It is instantly recognizable. Anyone who has graduated the 8th grade will look at the image to the left and say that it is an atom. They will identify the three orbiting objects as "electrons" and perhaps even identify the nucleus. It is used in textbooks everywhere in the world. Generations of brilliant physicists and chemists were introduced to their disciplines with this image. It is so beautiful that Apple uses a version of it as the symbol for the "Genius Bar."
There is a problem: it is wildly inaccurate. Electrons do not fly in definite orbits; this fact has been known for a very long time. The first three electrons would not be at the same energy level; this fact has also been known for a very long time.
But it is an enormously effective teaching tool, despite all of the falsehoods, and so has spread to every school on the planet.
Great teachers know how to recognize, use, and create these useful simplifications. It is a rare and valuable artistic skill. What other useful simplifications do you know?
P.S. To the nerds out there, here is a slightly less simple representation of the lithium atom. Imagine teaching 7th graders the basics with this image. (photo credit: Clive Freeman, The Royal Institute/Science Photo Library)
P.P.S. It is still a simplification, as is everything you know.
I'm an entrepreneur and I teach math, history, economics, and fitness. I'm looking for arguments.