# number of different atoms ?

Discussion in 'General Science' started by Mathematics!, Feb 16, 2012.

1. ### Mathematics! Thread Starter Senior Member

Jul 21, 2008
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I am curious in the periodic table we have about 118 elements... 98 or so can be found in nature.

My question has anybody proved that their can only be finite amount of atoms.
Thus a finite amount of elements on the periodic tables.

I know in theory elements using the Bohr model > 137 would have problems
Unless of course their where weird electron teleporation stuff occurring ... some type of two worlds or entanglement theory.
But these atoms would have to work totally different or we would have to generalize are understanding of how atoms really work.

But saying we got it right this would imply we can stop searching for elements because none will ever be obtained beyond 137 at best.

This though does not imply a finite amount of molecules unless restrictions on what can bond to what is known and in that way maybe show finiteness of this (but it would be probably rather large or infinity almost for are purposes)

Question
Curious if we assume that their can be only at most a finite amount of elements say 137 do we have some bonding theory that could prove only a finite way of combineding these atoms on the periodic table ... thus proving finite amount of different molecular structures ?
Or is this not know for sure ... I am assuming it is not known and unsolved

Last edited: Feb 16, 2012
2. ### Wendy Moderator

Mar 24, 2008
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2,536
There are atoms we think could exist, but have never been able to synthesize.

Nice thing about science, just where people start getting complacent something comes and tips the apple cart now and then. Then we have to pick up the apples again.

3. ### Blofeld Active Member

Feb 21, 2010
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I think the 137 limit is safe for now. People seem more interested in discovering atoms that are well below this limit, but have a longer lifetime than the currently known heaviest elements:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_of_stability

It's not much fun to play with an element whose half-life is in the millisecond range, especially if you can only create a few atoms of them

4. ### Mathematics! Thread Starter Senior Member

Jul 21, 2008
1,022
4
Well , what I am lead to believe is we have created elements up to and including 118 so we would only have 19 elements left to be found or manufactured.

That is not to much.... but maybe these last 19 will take a lot longer then the rate of discovering/creating the first 118 elements.

As for the elements we create that only last a few milliseconds does anybody know other then research if their is an application to using these manufactured elements.
Maybe in nuclear energy , quantum computing or something else or do these elements have no current application.

Question 2
If their are a finite amount of element like 137 different atoms then is their only a finite amount of chemical bonds that can be made.
Curious of are element which element when mix or put together react is their only a finite amount of element reactions and molecular bonds/ molecules .... or is their an infinity amount. I know with carbon , hydrogen , and oxygen we can make insurmountably molecules/chemical compounds... curious is their infinitely many types or is their a bound on how many compounds that we could make?

What I am getting at is if their is a finite amount of atoms 137 and their is only a finite amount of ways to combined these atoms to make molecules/compounds then their would be only a finite amount of different materials/substances we could make. And in theory reaching this bound or coming close would allow use to for the most part fully understand how matter combines.

Last edited: Feb 16, 2012
5. ### Papabravo Expert

Feb 24, 2006
10,142
1,790
The Bohr model is essentially a classical model.

The actual behavior of the electrons in an atom is governed by Quantum Electrodynamics. There is a fundamental limit to the precision with which position and momentum can be measured, and the act of measurement perturbs the the system you are trying to measure.

I would find an argument about the stability of a nucleus with a large number of nucleons far more plausible.

The total number of atoms in the universe is large but most definitely finite. Same for the total energy -- large but finite.

6. ### Mathematics! Thread Starter Senior Member

Jul 21, 2008
1,022
4
Agreed , I could probably come up with the finiteness by using the fact that the weak and strong forces only act at a very short distance.... if you put enough neutrons and protons in the nucleus you would exceed that distance... etc etc
So if the nuclear forces are the only relevant ones holding an atom together then that would be a proof of finiteness of atoms.
And your thought would also relay on nuclear forces being the only forces holding an atom together and nothing on speed so it would hold in the Quantum Electrodynamics theory as well as the classic. A more general proof.

Agreed, But how the hell could one get an approximation to the number of atoms in the universe? In theory you would need an approximation on how much matter we have and the substances that the matter contains in all of the universe. For energy don't really know maybe you could base it on how much a particular atom energy is and if you had the approx of how many atoms go from their maybe ....
Of course that would only work if provided Energy corresponding to matter.... in that if we had no matter would we have no Energy. Or is their something other then matter that uses/transfers matter. I guess did the finiteness of matter come from the fact that their is a finiteness of matter.

Question 2)
Do you know if we can only have finite different molecules/compounds thus make finite materials from are finite atoms. Or can their be infinity.... basically curious if chemistist know about what can bond to what atoms to the extent that they can determine what is going to happen with out testing it and come up with an answer to a finite amount of bonds to a particular atom.

Last edited: Feb 17, 2012
7. ### Mark_T Member

Feb 7, 2012
47
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Isn't a neutron star just a really big atom.....Atomic number anyone. lol

8. ### Papabravo Expert

Feb 24, 2006
10,142
1,790
The atomic number would be zero since there are (presumably(?)) no protons in a Neutron Star -- Right?

9. ### Mathematics! Thread Starter Senior Member

Jul 21, 2008
1,022
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No , it is not consider an atom.
It is a totally different part of matter made up of subatomic particles.
In fact this example sheds some light on the question of how the forces could be united even though it doesn't unite them.
Thats how I at least think of it. (i.e a different structure of matter kind of the equivalent of before their was atoms their where quarks , and other werid structures that particle physics people are discovering with the LHC ) But basically the smallest stable structures of matter are the atoms on the periodical table (or at least the ones in nature)

Since you may have neutrons and other subatomic particles in a Neutron Star but you don't have the same atomic structure. So you really cann't talk about a Neutron Star is on the same terms as that of atoms in structure and functionality.

