Tuesday, December 1, 2009
As mentioned before, an element's mass is determined by its protons and neutrons. The electrons, having almost no mass, do no contribute to the mass of an element. An element is defined by the number of protons and electrons it has. The number of nuetrons an element has, however, can vary from atom to atom. Each possible atom is known as an isotope. (ex. Carbon-14) If you go look at a periodic table, you will notice that each element has a given mass. This mass is an average of its isotopes. This does NOT mean that all carbons will have 6 protons and 6 neutrons (don't worry about these calculations, they'll make sense in the next chapter). Just remember that an element can have different number of neutrons, which will change its weight.