npsm 새물리 New Physics : Sae Mulli

pISSN 0374-4914 eISSN 2289-0041


Research Paper

New Phys.: Sae Mulli 2020; 70: 168-174

Published online February 28, 2020

Copyright © New Physics: Sae Mulli.

Teaching Atomic Models: Revisited

Min Seok SEO1, Kang Young LEE*2

1Sunam Middle School, Gimhae 51018, Korea

2Department of Physics Education & Education Research Institute, Gyeongsang National University, Jinju 52828, Korea


Received: October 5, 2019; Revised: December 4, 2019; Accepted: December 26, 2019

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Among the atomic models proposed in the early 20th century, Rutherford’s atomic model with a tiny and heavy nucleus surrounded by light electrons, suggested by the experimental discovery of the atomic nucleus, is the basis of the present picture of the atom. We discuss the validity of the atomic model theoretically in this paper. The fact that the nucleus is much smaller than the atom and is just an accidental result of the observation that the nuclear force is much stronger than the electromagnetic force. Thus, a bigger nucleus would be physically allowed if the strong force were weaker. We show that the atom may look like Thompson’s plum-pudding model when the strong interaction is so weak that the nucleus is as large as the atom. We use Bohr’s atomic model first and solve the Schrodinger equation to confirm it. Eventually, Rutherford’s atomic model with a small nucleus is preferred by the relative strength of the strong force to that of the electromagnetic force. To reach a deeper understanding of the atom, we propose teaching the implications of a tiny nucleus.

Keywords: Physics education, Atomic model, Atomic nucleus

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