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In here, you are jumping ahead of yourself and getting muddled.

a few steps you need to go through include learning about electron levels/shells and the number of electrons in each level.  Look at the periodic table and the number of electrons in the outer shell - which is the key thing that determines it's chemical properties.

Let's take lithium and fluorine since you put them in above.

The lithium atom has 3 electrons. 2 fill the core shell (first level has a maximum of 2 electrons).  This means there is one electron in it's outer shell.  To get the full compliment of electrons in the outer shell it would need to pick up 7 electrons which in energy terms would be HUGE and so completely not happening.  So the easiest thing for it to do is lose that spare electron to another atom that wants to fill it's own shell.

Lithium can completely give it's electron away to say fluorine which needs one electron to fill it's outer shell with. Because Li completely transfers it's electron over to F - they become ions. Li+ and F-
The anion (F-) is attracted to the cation (Li+) and so they hang about together through ionic bonding.  But F- now 'owns' that electron.

Now atomic mass is not always directly equated to the number of electrons because you can have isotopes which have extra neutrons, the particles with no charge.  But protons and electrons will be the same number of each in an atom.

Elsewhere in the periodic table we have atoms that need a number of electrons but instead of completely giving or taking electrons, they share them. Covalent bonding.

Some atoms have a greater affinity for electrons.  oxygen is one of those. but tricky because it has lone pairs and can form multiple bonds which i will only confuse you with at this point.

So let's take your methane molecule in the main post.
Carbon has it's snug pair of electrons in the core shell. They are happy. But, carbon needs 4 electrons for it's outer shell to gain the full compliment and thus be energetically stable.  It is not energetically favourable to give away or receive 4 electrons in the sense that Li can give away one and F can gain one.

So Carbon shares.  Each H atom only has one electron and needs 2 to fill it's shell and be energetically stable.  

So an H shares it's one electron and C shares one of it's electrons to pair up. So they cheat a little bit in filling their shells.  

4 H atoms share with one C atom so that C 'borrows' 4 to fill it's outer shell and each H 'borrows' one to fill it's outer shell.  In reality, these electrons whizz around all over the place, so the H electron can be found anywhere over the molecule, not just around the H atom, the all mix in together to form an electron cloud that holds the molecule together. But that is another model.

Will it help if I tell you the kind of music I like so that you can dig out other stuff for me to try listening to?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 10:18:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm about at the stage where I know that the 4s orbital fills prior to the 3d orbitals, and I am about at the point where I can make sense of larger molecule diagrams (not quite there, but closer than I was.)  (And all those transition elements filling in the d orbitals...that's my next area of focus)

(I have a feeling I'll be asking for one of those 3D molecule kits for my next birthday (or maybe buy myself one prior) as three dimensionality is one of the keys (for me, in understanding--that these molecules have height, depth, and breadth--that the extend outwards in various directions based on the electrical charges--120 degrees, tetrahedrons--hey, I had to sit down and ponder the beastie with four sides, all of which were triangles)...

So I've moved ahead, but I realised that this issue of plus and minus was getting in the way.  From your other post I'm thinking that I can relate it to a number line

(You know all this of course, but I like the way you can catch my mistakes so...)

,

I can imagine (this could be my model) that positive and negative are at opposite ends such that electrons are at the negative (-) end, and the protons are at the positive (+) end, and they're...tugging towards each other (trying to reach their beloved zero point of no charge and so no more crazy attractions) such that 'negative' means: 'towards the electron end' and 'positive' means 'towards the proton end' and so a gain in electrons means a movement towards the electron (-) end, while a loss of electrons means a movement towards the proton (+) end, and thusly positive and negative and gain and loss come together again--at least in my head!

Does that sound about right?

Will it help if I tell you the kind of music I like

Just a few disjointed adjectives are fine--ya know...just some flavours, no need to use too many words (ah, the joys of music!  Oh, no naming names!  You might love a band and I hold some bizarre prejudice against them because my best friend's sister once went out with the bass player and it all finished badly...etc.)  My experience is that most musical fields will have something comparable so I can go and hunt up some examples and see how they match.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 10:45:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
so a gain in electrons means a movement towards the electron (-) end, while a loss of electrons means a movement towards the proton (+) end

Yeah that works.

And you may still be jumping ahead with the s,p,d,f orbital stuff unless you have grasped ionic and covalent bonding through use of the Bohr model (circles of shells around the atoms).  But the cool thing about the s,p... orbitals is that they have shapes and this then leads to understanding the shapes of molecules and it is where lone pairs come in too.

Oooh.

You can use plasticine and chopped up straws until you get a modelling kit.

I don't think I know how to describe music in adjectives yet.  Sometimes ambient stuff for chilling out to when the mood suits, I like the way the music can focus me or just be a background.

And other times I like the energy that music gives me.  Sometimes I like stuff to get my teeth into. Not massively into classical by itself. Too much very high pitch hurts. bass that makes my heart beat to follow is good. or when music seems to have some humour to it. Now I am going.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 11:06:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll post something next week for ya!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 11:13:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's almost it.

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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I'll repeat to you what I wrote to In Wales:

I am going to re-read yours (and anyone else's!) comments late at night (maybe many times!), after having cleared my mind of clutter (in my own way) and with maximum concentration--and slowly! So more please!  And I promise to pay you back with...

A lovely cup of tea, minimum!

Really really very much appreciated, thanks!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 11:29:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But one thing to remember when playing with magnets is that with protons and electrons, it's possible to have only a + or only a -. That doesn't happen with magnets: They always have both a North and a South pole. That means that while everything you can do with (static) magnets can in principle be duplicated with (static) electrons and protons, electrons and protons can do a lot of interesting things that magnets can't.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 11:33:19 AM EST
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