Meet Dr. Allen Utke of the Department of Chemistry at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, who studies atoms. Part 3/4.
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Laura Wells: When one looks at the many problems humanity now faces, especially that’s ongoing divisions and conflicts. It's not hard to see how the world could benefit from a better sense of perspective. The road to a brighter future will likely be long and difficult and people will rightfully disagree on many issues. Professor Allen Utke and a growing number of thinkers, believe that trying to unite the best of our traditions, scientific and religious could just be that step in a right direction. In the second half of our show, we rejoin Dr. Allen Utke for an in-depth tour of the remarkable atom, from Aristotle to Galileo, Newton to Einstein, scientists, great and small have seen in the physical universe, science of a greater transcendence reality. As Dr. Utke suggest chemistry may have more to say than one might think. Male Host: Over the centuries, many civilizations have struggled with the mystery of matter. Much of that work has led to what scientist now calls the atomic model. Dr. Utke: The idea tat atoms are comprised matter of course moved into the idea that atoms comprise elements. And ever element, iron, gold, silver, whatever it maybe is comprised of its own atoms. But now the question arose are just like the Greeks asked in a different way, are all of the elements somehow related? Male Host: In this model, everything around us is composed of tiny particles called atoms. Different types of atoms are called elements, oxygen, carbon, and potassium, just to name a few. Each element, while unique falls into a carefully arranged family of elements with which shares important characteristics. This remarkable system of order within order was first discovered by Dmitri Mendeleev who would 1868 what has become today the period table of elements. Dr. Utke: Now, the interesting thing about this is that Mendeleev never knew why the elements are related, why they're form certain families, he had no idea. That question was answered toward the end of 1800s. Male Host: What Mendeleev discovered was that the elements of nature occur periodically, that is in set groups according to their atomic weight. Atomic elements closed weight show similar properties. For example, gold looks and acts very much like silver, just as the noble gas neon, resembled its close neighbor in the periodic table helium. This pattern unveil by Mendeleev allow scientists to do more than just guess, how familiar elements might react in an experiment. With the periodic table, scientist can speculate about elements yet to be found. Mendeleev drew up his table with only the 65 elements he knew about at the time. Since then, scientists have uncovered many more, making a total of 112 elements discovered so far. Stunningly, many of these fell right into spaces on the periodic table Mendeleev and later scientists have predicted for them, the periodic table of elements has worked so well it had led some to call it, along with perhaps DNA or the law of physics, a blueprint of creation. Dr. Utke: In 1913, a man by the name of Niels Bohr came along and made another very, very important discovery. Not only are atoms not like a little hard balls but they have a center, pictured here with a little red dot in the center here. They have a center called the nucleus, Niels Bohr discovered the electrons actually move in a very orderly fashion around the center. They revolve in what you might call shells. And in the model here we have four shells shown, electron shells around the center of the atom called the nucleus. Male Host: The atom begins its life as a nucleus of positively charged protons bound together by non-charged buffer particles called neutrons. The positively charged nucleus of protons and neutrons, then attracts a matching set of negatively charge electrons who waste no time lining up in predetermined orbits around the nucleus, depending on the particular arrangement of protons and electron, an atom is born as one element or another with all the features and pow