When people think of an atom, often they create for themselves a picture of the atom consisting of a bunch of dots (electrons) orbiting the nucleus on paths like the orbits of planets around the sun. Quantum physics tells us that this picture is inaccurate. In fact, the electrons in an atom don't follow a well-defined trajectory or even have a well-defined location. When I teach people about the atom in one of my classes, I try to clear up this misconception. (See, for example, The Atom.)

My problem was that we're stuck with the word "orbit" to describe the motion of electrons in an atom. But the word "orbit" conjures up exactly the picture I'm trying to dispel. So i realized that besides a description of the atom, I needed a newword to describe it. That word, which describes a quantum mechanical orbit, is "quorbit."

quorbit (kwor' bit) vt To be in the vicinity of, while lacking a definite location. As in, "The electrons in an atom quorbit the nucleus."

I'm enthusiastic about this word! I think it's a great word! It's great for use in physics classes, but I'm even more excited about its potential use outside of physics. It can be used as a metaphor in everyday life to describe people or things with an elusive quality, but a center that they're never far from. Some examples of the use of "quorbit" in everyday life:

There are three keys to effective use of the word "quorbit." First, it implies motion. Second, there's a center or a region to this motion. Finally, and most importantly, the exact location of the subject at any given time is indefinite or uncertain.

Use "quorbit." Use it any chance you get. Get your friends to use it. It's easy, and it's fun!

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