“Proton (positive) * Neutron (neutral) * Electron (negative)
The proton is stuck like a plumb pudding together with its neutron partners, wround which whiz the much smaller electron particles, within a space known as the electron cloud. This whole mysterious building block of life is held together by the power of electromagnetism to form atoms, which are listed in all their wonderful variety in that evocative list known as the Periodic Table of Elements.
Democritus, who brilliantly analyzed that the entire universe was ‘all in flux’ back in the fifth century BC, was the first to speculate about an atom–though our focus on the essential building block of life has somewhat shifted back a bit, since we have learned that quarks like beneath the surface of both protons and neutrons.”
Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.