Saturday, May 06, 2006

Electron Cloud Analogy

Okay, so suppose we wanted to draw a map of where Tiana is at 10 am on a Wednesday. We could draw the school, because we know exactly where that is, and we could draw this classroom inside the school. But how do we show where Tiana is? Is she always in exactly the same place at that time? No.... but we know where she is most likely to be: in this classroom, in science class, in her seat. But she sometimes changes seats, or gets up and moves to a different part of the classroom. And once in a while, she leaves the room to get a drink or go to the office or the bathroom. So she might not be in the classroom at all. And some days, she doesn't come to school at all, like when she has a doctor's appointment. She's probably close to the school, since she lives nearby. And once in a blue moon, she isn't in school and has to travel farther away, to visit a family member, maybe, in another borough or even another state or maybe DR! How can we make one map that shows all these things about where she might be? Well, suppose we shaded the area around her seat. We could shade it in really dark where she is most likely to be, and shade it in lighter and lighter in places where she is less likely to be. This is kind of like the electron cloud diagram - the darker areas tell you that the electrons are more likely to be there, although we don't know that for absolutely certain, and the lighter areas are places where electrons could be, but more rarely. It's not like there's a real fuzzy blue cloud around the nucleus - think of it as a map.

This is the analogy I used with my sixth graders - what do you think? Does it work? Could it be improved?

12 Comments:

Blogger jonathan said...

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12:24 AM  
Blogger Lord Zagato said...

great analogy, they understood it for sure ^_^

7:29 AM  
Blogger the anonymous teacher said...

i get it, and if i get it, a sixth grader should.

1:45 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

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2:05 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:06 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Very strong analogy. I am guessing that they will walk away with a pretty good idea of whatn an electron cloud is.

I've heard similar before, but with sports. I think baseball, soccer, basketball all work. Disadvantage: kids need to know the sport used. Advantage: there is a definite range of likely locations, rather than a single most likely.

jd2718

(sorry for the serial deletions, kept fixing typos by introducing new ones)

2:11 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

that sounds great for 6th graders. the physicist in me scoffs at the near over-simplification of the matter, but I have to learn that not many 11 year olds understand quantum and discrete energy levels.

too nerdy for my own good sometimes.

11:55 AM  
Blogger graycie said...

What a lovely little analogy! They should gobble it up.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Nathan Williams said...

You could use a sports version of the analogy (baseball, anyway) to deal with energy levels. Most of the time, at the low energy level, the ball is with the pitcher or the catcher or in between, with rare excursions to the plates. But when the energy level is kicked up (by a hit), the ball is more likely to be farther out in the field, perhaps with some probability concentrations near the plates.

Or Tiana could take a field trip....

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