Structural Models

Over the years, three dominant structural models of how atoms behave have evolved, namely, the Rutherford Model, Bohr’s Model, and Schrödinger’s Electron Cloud Model, also known as the Quantum Mechanical Model.

The Rutherford model is known as the planetary model. According to this model, the negatively charged electrons revolve around the nucleus, just as the planets orbit the sun. Electrons are said to lose energy as they accelerate when orbiting the nucleus, since they emit electromagnetic radiation in the process of acceleration. According the Rutherford, this energy loss can cause electrons to collide into the nucleus triggering the atom to collapse into pieces.

Bohr’s atomic model adopted Rutherford’s planetary model and speculated that electrons also revolve around the nucleus in circular orbits. Each of these electrons has its specific stations and distinct orbital levels.Niels Bohr improved this model by speculating that an electron can only increase their energy if they jump to a higher energy level. Conversely, it can only emit or lose energy when it jumps down to a lower or ground state. It was, however, found that this model worked well only with hydrogen atom.

The Electron Cloud Model (or Quantum Mechanical Model) was proposed by Erwin Schrödinger in 1926. He theorized that the positions of electrons cannot be measured with certainty . Thus, their exact path outside the nucleus cannot be defined exactly. One is, then, uncertain if electrons move around a central nucleus in a fixed orbit or not.

 Quantum Mechanical Model

The Electron Cloud Model jibes in theory with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. The electron’s definite position can only be predicted in terms of probability function. This statistical probability function pinpoints the dense cloud-like regions, also known as “electron orbitals” where electrons are likely to be found.

Schrödinger surmised that electrons are less likely to be found in less dense regions. But again, he says there is no assurance that they will be there, for it is also probable that they could just be also anywhere in less dense areas.

Pursuing the theoretical models of Rutherford and Bohr, Schrödinger reinforces the view that an electron is situated in a particular region where it continually orbits an atom’s nucleus. He theorizes that there can be more than one electron orbiting a nucleus. Each electron maintains its own state and position. One electron may be located higher or lower than the other. 

If electrons cannot be precisely located, how then can we have a common understanding of reality? And, if my estimate of its position and momentum differs with that of others, does this mean that my perception of reality is subjective and relative and not absolute?

Yes, quantum physics says so. Everything is relative and subjective.

In the end, we are left on our own to choose which of the above three atomic models to use when explaining our reality.

And this is just what scientists are doing.

For example, though it may be analogously inaccurate, one can think of the atom’s organization similar to that of our solar system. The Sun is the nucleus, located at the center, while the planets revolve around it, just as the electrons do. Russian-American Physicist George Gamow (1972) reinforced this atom-solar system analogy by comparing their masses, citing that “the atomic nucleus contains 99.97 percent of the atomic mass as compared with 99.87 percent of the solar system.

If this is true in the world of planets and stars, I imagine this can also be true in the case of our daily life since, as quantum physicists tell us, we are also made of atoms. I could not help but imagine my own little world being the center of all the little worlds out there. Or, maybe, my own little world is part of the many little worlds in this universe revolving around a center, which may also be a creation of another individual that possesses the power and resources to attract all little worlds around it.

We can also take Bohr’s model and apply it in a multidimensional universe. Like electrons, I can also enter into another state of life and existence by simply changing my frequency level and vibration, higher or lower depending on which dimension I want to explore and study.

Bohr’s model can evoke ideas that the universe is so structured that it allows the existence of several universes that may be parallel to ours, places where we can go freely and experience what life out there is all about. In this manner, extraterrestrial worlds may be able to give us insights with regards to the meaning of our life and future.

In the case of the Schrödinger’s Electron Cloud Model, one can look at the entire reality from somebody residing within the nucleus. From this perspective, the reality outside projects itself as filled with uncertainties and probabilities. We know that there are other universes out there but they remain probabilities and unknown to us unless we go out of our restrictive nuclear world and explore the outside world.

In the meantime, everything we may predict about the world outside remains in a state of probability or animation. Nobody is really certain whether or not these predictions will realize; we are also uncertain which of our predictions will be realized. We are back to the statistical probability function of quantum physicists. We just wait and hope that the one we chose will materialize.

We are only talking about electrons, protons, and neutrons, the primary ingredients of our physical universe. Yet, they already give us powerful insights that could be utilized in influencing the nature, process, and direction of our evolution, as an individual and collective species.

Besides these three principal constitutive elements of atoms, there are still much tinnier particles labeled as “subatomic particles,” which we can explore for our advantage.