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I've just been introduced to the quantum Mechanical Model of an Atom, so please bear with me on this one. Are Subshells and shell physical things, like do they really exist, or is it a concept only to understand the energy that an electron has? I'm kind of confused since until now, we've been drawing the K, L , M , N shells with a nucleus in the middle and 4 shells outside with the respective no. Of electrons in them. And they're related to distance from the nucleus so I was thinking they must be physical. But if you start visualising each Subshells in each shell having it's own orbitals, that doesn't really make sense. And what about orbitals? I'm guessing they've got to be physical, right? - 10th grader
edit- My point is can you literally visualise the different things as it's regularly down at middle school level.


marked as duplicate by Mithoron, Tyberius, Todd Minehardt, pentavalentcarbon, M.A.R. Apr 23 '18 at 20:18

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    $\begingroup$ A shell isn't a physical thing and neither is an orbital; they're concepts to visualise where an electron would exist in an atom's orbit etc. A shell is better described as an energy level, as the electrons' energies increase with higher energy levels. All a shell does is conceptualise an electron's energy and position in orbit. An orbital is just a region where we think an electron would exist; orbitals exist in their own subshells, and subshells exist in energy shells. But as mentioned, they're just concepts. Electrons in orbit do exist though... $\endgroup$ – user60221 Apr 21 '18 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @KianStevens, that does help, thanks. So I shouldn't go on about trying to visualise them right? I also read at a couple of places that the electrons randomly go on about around the nucleus, like a honeybee around a comb, so I was thinking that maybe they don't have orbits. That isn't it? $\endgroup$ – Plusminus Apr 21 '18 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ You can visualise them because that's the whole point of the Bohr model. However, shells and orbitals etc. aren't physical things; you wouldn't see concentric circles in an atom's orbit if you were to look at an atom. The concept of electrons falling into the nucleus is a matter of particle physics that doesn't refer to the Bohr model. It's all to do with nuclear interactions I believe. $\endgroup$ – user60221 Apr 21 '18 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @KianStevens, I would hesitate to say that you can visualise them. What you can do is to draw representations of them that are entirely unphysical (note that the Bohr model is unphysical). Whether that counts as visualising them, or not... I lean towards no. $\endgroup$ – orthocresol Apr 21 '18 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @orthocresol Meh. They're not the best way to visualise shells, but it gives an idea of what a shell is I suppose. $\endgroup$ – user60221 Apr 21 '18 at 14:56