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States of Matter, in classical physics, three forms in which matter occurs—solid, liquid,

and gas. Plasma, the collection of charged gaseous particles containing nearly equal
numbers of negative and positive ions, is sometimes called the fourth state of matter (see
Ion; Ionization). Solid matter is characterized by resistance to any change in shape,
caused by a strong attraction between the molecules of which it is composed. In liquid
form, matter does not resist forces that act to change its shape, because the molecules are
free to move with respect to each other (see Molecule). Liquids, however, have sufficient
molecular attraction to resist forces tending to change their volume. Gaseous matter, in
which molecules are widely dispersed and move freely, offers no resistance to change of
shape and little resistance to change of volume. As a result, a gas that is not confined
tends to diffuse infinitely, increasing in volume and diminishing in density.

Most substances are solid at low temperatures, liquid at medium temperatures, and
gaseous at high temperatures, but the states are not always distinct (see Temperature).
The temperature at which any given substance changes from solid to liquid is its melting
point, and the temperature at which it changes from liquid to gas is its boiling point; (see
Freezing Point). The range of melting and boiling points varies widely. Helium remains a
gas down to -268.9°C (-452°F), and tungsten remains a solid up to about 3420°C (about

For further discussion of the properties of matter in its different states, Atom; Crystal;
Fluid; Glass; Liquid Crystal; Thermodynamics; Vapor. Critical Point; Cryogenics.


Matter, in science, general term applied to anything that has the property of occupying
space and the attributes of gravity and inertia. In classical physics, matter and energy
were considered two separate concepts that lay at the root of all physical phenomena.
Modern physicists, however, have shown that it is possible to transform matter into
energy and energy into matter and have thus broken down the classical distinction
between the two concepts (see Mass; Relativity). When dealing with a large number of
phenomena, however, such as motion, the behavior of liquids and gases, and heat,
scientists find it simpler and more convenient to continue treating matter and energy as
separate entities.

Certain elementary particles of matter combine to form atoms; in turn, atoms combine to
form molecules. The properties of individual molecules and their distribution and
arrangement give to matter in all its forms various qualities such as mass, hardness,
viscosity, fluidity, color, taste, electrical resistivity, and heat conductivity, among others.
See Antimatter; Chemistry; Electricity; Heat; Matter, States of.

In philosophy, matter has been generally regarded as the raw material of the physical
world, although certain philosophers of the school of idealism, such as the Irish
philosopher George Berkeley, denied that matter exists independent of the mind. See
Greek Philosophy; Kant, Immanuel. Most modern philosophers accept the scientific
definition of matter.
Changes in Matter, alteration in the form or composition of matter. In science, matter is
defined as anything that occupies space and possesses the attributes of gravity and inertia.
Matter occurs in three forms: solid, liquid, or gas. Changes in matter may be of two
types: physical or chemical. See also Matter, States of.

A physical change is a change in matter that involves no chemical reaction. When a

substance undergoes a physical change, the composition of its molecules remains
unchanged, and the substance does not lose its chemical identity. Melting, evaporating,
and freezing are three types of physical change. For example, water (H2O) is a liquid that
freezes to form the solid ice, which may again be melted into water. Because molecules
of water and ice are composed of the same chemical elements in the same proportions,
the change from water to ice is a physical change. Physical changes include any alteration
in the shape and size of a substance. For example cutting, grinding, crushing, annealing,
dissolving, or emulsifying produce physical changes. Still another physical change is
sublimation, the change from a solid to a gas.

When a substance undergoes a chemical change, the composition of its molecules

changes. The properties of the original substance are lost, and new substances with new
properties are produced. An example of a chemical change is the production of rust (iron
oxide) when oxygen in the air reacts with iron. Chemical changes may also result in
physical changes. For example, when wood (a solid) is burned, it is combined with
oxygen gas to produce gaseous carbon dioxide (CO2), liquid water, and solid carbon.