The Atoms Wearing Out Thread

As far as I can see, he's just jumping on the 'forever' part of the claim to score points, not to actually illustrate anything interesting.

edit to add: It's probably also worth pointing out that even if you fuse or fission an atom, it's not wearing out, any more than shooting bullets through a tire is wearing THAT out. Once you've made that new atom, if it's a stable isotope, it will apparently be stable for the lifetime of the universe, unless and until you apply enough energy to fuse or fission it again. As long as you don't, it will just keep working forever, making bonds or not making bonds as its atomic counts dictate.

The Wikipedia page points out that this isn't absolutely certain, because we haven't watched atoms for the whole lifetime of the universe to know that they, indeed, do last that long. But they appear to, and the math says they do, so that's an excellent operational truth unless something more true comes along.

In other words, you're just playing useless games, Larry. All you're trying to do here is score points.

You also made the initial statement about both atoms and molecules, not just atoms.

Yes, that was a little sloppy, and I refined it. You could have just pointed that out yourself -- that what I'm saying is more or less true, but that the claim was a bit too broad. But you're playing for points here, you're trying to Win Internet Arguments, not discover and/or share the truth.

The truth appears to be that an atom of a stable isotope, once formed, will stay in that form, absent extraordinary energies, for the lifetime of the universe, no matter how many chemical reactions it undergoes.

You keep dancing around and around and around, trying to score points. It's all just heat and noise and means nothing. You're putting arbitrary and stupid demands on me, and then crowing about winning when I don't play your way.

I'd be happier, Larry, if you used the Greasemonkey script to ignore me, because you really aren't adding anything to my life with this nonsense. And I doubt very much you're adding anything to anyone else's. Instead of marveling at the fact that atoms keep doing their thing for the next closest thing to forever, unchanged by chemical reactions, you've dragged us off into an argument about goddamn semantics.

I think you ought to review my posts with Dimmerswitch's post in mind. I referenced the sun, and so did he, but I think his rhetoric is better.

The fraction of atoms in the sun as an expression of all atoms in our solar system is a fairly convincing majority, and I'm willing to accept that as representative of most star systems in the universe provisionally.

This implies that most atoms in star systems in the universe we can observe are inside what are essentially fusion reactors. I won't press the counter position, but right now, it seems more convincing to me that most atoms are actually in flux rather than stable, especially as you've done nothing to advance your thesis!

I mean, if you can't be bothered to look up 'atom' on Wikipedia, Larry, where they say pretty much exactly what I've been saying, then you're just playing for points. It has nothing to do with learning or sharing the truth, you're just trying to win an argument.

edit: check this section from 'Stable isotopes':

Definition of stability, and natural isotopic presence

[...]Many isotopes that are classed as stable (i.e. no radioactivity has been observed for them) are predicted to have extremely long half-lives (sometimes as high as 10^18 years or more). If the predicted half-life falls into an experimentally accessible range, such isotopes have a chance to move from the list of stable nuclides to the radioactive category, once their activity is observed. Good examples are bismuth-209 and tungsten-180 which were formerly classed as stable, but have been recently (2003) found to be alpha-active. However, such nuclides do not change their status as primordial when they are found to be radioactive.

In other words, according to LarryC, LarryC wins the argument.

Yay. That was pointless.

By the by, asking you to cite sources for your thesis is neither arbitrary nor stupid. It's clarifying and informative, which is why most scientific papers are riddled with references to related studies, as boring and unhelpful as that might be to lay readers.

Asking for clarification, precision, references and proof - this is how a scientist talks about science topics. I thought you would appreciate it.

Carry on.

Oh, you are so full of it, LarryC. The stuff I'm talking about, atoms not wearing out from chemical reactions, as Dimmer points out, is absolutely first-year chemistry. Last I checked, doctors had to take quite a lot of chemistry to get their degrees.

Further, my claim was that atoms don't wear out. If you were wondering what I meant, you could have looked it up:

verb /we(ə)r/ 
wearing, present participle; wears, 3rd person singular present; wore, past tense; worn, past participle

1. Have on one's body or a part of one's body as clothing, decoration, protection, or for some other purpose

Hmm, that can't be it. How about definition 6:

Damage, erode, or destroy by friction or use.

Gee, that looks right.

So you're deliberately misunderstanding 'wear', pretending you don't have knowledge you already have, and demanding that I post information from first-year chemistry textbooks.

This is disingenuous bullsh*t, LarryC. You are trolling, and you are wasting everyone's time.

This really, really reminds me of my daughter (4 years old at the moment) who, when I tell her that it is time to go to bed, yells at me "But I can't go to bed. Water is wet!!"

