I'm an undergraduate student in chemistry. I'm trying to grapple with all the new stuff we're learning and making sense of it. Now I want to know if electron shells really "exist" in multi electron atoms and if they don't, how / why do they still work to explain certain phenomena (atleast right now in our undergraduate curriculum)

On the chance of sounding a little stupid , I'm feeling a little lost with the very basics of atomic structures.

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    $\begingroup$ The answer may depend on what exactly you mean by the "electron shell" and "exists". As it is possible to have simultaneously true opposite statements about the same terms, if each statement means under the terms something different. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ The nice hydrogen electron orbitals do not remain the same as more than one electron is attached to an atom - the three-body problem is not a nice solution, much less the 100-body problem. Nonetheless, with many caveats, the hydrogen-like orbitals are a reasonable first basis for looking at things. Just mind all the caveats, particularly in the d- and f-blocks... $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ That makes sense thanks $\endgroup$
    – Stu
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ And consider a "shell" as a fuzzy probability cloud, that changes shape at higher energy levels. Look at this visualization of a carbon atom: labxchange.org/library/pathway/… $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 15:56


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