The Empty Space of the Atom

We are shocked and disturbed by the vast emptiness of matter, which we cannot see with our eyes or feel through other senses.

Folksonomies: atom senses emptiness

The Frightening Discovery of the Void in the Atom

When I hear to-day protests against the Bolshevism of modern science and regrets for the old-established order, I am inclined to think that Rutherford, not Einstein, is the real villain of the piece. When we compare the universe as it is now supposed to be with the universe as we had ordinarily preconceived it, the most arresting change is not the rearrangement of space and time by Einstein but the dissolution of all that we regard as most solid into tiny specks floating in void. That gives an abrupt jar to those who think that things are more or less what they seem. The revelation by modern physics of the void within the atom is more disturbing than the revelation by astronomy of the immense void of interstellar space.


More frightening than the vastness of space.

Folksonomies: physics atom


The Empty Space in an Atom

A favourite analogy portrays the nucleus as a fly in the middle of a sports stadium. The nearest neighbouring nucleus is another fly, in the middle of an adjacent stadium. The electrons of each atom are buzzing about in orbit around their respective flies, smaller than the tiniest gnats, too small to be seen on the same scale as the flies. When we look at a solid lump of iron or rock, we are \'really\' looking at what is almost entirely empty space. It looks and feels solid and opaque because our sensory systems and brains find it convenient to treat it as solid and opaque. It is convenient for the brain to represent a rock as solid because we can\'t walk through it. \'Solid\' is our way of experiencing things that we can\'t walk through or fall through, because of the electromagnetic forces between atoms. \'Opaque\' is the experience we have when light bounces off the surface of an object, and none of it goes through.


Our senses are not adapted to experience the empty space between atoms.

Folksonomies: wonder atom analogy model