are now believed) to consist of a core surrounded by a fluctuating cloud of pions — an arrangement that reminds one of the atom with its nucleus and planetary electrons” — and that gives us this phenomenon; an infinitestimal ‘planetary system’ within an already infinitestimal planetary system! And it’s all so small that this inner core (nucleus) “occupies only a thousandth of a millionth of a millionth of the space within the atom.” (World Within the Atom, Columbia University Press).
This terrific energy, coiled like a spring, within the nucleus of the atom, is known the world over as NUCLEAR ENERGY. Nuclear energy is so tremendous that
“If it were possible to convert one pound of any matter entirely into electrical energy, you could run with it ALL THE ELECTRICAL APPARATUS IN THE U. S. FOR A WHOLE MONTH.”
This “force,” great and mysterious as it is, is spoken of in the Word of God. CHRIST is the source of this power.
“For in Him (Christ) were all things created. . . .all things have been created through Him and unto Him; and he is before all things, and in HIM all things consist (Gr., ‘hold together’)” (Col. 1:16,17).
(6) The Miracle of the Mysterious Action of Atomic Particles
Each passing year brings new discoveries about the atom and its particles — “the basic miracle of the Universe.” Writing in the Saturday Evening Post, on “The Elusive Neutron” (2-5-’61), Donald J. Hughes says,
“Although we can learn to visualize their size, we fail utterly when we witness the action of atomic particles. . . . for the laws governing the action of atomic particles are completely alien to the every day world. . . . The sub-atomic particles, subject to quantum mechanics, act as both a particle and a wave. . . .They show concentration in space, as do particles, and yet they spread simultaneously over a (comparatively) large distance, as a wave does.”
Wonder of wonders! Out of these small atomic particles God created His vast Universe!
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:3).