Atoms do not have bosses. Atoms are
composed of three subatomic particles: protons,
neutrons, and electrons. Protons and neutrons
are themselves composed of quarks. The
number of protons determines the element of the
atom, the number of neutrons determines the
isotope, and the number of electrons
determines the ionization state.
I would say the proton is the “boss,”
since the number of protons determines the
atomic number and therefore the chemical
identity of the atom.
For example if the nucleus has 6 protons, then
it is always a Carbon atom and can only be a
Carbon atom, but if the nucleus has 7 protons, it
is always Nitrogen. In nuclear chemistry,
protons can be kicked out the of nucleus and this
causes the atomic number to change, causing one
atom to transform into another, giving off
radiation. For example, in a nuclear
reaction called alpha decay, the nucleus
emits an alpha particle (atomic number 2, which is
a Helium nucleus), thus transforming the original
atom into another element with atomic number
reduced by 2.
Adding or removing electrons, only changes the
charge of the atom, making it ionic or
neutral, but does not change the atom’s atomic
number or identity. For example, Nitrogen with 7
electrons is neutral, but Nitrogen with 8
electrons would still be Nitrogen but with a net
negative charge of -1. Changing the number of
neutrons also does not change the chemical
identity of the atom, but only changes its mass.
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