are metals shiny because of the electron sea which surrounds the atomic lattice of the metal sample. are metals more shiny because the electron are more evenly distributed on the surface?

  • $\begingroup$ I believe there is a valid and interesting question somewhere in there to be asked, but you need to put a bit more effort into it: What makes you think it could be the resaon for the shinyness? What makes you doubt it? What is it you want from the community to answer you? $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jun 27 '14 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ I would perhaps add : what makes different kinds of elements reflect distinctive photons. $\endgroup$ – Gödel Jun 27 '14 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ This is clearly closely coupled to your preceding question. Would you mind explaining what makes this one a distinct and different questions? $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jun 27 '14 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ yes the questions are similar, but different in that i am asking here is what is the reason for metals having a similar look. $\endgroup$ – EvilWarrior Jun 27 '14 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps I should say a few words about the re-tag I did on your earlier question. These are clearly not particle physics questions. The presence of electrons in the question or the answer does not make for particle-physics. The fields at play here are atomic physics (for interaction of light in at optical energies with a single atom) and condensed matter (for effects relating to the changes that occur when atoms are packed tightly enough together that their interaction with each other change their interaction with the world around them). $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jun 27 '14 at 15:22

Your question concerning the scaffolding that makes up various metals, in relation to their appearance is a unique one. As far as I know, what determines the appearance of various metals is determined by the demarcation of the atoms that they are composed of.

Various material have a statistically higher chance of reflecting the photons of a wide range of the elements(as metals are conductors of electricity). That is why we use metal to make up our mirrors (certain metals have a high percent chance to reflect almost every element; e.g. aluminum.) This is due to the fact that most metals have electrons that exist a considerable distance away from the nucleus. This means that the electrons can be released right at the surface of the material, and in effect, light has a greater chance of being visibly reflected into your eye (electrons reflect light, and since these electrons are so close to the surface due to their distance from the nucleus, they have a smaller percent chance of becoming reabsorbed before you see them).

If you want an amazing book that explains the statistical mechanics of photon reflection by material, I recommend QED by Feynman. If someone else has more to say about the distinctive look of metals based on their atomic structures, I would love to hear about that. As far as I know though, it mostly has to do with the fact that various metals reflect various kinds of photons from different elements. As a result, the more elements a metal reflects, the shinier it appears.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer completely neglects the band structure of condensed phases of metals. The properties of bulk metals are not derived from the properties of the individual atoms naively multiplied. The whole is not "more than" but "different from" the sum of the parts. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jun 27 '14 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry I did my best with what I knew. I left it open for people to expand if necessary. Please, if you wish, edit my answer. $\endgroup$ – Gödel Jun 27 '14 at 16:02

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