Anonymous asked in Science & MathematicsChemistry · 1 month ago

Do elements evolve?

Do even basic elements change, given enough years? What about atoms? Are the atoms of today the same atoms from a billion years ago?

7 Answers

  • 1 month ago

    Do even basic elements change, given enough years?  Absolutely not. 

    What about atoms?  Certain radioactive atoms will decay over time, but most atoms are not radioactive and so will last forever.

    Are the atoms of today the same atoms from a billion years ago?  Most of them, yes.  A few, like the helium created by the fusion inside the sun, are newer.

    The few atoms which do change do so by nuclear processes.  No chemistry is involved.

    None of these few atomic changes are any kind of evolution.  Evolution is strictly for living things that reproduce. 

  • Jim
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    They do decay into other atoms, some of them further decay.

    In the sun, elements undergo fusion.

    So there are changes

  • Dr W
    Lv 7
    1 month ago


    Evolution is a term to describe a long term genetic change in a class of organisms in response to an environmental condition. Atoms do not have the ability to sense and respond in such a matter.  A protium atom (H-1) today is exactly the same as a protium atom from a billion years ago. A C-14 atom today is exactly the same as a C-14 atom was a billion years ago.  

    Some of the other answerers here are caught up in the change of 1 atom over time.  That is not what evolution is all about.  We wouldn't burn a fruit fly in a flame and say it evolved just because most of it was converted to CO2 and H2O. Likewise we wouldn't say a U235 atom evolved just because it decayed into other elements.   Evolution is a genetic change over multiple generations.  Atoms don't have genetic material. 

  • 1 month ago

    Processes can happen under extreme conditions (such as the interior of a sun) that change elements by causing restructuring of nuclei (proton numbers can be forced to change), and we do speak of that in terms of "evolution" of a solar system or a star and the formation of heavier elements from lighter ones. There is a longer term change with a direction (not random but not circular), and that is what evolution means. 

    There is even some back-change (reduction in proton numbers leading to destruction of some elements and formation of lighter ones as replacements) that occurs via nuclear fission, but most elements are not subject to that sort of change, and even among elements which can be, it is not all of the variants of that element, but only one or a few particular isotopic variants which can experience that.  However, the proportion of atom destruction to create smaller nuclei is tiny so not really an evolution.  it does not have any important effects on element proportions in the system.

    Most systems are not ones where nuclear processes occur so there is NO evolution of elements there.  There is an evolution on the universal scale, but it is a very slow and highly localized process.

    You cannot separate atom from element.  An atom is a specific element, which is defined by the number of protons in that atom.  There is no atom which is not a specific element.

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  • User
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Well..."evolve" is not the best word to use here.

    Elements can and do change ***under the proper conditions***.

    For example: hydrogen in our Sun is being converted to Helium even as we speak. It's not evolving. It's undergoing nuclear fusion.

    In this case

    - the element hydrogen is changing into another element

    - the atoms of hydrogen are changing into other, different atoms

    Fusion is by no means the only natural manner in which elements and atoms change.

    For example: there is nuclear decay.

    For example: there is electron transfer (an electron from one atom "jumps" to another atom)


  • 1 month ago

    The elements and atoms do not evolve.  Hydrogen from a billion years ago is still hydrogen.  This is known because light from the stars back billions of years is seen by telescopes and the spectra from hydrogen is detected.

    Elements do transform, however, into other elements or isotopes by emission or adsorption of atomic particles. For example, a neutron can transform into a proton by emitting an electron.

  • 1 month ago

    Some atoms ... a very few ... are radioactive. That means that they eventually change to other types of elements. But basic elements like carbon, oxygen, iron, and most others, are not radioactive. With some very rare exceptions, such as carbon-14. But C-14 is only one atom per trillion regular carbon atoms. 

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