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Convergent creators
Book - Chapter 2

The idea that the electron could move between different shells or to higher or lower energy states was important, as it became the basis for quantum theory. In the Bohr model, the electron absorbs light (photons) when it jumps to a higher energy state farther from the nucleus (blue color in the diagram). As the electron jumps to a state of lower energy closer to the nucleus, it emits photons (red in the diagram)

The electrons circle the atom in various energy “shells” and the placement of the electrons in space has to be identified as distribution probabilities, which are also called atomic orbitals. The copper atom below has a valence electron in the outermost shell.


A simple model of a copper atom with 29 protons and 29 orbiting electrons. The atomic number of copper is 29. Copper has one electron in its outer shell. The atomic weight of the atom is the combined weight of all particles including neutrons, which also have mass.

Natural Copper Ore Image 2-8x by Dr. James Mayer


As the atom gains electrons, increasing the density of electrons in a shell, the atom increases in size. [4]


Valence electrons orbit in the outermost shell of the atom.


Rotative Plaques (precision object in motion) by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and Man Ray(1890 - 1976). "http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/null66913/2867259279/"><a rel="cc". 1920. This was perhaps one of the first interactive works as it required the viewer to first plug the work in and then stand back and observe the work at a distance.


Louis de Broglie (1892–1987) known for his 1927 theory that matter has the properties of both waves and particles inspired Erwin Schrödinger (1887—1961) to further develop theories on wave mechanics.

Schrödinger discarded the idea of precise electron orbits and instead described electron orbits as having the probability to exist in a place or region of space around the nucleus.

In the Figure below, 3D models of different atoms with the balloon-like elements representing the space that the electrons can exist in.


Schrödinger’s atomic model


The contemporary artist Kenneth Snelson has visualized the atom with its electrons. In his atom model, the particle electrons are replaced by "de Broglie matter-wave orbits", circular building blocks that interact with one another; individual items that fill the space around the nucleus and provide the atom its form and structure. Snelson has created hundreds of stunning 3D visuals and animations on YouTube to describe his understanding of the atom's electron-architecture.



Kenneth Snelson’s model of the atom.The circles represent electron probabilities pushing against each other.


The contemporary artist Richard Harned has also worked to visualize the quantum but as a large-scale kinetic neon installation. In Quantum Ladder (1987), Harned created a sculpture to try and get at the wave/particle duality. In this work, the neon spins within a steel supporting structure creating the illusion of a globe.


Wave/particle duality is the notion that matter and energy can exhibit properties of both particle mechanics and wave physics. For example, light, which is electromagnetic radiation and in the realm of waves, can exhibit the properties of particles.



Quantum Ladder Installation by Richard Harned. 1987. 16ft high x 62ft wide x 30ft deep. Bevier Gallery, RIT, Rochester, NY


Quantum Ladder hypnotically oscillates with a mirror-view that changes the curved things in the room into straight things, metaphorically. The work also has an audio component. Inside square tubing structure are BB ‘s which create tinkling eccentric oscillations which echo visual aspects of the piece and create an immersive experience.

Electrons in all atoms travel in shells around the nucleus at the center of the atom. The energy level of the electron increases as the electron gets farther away from the nucleus, so energy levels of electrons are proportional to their distance from the nucleus.