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Friday, February 15, 2008

113. The Touch of Atoms

From: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

It is still a fairly astounding notion to consider that atoms are mostly empty space, and that the solidity we experience all around us is an illusion. When two objects come together in the real world––billiard balls are most often used for illustration––they don't actually strike each other.
"Rather," as Timothy Ferris explains, "the negatively charged fields of the two balls repel each other . . . Were it not for their electrical charges they could, like galaxies, pass right through each other unscathed." When you sit in a chair, you are not actually sitting there, but levitating above it at a height of one angstrom (a hundred millionth of a centimeter), your electrons and its electrons implacably opposed to any closer intimacy.

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