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What happened in Rutherford's gold foil experiment and what did he conclude?

Here's the deal:

  • Rutherford thought it would be cool to shoot positively-charged alpha particles (helium nuclei) at a very thin piece of gold foil.
  • While most of the particles passed right though the foil, some of the particles went bouncing off in all kinds of weird directions.

Rutherford used this observation to make the following determination about atoms: Atoms are mostly empty space. This is why most of the alpha particles passed through the atom - there is mostly nothing for them to bump into and deflect them. All of the positive charge in the atom is crammed into a tiny nucleus. Though most of the alpha particles won't go anywhere near a nucleus, the positive nucleus will repel the positively-charged alpha particles if they get too close to each other, causing the particles to deflect in weird directions.

You can learn more about this experiment by visiting here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_foil_experiment

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