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What are Elements?

Updated on February 25, 2011

The Basics

Everything is composed of basic substances called elements. An element is a substance that cannot be broken down to simpler substances with different properties by ordinary chemical means. There are 92 naturally occurring elements that serve as the building blocks of matter. Six elements-- carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur-- make up 95% of the body weight of all organisms. The acronym CHNOPS will help you remember these six elements.

What are atoms?

Elements consist of tiny particles called atoms. An atom is the smallest part of an element that displays the properties of the element. A number of subatomic particles make up atoms. The three you are probably familiar with: protons (which are positive) , neutrons (which are neutral), and electrons (which are negative). Protons and neutrons are found within the nucleus of an atom. Electrons move about the nucleus within the electron shell.

Atoms have an atomic number, symbol, and mass number. Protons and neutrons in the nucleus determine the mass number of an atom. The atomic number indicates the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom.

What is the periodic table?

The periodic table was devised once a number of elements were discovered. Chemists realized there were recurring chemical and physical characteristics in the elements. The periodic table arranges elements by their atomic numbers and according to common characteristics.

In Summary

Everything is composed of elements. Living things are made mostly of six elements known as CHNOPS. Elements are made of subatomic particles called atoms. Elements are arranged on the periodic table by their atomic numbers and according to common characteristics.


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      Jalus 6 years ago

      This is great information. Enjoyed it - no rant - just thanks!

    • profile image

      shahid Bukhari 6 years ago


      I am discussing ... The Ordained Way of Life ... not any Religion ... as you have hurriedly presumed, and reacted, in response to my post.

      Because,there is much more to Existential Reality, than any Science, or Philosophy can see, explain, understand, or Define.

      Lets take the matter of "Fundamental Definitions" within the English language, and see, if Science, can, or has, correctly Defined, the very "basis" of all the "Scientifically Held Beliefs" ... Meaning, the Religious like Belief, based in Sciences and Technologies Defined.

      The Belief, that every thing Material, is the "only" Real, hence, MATTER, as MATERIAL, represents the "Reality" of Existence, therefore, of the [Self] Existent Forms !

      Here, I find it critically important ... for the sake of Science's Exactitude, that we, check out ... dispassionately ... whether, the very Basis of Scientific Belief ... MATTER ... has been correctly defined, in any of Science's Dictionaries, or, Secular Encyclopedias of knowledge ... or ... by the Nobel Prize winning Physicists.

      Let me help you ... the "Dictionary of Physics" edited by John Daintith, B.Sc, Ph.D, in consultation with Eric Deeson, M.Sc, F.C.P., F.R.A.S ... Defines Matter in the Following words, and I quote:

      "Matter, in general, is anything that has substance; a specialized form of energy with a finite rest mass, distinguished from electromagnetic radiation... The term is, perhaps 'best avoided' in physics."


      Lets move on to Philosophy, hence, to the Basis of Theory ... and see what Philosophy has to say about the term, "REAL" ... hence, "REALITY" ...

      "REAL has been variously defined ... as a "something" ... which "actually" [meaning, Physically] exists; and in terms of Real Estate, it consists of "something" which cannot be moved, like land and buildings ... but now, in Secular laws, the definition also includes "things" what can be moved, like gold, Brand Goodwill, or cars etc.."

      "The term REALITY, in the English language, is considered the "state" or "fact" of being "Real" ... meaning, that which is [material] real, not [abstract] imaginary; thus, the "truth" etc..

      In Philosophy, the Belief, in the Real, is REALISM, and Realism is defined in Philosophy as the abstract "theory"... that physical objects exist, even when they are not perceived by the "mind" ...

      Now these are the facts of Scientific Definings and Philosophy ... I may best expressed by !!!! ???? ...

      These "Definitives" do not say much about the Subject... except twisted words, defining the undefinable aspects of "things" ... and this, as a Religion ... the Religion of Science, leads its followers on to b-Mesons, god-Particles and the Strings ...

      This half baked perception of Reality, leads Sciences, Philosophy and Religious thinkings, to Believe, that Gays are OK, since they are OK vote bank Politically ... that sex is for enjoyment ... that Abortion is a condoneable act ... that the institution of family is an old idea and nuisance hindering personal freedoms ... that the strong have the right to kill the weak ... that to live like animals, is the Real macho stuff of being alive ... that life's Purpose is the fast food joints and night clubbing etc..

      I think, these inhuman concepts of Reality, are held on to Religiously, by Science emancipated individuals ... for their own reasons, and has nothing to do with humanity...

      Thus, followers of the Religion of Science, confuse the various Religions made by errant humans, with The Ordained Way of Peace ... The Ordained Way, of Human life.

      Dollars, by the way, are immaterial to me, my present cash worth is around, perhaps a few hundred dollars ... and I have no plans of making a fast buck on the internet.

      What I write here is in sharing the happiness am blessed with ... with all my fellow humans ... who be worth a few hundred bucks... no $$$ involved.

      Anyway, if you insist on holding on to the half baked Religion of Science, Technologies, and Philosophies ... its your own business and outlook, for there is little, I can do about it.

    • jwood00 profile image

      jwood00 6 years ago from the other side of morning

      Hi Shahid.

      I don't understand why you're discussing religion in response to a post about elements. Religion and science have nothing to do with each other. Both are means used by people to explain our universe, but one is based in faith and feels it already has the answers. The other, science, approaches understanding of our universe by asking questions.

      Scientists use the scientific method to test a hypothesis. The resulting data is analyzed and a conclusion is made. However, this is not the end, because the experiment must be repeated by other scientists and the results have to be analyzed further. A good scientist does not approach a problem by assuming he already knows the answer. Anyone who uses the scientific method in this manner loses credibility immediately. A scientist questions, and this is all.

      So, if you're confusing me with celebrity atheists like Richard Dawkins who have discovered there is probably more money and fame in bashing religion than simply keeping their fascinating posts as members of the science community, then you should probably reconsider what it means to be a scientist or a person interested in science. I do not have all the answers, nor will I ever, but I am a firm advocate of *questioning everything*!

      I will see if I can follow-up on your questions in a future hub and better explain atoms. Thanks for your comment.

    • Shahid Bukhari profile image

      Shahid Bukhari 6 years ago from My Awareness in Being.

      I am still awaiting an intelligent answer from Science' community, as to What Composes the Elements, the Atoms, sub-Atomic Particles ... and now, the Theoretical b-Mesons, or the Strings ...

      For there cannot be a Definitive Defining, by Science, or Philosophy, of the "Stuff" of Matter ... other than, theories ... describing ever smaller components of Matter ... or the Genesis of Matter from Nothingness, unto, Something ...

      And what better Defining could there be, than the Quranic State ...


      The Quran Stated Law, thus, Defines in the Definitive, the State of Matter ... at Genesis, hence in, Being !