Not at all, Malor. I have already stipulated that I agree that molecular reactions would not affect atoms. I don't see what's so amazing about it, though, since those reactions are called "molecular" and not "atomic."

You did not specify this in your initial statement, in which you also included molecules. Removing movelcules is changing the statement, not refining it.

None of this proves that atoms "stay the way they are, basically forever," since that would assume that most reactions that happen to most atoms are molecular in nature.

Note also that my very first post objecting to your statement mentions fusion reactions in stars. If you wanted to simply say that atoms do not change in most chemical reactions, you might have restated your position as such then and there, and I would have agreed with that generalization.

As it is, your current statement is so far removed from the first one that I despair of any proof along those lines.

MacBrave wrote:
I bet God could do it.


Or Chuck Norris

TheGameguru wrote:
MacBrave wrote:
I bet God could do it.


Or Chuck Norris

Did you get the questions that the Department of Redundancy Departments was questioning you about?

Wow, this thread is definitely bringing out the best in everyone!

PAR

The original claim was this:

You know, it's interesting, when you think about it, that atoms and molecules mostly don't wear out. Some are unstable and, thus, radioactive, but most are not, and will stay the way they are the next closest thing to forever. A macroscopic magnet can easily wear out by having its individual charge carriers randomized, but the atoms that carry the charge will have a charge forever. It'll become a macroscopic magnet again as soon as they're all lined back up.

Which, if you actually look up the definition of "wear":

Damage, erode, or destroy by friction or use.

remains substantially true. Atoms, at least, can be changed, but not degraded, even in the heart of a star. Any given atom, unless it's actively torn apart and remade, will continue to work, perfectly, for a practical definition of forever.

heavy edit here:

You could have just helped me say this better. You knew this was mostly right, just not quite there, and instead decided to Win an Internet Argument instead of just pointing out that it doesn't really apply to molecules, just atoms. Instead, you turned it into a personal attack, "You don't have the science...." yadda yadda, when you knew perfectly well this was more or less accurate.

Feigning ignorance is unattractive behavior.

I don't want to play junior moderator here, but I wonder if this thread would be better directed into PM territory.

I was not feigning ignorance, Malor, and I didn't know that that was what you meant. Frankly, it's astoundingly bad to say "Atoms and molecules" when you mean "really just atoms," and "physics" when you mean "chemistry."

I still do not think that the initial statement was anywhere close to "mostly right," and it's not a personal attack to ask you to present the science behind your assertions. It's a challenge and a call to discussion, but not a personal attack. If I called your behavior unattractive and said that you were a liar - that would be a personal attack.

Paleocon:

The way it's going, probably. I was hoping for a science discussion of some sort, something interesting.

Along those lines, I was hoping to talk about the time scale, too. Malor implies that the duration of the Earth's skin being separate from the fusion furnace of the sun "the next thing to forever," but I'm surmising that it must be something finite - maybe like 5 billion years - before the sun goes red giant on us and engulfs the Earth. Still longer than anything that would have any pragmatic impact.

I was hoping to talk about atoms, molecules, time, and various reactions.

Generally, I've always interpreted it as how Malor describes it. An atom of an element is just that. Combine it, seperate it, making pretty molecules to infinity and beyond.

What about the radioactive elements. They have half-life, which in a simple way equates to kinda wearing out.. doesnt it?

Maybe?

I dunno anything. Just trying to find a point where both of you may be correct based on certain scenarios, so you can hug and play games together again.

To hopefully answer a few questions:
1) Nuclear fusion occurs only in the sun's core.
2) The core accounts for about 40% of the sun's mass and about 10% of its volume.
source

My totally general and basic understanding was that all atoms had half-lives, but the "radioactive" atoms have half-lives many orders of magnitude less than stable atoms . I was under the impression that eventually, many billions of years from now, all matter will be in a cloud of disperse iron atoms.

Irongut wrote:
Generally, I've always interpreted it as how Malor describes it. An atom of an element is just that. Combine it, seperate it, making pretty molecules to infinity and beyond.

What about the radioactive elements. They have half-life, which in a simple way equates to kinda wearing out.. doesnt it?

Well, Malor references a pretty decent meaning of the word "wear." Radioactive atoms don't change because of use, and certainly not because of friction. They change because they're unstable. The best word to describe this process is, I think, the word that's actually used to refer to it - decay.

Why split worn atoms
when satisfaction is found
splitting atomic hairs

- Irongut
Month of January, in the year of 2012

Irongut wrote:
Why split worn atoms
when satisfaction is found
splitting atomic hairs

- Irongut
Month of January, in the year of 2012


Bravo!

