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The easiest way to understand this is to get some magnets. It's actually the same force (more or less, ignoring complications about something called spin), but you can pick up a magnet and play with it, which is hard to with an electron.

More electrons -> bigger magnet-type effect.

North/South are another historical accident. +/- and N/S are more or less interchangeable in this context. So if it helps you can think of electrons as being the North half of a magnet and protons as being the South half. (Or vice versa - as long as they're complementary.)

That's not the 'proper' explanation, but it's not a bad guide to how they act.

The only other complication is that when you build your 3D models, keep in mind that everything is moving. The connections are more like springs than rigid links, and you can make them twang in different ways, or spin the model as a whole, or make and break links between molecules, and all of these will be happening all of the time, in differing amounts.

In a solid the links will be stiff, although they'll still be vibrating slightly. In a liquid they'll be forming and breaking continuously, which is what makes liquids flow. In a gas - pffft - not much linking happening at all.

This also applies to the connections between the protons and neutrons in the nucleus. You can make the nucleus ring like a bell by kicking it with a vibrating magnetic field. It will 'sing' at some frequencies, and this creates a signature 'sound' you can use to identify it.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 11:25:03 AM EST
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