These are all great questions. Let’s start by
first defining what an ion is.
An ion is an atom or molecule in which the
total number of electrons is not equal to the
total number of protons, giving the atom or
molecule a net positive or negative electrical
So the important thing to remember is that
an ion IS an atom, and that is not a bad
thing. It just means it has a different number of
electrons than it normally would.
So for the case of alpha decay, the atom
loses a helium nucleus which has a +2 charge.
Leaving behind an atom with a -2 charge. This
is not a problem. The helium that escaped is just
a helium atom with the wrong number of electrons.
It will eventually slow down and react with other
atoms and become a neutral helium atom. Similarly
the starting atom will react with some atoms
around it and lose the 2 extra electrons.
The same situation is true for beta
decay where the resulting atom eventually will
take an electron from the atoms around it and
become neutral again.
Finally let’s talk about clouds.
Humidity is a measure of how much water is in
the air. But I’m sure you know that clouds are
mostly water. So even though water is everywhere
in the air, there are places where there is a lot
more water than others. This is what we call a
An electron cloud is similar in that an
electron can be anywhere but there are places
around atoms where it is more likely to be. These
places where the electron likes to hang out are
what we call electron clouds. The location and
shape of these electron clouds can be figured out
by using physics and math.