There are no atoms. Some bloke called Rutherford proved that in (I think) 1927.
Remember, 'atom' means 'indivisible'. We now have a 'particle zoo', which is not 'an atom'. Furthermore until the last piece turns up, we really don't have a complete zoo.
Sorry, but I don't think you know what you are talking about. Rutherford was responsible for the colloquial visualization of the atom. Rutherford model - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Rutherford model was discovered to be inaccurate, and it is generally thought that the model involving the electron cloud which represents the probabilistic distribution of the electrons (this stemming from Heisenberg uncertainty, I believe) is the most correct.
The particle zoo refers to the fundamental particles, some of which (up and down quarks and electrons) constitute the hadrons (protons and neutrons) which occur in atoms. Though more fundamental than the atom, the atom is still regarded as a unit of matter. It is useful in chemistry for instance, to have a word for a structural unity of predictable sets of sub atomic particles with certain generally predictable properties and states.
To the OP
, I agree that it's pretty ignorant to say that it doesn't matter. That is simply a false statement. All of science eventually finds itself in the center of public attention in the form of technology. Whether it's a new weapon that threatens your security (or ensures it) or a new toy/gadget. The origin of mass may not interest them, and probably for the better as it seems as though it would be quite difficult to understand the vibrant mathematical interaction of physical objects without the proper training and/or personal dedication to gaining such knowledge.
I would also ask you this, since you do seem to think this knowledge has special pertinance: When was the last time you studied foreign affairs and quickly done an in depth analysis to come to a highly informed opinion utilizing the intuition you have gained from the vast knowledge you have of history and politics/political science?
Can you say that you diligently pursue every area that is worth caring about, or only those that personally interest you? Have you placed your areas of interest on a pedestal, and forgotten that there are other important issues? Are you as well versed in the theories and facts of international politics and the ethical implications thereof as you are in physical theory and fact? If not, why? If so, we could move on to the next area of intellectual pursuit that affects us in one way or another.
Or maybe you are complaining about these certain persons not showing at least token interest in anything academic or even anything generally intellectual no matte how pertinent it is to them. That is some sort of mind-state that I have trouble identifying with, but I can roughly understand it. I would assume it has some sort of familial/social basis. Parents didn't read to them as kids or something, I suppose. To find more intellectual things interesting, it seems like you have to break a sort of mental barrier that would allow you to be more self-critical. Insofar as you are self critical, you would naturally be critical of others; wanting to hold them up to the same ideals that you hold yourself. Hence, frustration with those who still possess this mental barrier.
I am tempted to associate the barrier with automatic thinking, quick social judgments and confirmation seeking behaviors. A person like this, it seems, would be easily persuaded when removed from group support.
Perhaps the tendency to be self critical stems from some fundamental point of opposition that sets the self critical person apart from some majority of persons. It has often been said that the more intellectual personalities are alienated; is this by virtue of their facility with learning and reason or by a tendency towards learning and practicing reason, a habit given impetus by some more fundamental aspect of the person? Perhaps a bit of both.
I've found that many intellectual persons I've met give the impression of attempting to justify some aspect of themselves with external means, thereby raising that aspect of themselves outside of the realm of subjective criticism. I must admit that even in the case of myself, I give experimental support to this (and hence am biased towards it).