Visualizing an Atom's Size
I am trying to help my students visualize the size of an atom and
to things they know. Do you have some examples I could give them that might
I have one: the atom could be the size of St. Peter's Basilica in Roma and
the nucleus a grain of sand. But not very many of my students are familiar
with St. Peter's size [we do know it covers 163000 sq ft]. Thank you Deena
163000 sq ft would be about the size of 5 1/2 football fields (not
the end zones). Note that I am remembering a football field as being 300 ft X
100 ft. If I'm incorrect then make the appropriate corrections.
You might want to call up the local malls and see how many square feet they
are. Complete accuracy is not required. The concept is that there's a lot of
'empty' space in an atom.
But of course this example has to do with comparison of interatomic distances,
not comparing atoms with macroscopic things.
A typical atom is on the order of 2E-8 cm in diameter. If you made a model
with atoms the size of a basketball then an object the size of a dime would be
comparable in size to the earth.
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Update: June 2012