The Electron Fluid

So I had this blog initialised for a long time, but it didn’t have anything. Now let me put this article I had written. I actually wrote this a few months ago, but I’m only putting this on the internet now.


by Itai Bar-Natan

Many of you know of a particle known as the electron. They are the one of the
primary components of an atom, along with the nucleus. Some of you may know that
electrons aren’t /quite/ particles. They obey the laws of quantum mechanics,
which means that sometimes they behave like a wave. Indeed, if you learn chemistry
you’ll quickly find out that electrons act in very unparticle-like ways.

Actually, considering electrons to be particles was a mistake in the first place.
They are really more like a liquid.

Let me clarify. I’m not some kind of crackpot who thinks they revolutionized the
entire field of chemistry. I know the electron is not actually a liquid. It’s not
particles either. It’s a quantum field. That said, quantum fields are fairly
complicated objects, and physicists and chemists like to pretend that the electron
is a particle because it is simpler to explain. That is what I seek to overthrow.

In the rest of this article, I will describe many aspects of chemistry and physics from the
perspective that electron is a liquid. For some of you what I say will be entirely new.
For others, you may already know what I have to teach, but will be delighted to
see just how much more sense it makes from this new perspective.

First let me remind you the basics of electricity. Everything has a charge: positive,
negative, or neutral. Positive objects attract negative objects and repel
other positive objects.  Negative objects attract positive objects and repel
other negative objects. Neutral objects are not affected by either postive or
negative objects.

Now, ordinary matter is made out of two materials: electron, which is a negatively
charged liquid, and nuclei, which are positively charged particles. Some nuclei
have larger charges, and some have smaller. All nuclei have a charge which
is a multiple of the proton charge.  Electron accumulates on a nucleus
until its charge cancels out with the nucleus’s charge, making a neutral atom.
While nuclei with larger charge have more electron around them, they also
squeeze it more strongly, leading every atom to have approximately the same size
You’d expect that electron fills up around the nucleus in a spherical shape, getting
as close to the charge as possible. However, for complicated reasons, it tends
to fill up in more complicated patterns, often making the atom lopsided. Rather,
it has a tendency to fill up in what are called orbitals. These are regions
surronding the atom that electron tends to completely fill before filling
up other regions. The ones closest to the nucleus, called 1s and 2s, are
perfectly spherical. The next orbital, however, called 2p, has more of an
oval shape, so when electron goes on there the atom becomes more unsymmetrical.
Beyond that is a long and complicated list which I don’t want to get into
too much detail.

Sometimes electron fills up around more than just a single atom. You see,
in a lone atom, the electron is closer to any surronding objects than the
nucleus. This means that although the atom is neutral, it can attract other
atoms. The other atoms would move close to the atom until their electron
gets mixed up. This is called a chemical bond. Sometimes when this happens
the electron ends up distributed differently among the two atoms than
it was when they were seperate, so that one atom has too little electron
to be neutral and the other has too much. Then the bond is called an
ionic bond. When the atoms remain neutral individually, it is called
a covalent bond.

Now is a good time to mention how electron acts like particles. You
see, electron can’t exist in any possible amount. Rather, the
amount of electron must always be a multiple of a certain quantity,
called a quanta of electron. This quanta has exactly enough charge
to cancel out the charge of a proton, so an atom can always become
neutral while having electron with the right number of quanta. When
a quanta of electron is isolated, it behaves a lot like a particle.  Physicists
doing particle collion experiments with them are justified in thinking of them
as particles in the context of particle collision. They also behave like
particles in a plasma, where the electron quanta form a gas. That said,
I think that in the context of ordinary chemistry, the electron quantum field
behaves a lot more like a liquid than a gas.

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