How small could you cut that nugget down and still have a piece of gold?
This would mean that the smallest piece you had still retained all the properties that we consider gold to have: namely color, electric charge and relative mass.
This is not quite the same as dissecting plant or animal tissue into its smallest part which retains the same properties of that tissue.
So, let's say you had a piece of liver on your dissecting table, and you kept cutting smaller and smaller.
Eventually, you'd have to cut it down to one small cell, visible only under a microscope. At this point, you have cut it down to the point where all the properties of liver are still maintained; it's color and function. But under the microscope, you can see that a liver cell can be further devided into smaller parts. You can easily see mitochondria, centrosomes, golgii, vacuoles, and even a nucleus. I takes all these things, plus others, to form a viable (living) cell, which contains all the properties from which the tissue was taken (liver in the example I was using). Even single celled animals need these things.
But this one cell can be further devided into said parts.
So, let's cut out one of the golgi bodies. One golgi body is very much like any other golgi body; that is, every gogi body has its own set of properties which makes it the same as every other. But, these, too, can be dissected even further. Delving deeper, we find that there are many different parts which make up a golgi body. We will call these parts molecules.
Many molecules have the same properties (shapes and size) as others, while other molecules will have different properties as the first, but will have the same as others. So these molecules can be grouped into different places, all depending on their differences, rather than their similarities. Each group will contain molecules which all have the same exact properties. But, because there is more than one group, and all groups still share other properties, we realize that we can still cut smaller. That is to say, we can tell that each molecule still has the properties of two or more elements.
So let's make one final cut, seperating an element from the molecule an object that retains just one set of properties which is completely different than any of the others; it now represents a pure sample of one of the many different elements that the original tissue contained.
In the case of the gold nugget, the furthest we can cut the size down to and still retain all the properties of, would be a gold atom. This atom retains all the properties of gold, and can still be called gold. To cut it down even further would render it no longer gold.
In the case of the liver sample, let's say we cut off an atom of carbon. This atom represents the smallest particle that still represents a sample fo pure carbon, simply because it is pure carbon. To cut it down any further would erase any evidence of what it once was.
Atoms are a wonderful thing. They are the smallest elements that anything can be cut down to, and retain all the properties of a sample of pure element. An atom of gold is still gold, and atom of hydrogen is still hydrogen.
But, atoms can be cut down even further, after which point, they no longer maintain the properties they once had. And all atoms have one thing in common. They can be cut into three different "materials" (if you will) which have completely different properties.
You would get neutrons, which make up almost half of the atom's mass, but have no electric charge.
You would also get protons, which are almost half of the atom's mass, but have a positive electric charge.
Together, the protons and neutrons make up the nucleus, or core, of the atom, and over 99.9% of the atom's mass.
And thirdly, you would get the electrons, which have almost 0 mass, but a negative electric charge.
Properly built, the negative charge of the electrons and positive charge of the protons would cancel each other out, and the atom would have no charge at all. And in 99% of matter, this is pretty much the case.
But, there are always exceptions to the rules, aren't there! And, as mentioned, the majority of its mass is found in the nucleus.
Unless you are a scientist, and more specifically a physisist, and even more specifically, an atomic physisist, you can say that all neutrons have equal properties, all electrons have equal properties, and all protons have equal properties.
But, in fact, this really isn't true. To anyone but the atomic physisist, the differences are so miner that it makes no difference. After all, atoms are so small, that we just don't deal with them in everyday life, so who really cares, eh?
Most people don't even realize that the different colors that we see are due to differences of electrical energy being released by atoms. And, in the color spectrum that humans can see, the difference between red on one end of the spectrum and blue on the other that there practically is no difference. If our eyes could see the entire electromagnetic spectrum, red and blue would pretty much be the same color.
But, I've gone off on a tangent... What I really want to talk about will come in my next post... after I take a break... I'm tired of typing right now.