Think about what is holding it together not weak or strong nuclear it is gravity mostly.
Plus Neutron Star doesn't last forever it collapses to form a blackhole usually. (so not very stable)
At best you could compare it to an unstable man made atom but even this is a stretch since their are different percentages of different forces involved. (not to say they function completely different)

Does anybody know the answer to this

Last edited: Feb 18, 2012
10. ### Wendy Moderator

Mar 24, 2008
20,766
2,536
Actually, as I understand it this is incorrect. A neutron star is very stable. The only reason it doesn't collapse to a black hole is there isn't enough gravity to finish it off. Unless more mass is added from somewhere this is a static situation. There is residual energy left over from spin, which is where pulsars come from, but eventually, in a very long time span, it does spin down.

You want an interesting subject study look up programmable matter. We are on the cusp of that development.

11. ### Mathematics! Thread Starter Senior Member

Jul 21, 2008
1,022
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well, I still think their is a difference in atoms from Neutrons stars and you cann't compare apples and oranges like this. Functionally your their different.
I see my mistake thanks for catching me on it....

YA, I watch a youtube clip of it.
Pretty neat... I can see many cool applications for it .... making medical casts for breaks , even arm suits ,...etc
But it is to early to see what the extent of it abilities can do.

Essentially we are controlling matter which is amazing to think that we would posses the ability to control matter like that.

Last edited: Feb 18, 2012
12. ### studiot AAC Fanatic!

Nov 9, 2007
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Well that rather depends on if we are assuming a universe with a finite number of atoms to make these molecules form.

Perhaps if you were to rephrase your question it could be discussed further.

Meanwhile you might like to know that chemists have had to revise their ideas several times about this question over the last century.

Firstly with the discovery of polymers then high polymers.

It was originally thought that only carbon could form polymers then in the last 20 - 30 years it has been discovered that many other elements can also do this.

It was also thought that there was a limit to the size of pure carbon molecules but then buckeyballs were discovered.

Of course metallic and ionic crystals are effectively one large molecule, which have no theoretical size limits, only practical ones.

13. ### Mathematics! Thread Starter Senior Member

Jul 21, 2008
1,022
4
Well , I may have phrased my questioned a little odd.

But the point I am trying to make

Is do we have finite possible materials we could ever create or infinity different ones.
Just because we have infinity possible ways of combining atoms does not imply their are an infinity amount of possibilities. Lot of atoms / known molecules we not bond with other ones ,...etc

And even if it is proven that we can only have finite atoms to work with this does not imply finite possible materials. Because their is an infinity amount of arrangements and numbers to use.

So I am getting at is their a limit to the amount of possible different materials / substances we can chemically create.

The only way that I can think of is if their is only a finite amount of molecular bonds that work with every possible atom. But I don't know what the extent of this is at interms of if this is still unsolved with what can bond to what.

14. ### studiot AAC Fanatic!

Nov 9, 2007
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You can only have an infinite number of arrangements if you have an infinite number of atoms.

15. ### Mathematics! Thread Starter Senior Member

Jul 21, 2008
1,022
4
Well, I am concerned with how many different materials we can create finite or infinte?

As for atoms their is alot of support that say's their is only going to by in theory finitely many.

Which is why I am wondering about how many different molecules their are or how many different materials we can create... finite or infinte ?

Based on maybe bonding or other issues don't know if it is proven only finite or if their are infinitely many different materials we can in theory create.

16. ### studiot AAC Fanatic!

Nov 9, 2007
5,005
513
Any finite number of atoms can only be arranged in a finite number of ways (however large) period

Some of these ways will be disallowed for bonding or other reasons.

So the fact remains that to have an infinite number of arrangements you have to have an infinite number of atoms.

17. ### Wendy Moderator

Mar 24, 2008
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I will disagree a little with that statement. There are only 10 numbers, but infinity exists. There are molecules that could use every particle in the universe, but they will never exist. In some sense atoms and numbers do have some similarities.

The numbers of atoms is fluctuating constantly, and there is no way you will use more than a nanoscopic fraction of the universe's material for any molecule, no matter how big. From a practical standpoint we are approaching a lesser infinity, though it is merely numerous.

If there is a multiverse (more than one universe) it just mixes things up more in terms of practical numbers.

So the theoretical number of molecules can approach infinity, while the practical number of molecules can't. No matter how many molecules you know there are ones waiting to be discovered, even if it is a simple chain of atoms. If it is a chain, you could (theoretical) always add one more atom.

One of the key concepts of infinity is now matter how big the number, you can always add one more. It is what defines greater and lesser infinities.

This is not a point I care to argue, it is a form of sophism.

Last edited: Feb 21, 2012
18. ### studiot AAC Fanatic!

Nov 9, 2007
5,005
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Howdy, Bill.

Which of those 10 numbers represents this one - ∏ ?

Pi is different from any number you can write in decimal notation, even with an infinite number of digits.

But that aside, backalong there was discussion about the number of atoms in the universe, which was stated (not by me) to be finite.

If that is so then the largest molecule a deity could make would incorporate all of them and if there U atoms in the universe these could be arranged in

$\Sigma$ U! + (U-1)! + (U-2)! ..+ (1)! + (0)! - 1`ways

Which is finite.

19. ### Wendy Moderator

Mar 24, 2008
20,766
2,536
And you could always add one more atom to the chain. An open ended molecule is a lot like a complex number, it never ends, except for the physical limitations of the universe. It is the difference between theory and practical.

20. ### studiot AAC Fanatic!

Nov 9, 2007
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If you look at my post#12, you will see that not only have I made the distinction between theoretical and practical, but also alluded to other forms of molecule that can also be theoretically infinite.

Last edited: Feb 21, 2012