An accessible and engaging guide to the atom, the smallest, most fundamental constituent of matter. Until now, popular science has relegated the atom to a supporting role in defining the different chemical elements of the periodic table. In this book, Jack Challoner places the atom at center stage. The Atom investigates the quest to identify the smallest, most fundamental constituents of matter--and how that quest helps us to understand what everything is made of and how it all works. Challoner covers a wide range of topics--including the development of scientific thinking about atoms and the basic structure of atoms; how atomic interactions account for the familiar properties of everyday materials; the power of the atomic nucleus; and what the mysterious quantum realm of subatomic particles can tell us about the very nature of reality. Illustrated in color throughout, The Atom offers clear answers to questions we have all pondered, as well as some we have never even dreamed of. It describes the amazing discoveries scientists have made about the fundamental building blocks of matter--from quarks to nuclear fission to the God particle--and explains them accessibly and concisely. The Atom is the engaging and straightforward introduction to the topic that we didn't get in school.