All things are made of atoms, little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. This is the first popular account of the fascinating story of the atom. No one ever expected the atom to be as bizarre, as capricious, and as weird as it turned out to be. Its story is one riddled with jealousy, rivalry, missed opportunities and moments of genius. John Dalton gave us the first picture of the atom in the early 1800s. Almost 100 years later came one of the most important experiments in scientific history, by the young misfit New Zealander, Ernest Rutherford. He showed the atom consisted mostly of space, and in doing so turned 200 years of classical physics on its head. It was a brilliant Dane, Neils Bohr, who made the next great leap - into the incredible world of quantum theory. Yet, he and a handful of other revolutionary young scientists weren't prepared for the shocks Nature had up her sleeve. Mind-bending discoveries about the atom were destined to upset everything we thought we knew about reality. Even today as we peer deeper and deeper into the atom, it throws back as many questions at us as answers.
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From botany to the atom
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