How do we know that most of an atom is empty space? And since that is so, why can’t we just walk through solid objects?

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How do we know that most of an atom is empty space? And since that is so, why can’t we just walk through solid objects?

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We can shoot neutrons or other weak or not charged particles through an atom to measure its size. It will only bounce off if it hits the core.

We can not walk through solids because we are not made out of uncharged particles, the electrons of your bodies atoms repell the electrons of the other object.

what you call “touching” (or “bumping against a solid object, hurting yourself”) is actually the electric field of the molecules in your body interacting with the electric field of the object you’re close to.

think of it like a bunch of magnets, except that the ramp up much faster and at a much shorter distance.

Think of it like a net. A net is mostly empty space it we can’t walk through it. There are bonds on energy holding all the atoms together. It takes some amount of energy to break those bonds like it does to break the net.

The vast majority of a large cardboard box is empty space. You can’t just walk through one though.

Describing an atom as “mostly empty space” is a simplification that isn’t quite right – because talking about “empty” versus “filled” space at atomic and subatomic scales doesn’t really make sense.

The image of electrons, protons and neutrons as solid ‘balls’ made of something solid with a clear boundary is convenient for many applications, and makes for a good intuitive image – but it’s also wrong in some regards.

Atom-atom and particle-particle interactions don’t happen because particles are “solid” and bump into another – they happen because of *forces* transmitting the interaction. For example, the reason you can’t walk through a solid object is because the electrons in your body and the electrons in the solid object repel each other – to you, atoms are effectively solid balls because you interact electrically.

To a particle that doesn’t interact electrically (such as a neutron), atoms are essentially made of mostly empty space – because the neutron can only interact with the atom’s nucleus via the strong nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force has a much shorter range than the electromagnetic force.