Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I apologize in advance for my ignorance if this is a question with an obvious answer... I am not experienced in this field. But are such particles in the universe points with a charge, or are they very small spheres with a charge? Or does it not even matter in the end? This isn't homework, it's just curiosity.

share|improve this question
See the excellent answers to my question along the same lines: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/10433/… –  recipriversexclusion Sep 27 '11 at 2:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

In the current model used to describe elementary particles, the Standard Model, the particles (leptons, quarks and gauge bosons) are point-like particles. Experimentally no substructure has been observed for either of those particles (e.g. the upper limit for the electron radius is something like $10^{-22}$m). Some particles that were thought to be elementary (but later turned out to be bound states of quarks), like the proton and the neutron, or all baryons and mesons for that matter, actually do have a substructure that can be and has been measured (or at least the charge distribution).

share|improve this answer

continuing with @lusken 's answer, the atom is perceived as a fuzzy ball with a highly dense nucleus (mainly point size, compared to the size of the atom itself) and the fuzzy boundary because of the electron cloud.

enter image description here

The electron cloud themselves appear in different probability distribution, which gives different "shapes" to them.

enter image description here

EDIT1: where s is for electron with 0, p for spin 1 and so on d = 2 and f = 3. and each s,p,d,f have different suborbitals which are depicted as in the figure as

  1. $s$
  2. $p_x$, $p_y$, $p_z$
  3. $p_{xy}$, $p_{yz}$, $p_{zx}$, $p_{x^2-y^2}$, $p_{z^2}$
share|improve this answer
you should add : depending on the spin of the orbit/energy-level. s is spin 0, p is 1 and d is 2. –  anna v Sep 26 '11 at 5:54

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.