We're a little crazy, about science!

Physics for children – Atom smashing!

Here at Loony Labs, we have lots of friends to help us understand physics! So with that, I am happy to introduce my friend Atom.


Atoms are everywhere! They make up everything you see and even the stuff you can’t see! The word atom came from a greek word meaning indivisible [or unable to be broken in smaller pieces]. That turned out to be not true, atoms can be broken up! But we are getting ahead of ourselves, first we should see what basic parts make up an atom.

atom parts

Electrons are negatively charged and orbit the nucleus of the atom. Neutrons are neutrally charged and protons are positively charged, together they make up the nucleus of the atom, but that isn’t all! We can break down those parts even further when we use use enough force!

To break up atoms we use atom smashers like the famous LHC or Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which is where we are going today!


The large hadron collider is basically a tube with magnets that direct whatever the scientists decide to smash together. As you saw, everything has a charge except for the neutron and if something has a charge you can use really strong magnets to direct where it travels!


Of course, the LHC needs lots of maintenance and is currently down right now for some work that needs to be done, in order to fix issues it was having, that way when they turn it on it can run at full power!


So what happens when you smash atoms together? Using math equations like the basic force = mass * acceleration we can determine the mass of things that are broken off from the atom by rearranging the equation to read mass = force/acceleration. Well… that along with several other very complicated and really long equations! Doing this, we can check to see if guesses for what is in an atom is correct!

Theories about what parts are in an atom are made using math, the physicists pick some educated guess for one of the numbers or some new equations [which are math formulas like a+b=c] that are built on existing equations, this can help guide us to figuring out what is actually inside the atom.

But you need a detector to “see” what comes out in order to be able to test your theories and the LHC has some of the worlds largest!


To give you an idea of how big this is, look right under Atom, that is a actual person standing there!


Oh no! It looks like Atom got smashed in the detector!


Wow Atom, I’m glad you made it! I had no idea that during this tour you would be smashed… none at all, okay… maybe a little bit. But we should see what it looks like when atoms get smashed!


The two red lines are the atoms going in! The other lines are the things that get broken off from the atom. It’s like when police have to investigate a bomb, we can piece together what went into making a bomb by finding the pieces of it. Scientists use the same method to figure out what goes into an atom. Most of the things that come off an atom scientists already know about, but every once and awhile we find something that we have never seen before!

Like the Higgs Boson! Which the LHC discovered, it is what gives everything it’s mass [not to be confused with weight]. The Higgs Boson was already guessed to be there, but we had never seen it and seeing is believing.


Image from Toon Pool

So thanks to Atom we now have seen how atom smashers work and a little bit about what goes into figuring out what makes up atoms. Thanks Atom!

And just because I think this is awesome, a second viewing of the movie A Boy and His Atom, made completely of atoms!!


But enough about us, what about you?

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