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Science, Evolution, and Creationism, by the National Academies, focuses on teaching evolution in today's classrooms. Check out the other publications in our online store.

How do scientists know what an atom looks like, to make a model of one?How do they know that each molecule in the scientific charts has specificprotons, neutrons, and in what orders if an atom cannot be seen? How canyou prove this?

There is no simple answer to your questions. There is no "atomic microscope" which would allow one to look inside an atom and say, "Aha! There's 7 blue protons, 6 green neutrons, and 7 red electrons." The way the structure of the atom was determined was by doing many experiments. Each experiment looked at a different part of the atom.

The results of all the experiments were then put together into what we call a "model". By looking at the model, scientists were able to make predictions about the way an atom should behave. More experiments showed that the atoms behaved the way the scientists predicted. This agreement between the experimental results and the predictions based on the model is what is called "proof".

Submitted by Ashlee (Dallas, TX, USA)
(September 26, 1997)

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA