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Question:
I am trying to help my students visualize the size of an atom and relate it to things they know. Do you have some examples I could give them that might help? 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



Replies:
163000 sq ft would be about the size of 5 1/2 football fields (not including 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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