if we are mostly made of carbon and hydrogen(both of them looks like rocks in their solid form)why do we look and feel vastly different?


if we are mostly made of carbon and hydrogen(both of them looks like rocks in their solid form)why do we look and feel vastly different?

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Sodium literally explodes when it gets wet, and chlorine is an insanely toxic gas. Put them together and you get…table salt. Just because table salt has sodium and chlorine in it does not mean it is anything like sodium on its own or chlorine on its own.

We are mostly made of *things that have carbon and hydrogen in them*. They are not anything like hydrogen on its own or carbon on its own.

Well firstly your premise is wrong. Hydrogen by itself is a colorless transparent gas so I don’t know where you saw it “looks like rocks”.

And secondly, the difference is because the *arrangement* of atoms matters.


It’s like lego bricks. I can make the exact same type of bricks into a staircase or a long beam or a wall. It’s all about how they’re put together. Picture carbon as a 2×4 brick and hydrogen is a 2×2 brick. You can make a lot of different things depending on how you attach them.

**ELI Highschool:**

Sodium atoms by themselves make a shiny silver metal that explodes on contact with water. Chlorine atoms form an extremely toxic yellow-green gas. But combine one atom of sodium and one chlorine and you get sodium chloride – a safe non-reactive substance known as table salt. You eat it every day.

The difference is the arrangement. Sodium is reactive because it has just one electron more than an amount that would make a really nice stable arrangement. So it REALLY wants to get rid of one electron. It will shove that electron onto pretty much anything, causing a chemical reaction. Chlorine is just one electron short of an amount that would be nice and stable. So it REALLY wants one one electron. It will rip one away from almost anything, causing a chemical reaction. In sodium chloride, the sodium has given its one extra electron to chlorine, which needed one more. Now they’re both happy, which makes the overall substance very non-reactive.

The bottom line here is that a substance gets its properties from the overall arrangement of atoms, which can be very different from the properties those atoms would have in isolation (before reacting with each other and forming structures).

Imagine a standard jigsaw puzzle with 1000 pieces with the exception that multiple pieces can fit together with many different pieces (as opposed to 1 piece only connecting in 1 exact way on a standard puzzle).

All of the pieces can be be rearranged in dramatically different ways in this example, and even though the base pieces may be the same, the overall picture can change dramatically based on configuration.

That’s really it. There are an insane amount of ways to rearrange atoms, molecules, etc, and those arrangements can produce wildly different effects.

When elements are combined, they form compounds with vastly different properties. Hydrogen and oxygen are extremely different atoms when separated, but when you combine two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, you create water.

The shape of a molecule is a major factor in how the substance behaves.

Pure carbon arranges itself in a regular lattice.

Pure hydrogen doesn’t arrange itself at all, it’s a gas.

When you combine the two, you can get all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Carbon will string together with other carbons in long chains, and hydrogen seals off the edges. The carbon can form double or triple bonds, which change the shape of the chain. Adding nitrogen or oxygen in different places changes the shape too.

Long chains of carbon with hydrogen all around will interact with each other very differently from carbon that’s in basically a crystal with other carbon. The hydrogens around the outside keep the chains from bonding, and the long chains slide against each other. Basically it acts like oil.

You can also get very complex and specific shapes. Enzymes are (relatively) huge molecules made of a few basic elements, structured so that they can be little machines in your body. Smaller molecules fit in to parts of them. They can be sensors, they can be portals through barriers, they can put molecules together or take them apart. Not because of the elements they’re made of, but because the way they’re bonded together makes the long chain fold into the necessary shape.