Matter is Nothing

Electron Cloud

Matter is composed chiefly of nothing. You are made of atoms. Your cat, which is resting on the table on your side, is made of atoms. And the table itself is made of atoms.

But if atoms are so small and empty and the nuclei smaller still, why does the table hold the cat up? Why, as Arthur Eddington liked to ask, do the nuclei that comprise my elbow not slide effortlessly through the nuclei that comprise the table? Why doesn’t your fat cat wind up on the floor? Or fall straight through the Earth?

In fact, your everyday life depends on the structure of the atom. So the answer to the question is the electron cloud. The outside of an atom in your cat has a negative electrical charge. So does every atom in the table. Negative charges repel each other.

Thus your cat does not slither through the table because electrical forces are strong and atoms have electrons around their nuclei.

Turn off the electrical charges and everything crumbles to an invisible fine dust. Without electrical forces, there would no longer be things in this Universe we know – there would be merely featureless remnants of the worlds, merely diffuse clouds of electrons, protons and neutrons, and gravitating spheres of elementary particles…

chaussures shoes

Transmute the elements: cut the atom and make nice shoes with its halves! (Quotations from Megan Jorgensen). Image: © Megan Jorgensen

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