Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Do Electrons Look Like?

I've begun to wonder what naked electrons might look like in my advanced middle age. They certainly have shapes and symmetrical features. But are they really invisible? X-rays and other electrons can partially locate them and give us complex maps of their densities.  Here's an unusual depiction of benzene, a six-sided ring of carbon atoms with six hydrogen appendices:

Electron density map of benzene

If pondering what electrons in molecular orbitals look like is weird, consider empty electron orbitals, i.e., virtual orbitals.  Something really bothers me about virtual orbitals: they're not there there. It really is like something that's invisible--like the invisible monster in this Jonny Quest link.


  1. Sim Sala Bim! That's what Haji says when he does magic. That's all I got :) Seriously though, electrons go where God tells them to.

  2. You know, this video is still playing, and I'm wondering, why does it have an eye? Why does an invisible monster have a need for eyes? Light would pass right through it. Totally useless. You've ruined Johnny Quest for me...

  3. Oh...and before you go and say, "Well Candle, what if the creature's eye is built to only see infrared light? Or ultraviolet light, hmm???" To this, I direct you to 4:40 in the video, where the Dr. tells Race that the creature will be attracted "to the light".

  4. Seriously though, electrons go where God tells them to.

    WTF? Electrons seem pretty constrained to me--not at all very god-like.

    I'm sorry I ruined JQ for you Candle. If I lost you too...I'd be devastated.

  5. Does anyone know what the source of this image was? What the conditions were under which it was captured? Thanx