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Imagine a universe in which atoms are elementary particles. Before the late 1800s it seemed that atoms were indivisible particles.

In a universe in which atoms are elementary particles there would be no nuclear fusion or fission as both require the merging of atomic nuclei which are made of protons and electrons. Non hydrogen atoms would need to form with the universe as they couldn't be formed from nuclear fusion.

How would chemical bonds be explained if atoms were elementary particles considering that there would be no electrons or electron shells? Could stars driven by chemical reactions instead of nuclear reactions exist in this universe or would there be no stars in this universe? Could life evolve in this universe?

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closed as too broad by Aify, WhataTiberius, T.J.L., Aron, a CVn May 16 '16 at 19:57

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    $\begingroup$ Only he lightest atoms would exist, since everything else is made by fusion, and there would be no molecules. There would be no chemical reactions, since there would be no molecules. There would be no stars, no planets, and no life. $\endgroup$ – ckersch May 15 '16 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ How would Physics work if Physics didn't work? Erm...magic? $\endgroup$ – Aron May 16 '16 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ If atoms were elementary particles, a universe could not possibly form. No way to imagine one like that. It's like trying to imagine an ocean on a world where fluids can't exist, only more so. $\endgroup$ – frank May 16 '16 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ The questions about what it would actually be like it atoms were like this don't have interesting answers. Our physics just doesn't fit together with that concept well enough to produce an interesting answer. It's like asking what would happen to calculus if 1 and 1 were 5. More of a koan than a question. Now, if you want to imagine a world where John Dalton's atomism reigns, just do that. Roll back to 1878 and imagine alternative advancements to science that don't reveal the subatomic. $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred May 16 '16 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ I'd suggest not even worrying about what the "real" physics/chemistry of your world is. Just write an alternative history of science. Consider yourself to be describing the development of theories, not the discovery of a reality. $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred May 16 '16 at 17:23
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Do what they believed in the 19th century: make your universe very young with a creator.

The problem of how did the Sun keep shining was one of the arguments that the Earth and Sun were very young. The size of the Sun had been estimated and no known fuel could keep the Sun shining for the millions or, haha, billions of years some of the radicals at the time were claiming. After all, they were geologists! They just categorized rocks.

As for the elements? God brought it all into existence about 10,000 years ago. Done. Don't believe in God? Then where did all this life come from? Atheism before Darwin was unscientific.

The cracks in this idea came from the then very new field of geology. The Industrial Revolution, and its great need for coal and mineral wealth, elevated geology from rock collecting to a systematic survey of the Earth. The geologists were finding more and more evidence that the Earth needed to be millions or billions of years old, but then nobody could explain how the Sun kept shining. Obviously the Earth couldn't be that old!

Then there's Darwinism, introduced in the late 1800s. Like geology, evolution needed millions or billions of years to do its thing, and this was time physics said the Earth did not have. Also, it didn't explain the origin of life, just the origin of the species.

Eventually the geologists and the Darwinists won, there was just too much evidence for an old Earth, but it doesn't have to be that way in your universe.

A good book to read on the subject is the pop sci book A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (not to be confused with the metaphysics book A Brief History Of Everything). It's a history of the question "how old is the Earth" and our attempts to answer it. You can follow their chain of discovery and logic in realizing the Earth is very old and change some of the key discoveries to match a young Earth.

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    $\begingroup$ I remember an story of Lord Kelvin (who was of very old age, and who was the paramount figure of science) siding with the "young Earth" proponents. Later on, Rutherford (IIRC) was giving a conference explaining the new advances in research, mainly radioactivity that finally allowed to explain how the "old Sun" could still give away heat. Kelvin was in, and everybody was expecting his reaction. Rutherford said it like this: "Lord Kelvin said that with the known sources of energy the Earth could be twenty million years old at most. And as he predicted we have found such a new source of energy!" $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 May 15 '16 at 22:57
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  • They wouldn't be explained. Fundamental truths about reality are treated as axioms in science, subject only to experimental validation in case somebody wishes to falsify them in the Popperian sense
  • Chemical reactions have far less energy density to them, so I would not expect stars as we know them to form.
  • How do you define "life?" By the definitions I like to use, life springs up everywhere, but not everyone uses the same definition. In fact, defining "life" is one thing the scientific community has not reached a consensus on.
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No electricity, because electrons would not run free and atoms would not become ionized. Which would also lead to:

  • No salts / ionic compounds, which are formed by ionized atoms being electrically attracted.

  • No molecules, which are formed by atoms sharing electrons.

So:

  • just lots and lots of atoms, either floating freely or clumped into "dusty" planets due to gravity.
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure we'd ever get a universe filled with anything other than hydrogen. How would stars work? $\endgroup$ – Draco18s May 16 '16 at 4:21
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In ancient times, philosophers believed that all matter was built out of four types of 'atoms', one for each of the four classical elements. Each atom had a different shape which determined its properties - Earth atoms are cube-shaped so they 'stack' easily, Water atoms are more rounded so they 'roll' around, Fire atoms are sharp and pointy which causes them to damage structures.

Exploring the properties of materials with more in-depth, scientifically rigorous procedures disproved this theory, but it was a reasonable enough guess for its time. In your world, perhaps things look similar to our world on the surface, but in-depth experiments would yield different results - the exact results will vary, of course, depending on how it will actually work.

The periodic table will not exist in this universe, and chemical bonds will not function in the same way. Perhaps the electromagnetic force is replaced with a functionally similar force that gently pulls the 'faces' of atoms together, but depending on their shape some elements may stick together more readily than others, with fire tending to jostle structures apart. Different mixtures of the four elements will yield different material properties, with complex mixtures of all four elements leading to life, just as the ancients believed.

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