I messed up in the last line with one too many syllables.. dang.

Correction then hara-kiri:

Why split worn atoms
when true satisfaction is
in splitting of hairs

- Irongut
Month of January, in the year of 2012

It's not that at all. I wouldn't consider radioactive decay as "wear" anymore than I would consider the disappearance of my dinner due to my "using it" as "wear." It's the uncertainty that made me focus on later clarifying statement "will stay as they are," in Malor's initial thesis.

Yonder wrote:
My totally general and basic understanding was that all atoms had half-lives, but the "radioactive" atoms have half-lives many orders of magnitude less than stable atoms . I was under the impression that eventually, many billions of years from now, all matter will be in a cloud of disperse iron atoms.

Typically stable atoms have half lives so long that they can't be estimated, it's not just that the half life is billions of years. And some nuclides are understood to be energetically stable to all types of decay, so attempting to calculate a half life is an actually meaningless exercise.

Anyhoo... Sure, the majority of atoms in the universe seem to be Hydrogen and Helium and the vast majority of them are inside stars, with some being transmuted by fusion into other atoms but conceptualising that process in terms of "wear" fundamentally misunderstands what atoms are. There is nothing about an atom that can become worn, certainly not in the sense of macroscopic objects that we interact with. That said I did understand what Malor was originally getting at so I don't really understand what this little to do is about.

I was only able to skim the whole thread but the one thing that I noticed that was missing were the parameters under which the statement, "atoms don't exhibit wear" would be true. Also, as many have said, what would constitute wearing out an atom?

Personally, I would have started with an adiabatic system in a vacuum. With no energy going in or out and no other atoms for a test atom to interact with, then you'd at least establish a common starting point for proper discourse. Then you could introduce other conditions like energy in various wavelengths, bombarding the system with high speed electrons, subparticles, protons, neutrons, etc. In the end, you would at least find the conditions under which the atom exhibits not 'wearing out' and the conditions where it exhibits 'wear out'.

I could be wrong, but I think that a concept that would be pertinent to this discussion would be entropy. I seem to remember hearing that as the entropy in our universe tends toward infinity all atoms will be eventually break apart into their constituents thus leaving behind a homogenous mixture of protons, neutrons and electrons or something like that.

In essence, the argument thus far has been based upon miscommunication and a distinct lack of scientific method (I am not to well versed in the scientific method though). If this is truly a discussion, then there is no need for one individual to be correct at the expense of the other being wrong.

On a side note, since particles exist as a probability waves, as modeled in Quantum Physics, I'd be interested to know if making an observation and thus collapsing the probability wave over and over again has any effect on an atom. I am only a neophyte when it comes to Quantum Physics, but I'd be interested to know if an atom that is measured time and time again is any different than an atom that is measured less.

Ok, so the entire argument was a moot point because Malor and LarryC were each using a semantically different meaning of "wear out" in regards to the atomic lifespan, right? Because otherwise this thread is so far over my head that I just don't see it.

TheGameguru wrote:
MacBrave wrote:
I bet God could do it.


Or Chuck Norris

Yes, LarryC confused 'wear out' with 'immutable'.

I can speak for myself, Malor, and I definitely did not do so. Obviously, were I inclined, I would have confused "NOT wear out" as "immutable," not the other way around.

The thing is, Malor, you were using "wear" as a concept referring to atoms, when the concept of "wear" would simply not be applicable. Friction does not degrade atoms, unsurprisingly; and chemical reactions do not do so either, also unsurprisingly.

Farscry wrote:
Ok, so the entire argument was a moot point because Malor and LarryC were each using a semantically different meaning of "wear out" in regards to the atomic lifespan, right? Because otherwise this thread is so far over my head that I just don't see it.

As far as I understand it, Malor was using "wear" to refer to the specific observation that atomic nature does not change when atoms engage in chemical reactions, whereas I was under the impression that it related to atomic change in the general. I find the use unintuitive and strange, myself.

CSteel:


In essence, the argument thus far has been based upon miscommunication and a distinct lack of scientific method (I am not to well versed in the scientific method though). If this is truly a discussion, then there is no need for one individual to be correct at the expense of the other being wrong.

That is perfectly true. I had already conceded that Malor is using valid scientific theory and confirm-able observation when he says that atoms do not exhibit change in molecular reactions.

What is occurring is not, I would say, scientific method proper, since that is a description of experimental methodology. It's something more along the lines of peer review. Malor is forwarding a thesis, and I am pointing out its weaknesses. That said, there hasn't been much of that going on, either, admittedly.