The particle responsible for not touching anything
Did you know that your shoes never really touch the ground? Or that you don’t touch someone else’s skin when you caress them? Well, that’s right, and it’s all because of the electrons.
126 years ago, on April 30, 1897, to be exact, in his Cavendish Laboratory, part of Cambridge UniversityPhysicist Joseph John Thomson revolutionized the scientific world by opening the way for the first time to particle physics.
In the so-called cathode ray experiment, Discover the electron, the negatively charged elementary particle (it was called a particle at the time). In addition, he was able to demonstrate that this new particle had a much lower charge and mass than the hydrogen atom, the lightest known at the time.
Until the time of this discovery, it was believed that The atom was indivisible It was inconceivable that there were smaller elements that made up that. That’s why, despite Thomson’s reputation and populism as a scientist, his discovery was a little hard to believe at first.
However, it was soon established as a fact that matter was constituted, which helps to understand most of its properties to this day. However, they still exist some unknown around it.
Discovery: cathode rays
To carry out his discovery, Thomson used a vacuum lampThis is it A tube where I emptied from the inside. He attached one end to a positive electrode, a the anodeand the other from the negative pole, a cathodeso that the current began to flow between them, which led to the emergence of some rays of electrons known as cathode rays. Of course, at the time, Thomson was unaware that it was only about electrons and assumed that the rays were atoms, simple and indivisible.
To visualize them, he attached the end of the tube to a fluorescent screen that allowed him to see at which point the rays “crashed” and quietly note that the particle line was straight. However, to his surprise, he discovered that by placing magnets on either side of the tube, the point reached by the rays rises or falls depending on the position of the poles of the magnets, viz., The rays were curved. When Thomson placed the negative electrode at the bottom, the rays bent upwards, whereas if he placed it at the top, the rays bent downwards.
The only explanation for this phenomenon was that these rays were not neutral atoms, as he thought, but some kind of negatively charged particle that was bent by repulsion with the pole of the same charge. From now on, Thompson’s experiments continued. He discovered that if he placed feathers in front of the rays, they would move, meaning these new particles They had dough. Likewise, he saw that by modifying the space inside the tube, filling it with any gas, the nature of the molecules did not change, turning them into universal particles.
Irish physicist George Johnston Stoney proposed to baptize these new particles with the name electronsassuming they were elementary particles of electricity or, as we know them today, fundamental electric charge.
Basic but not yet known
Subsequent studies allowed us to continue discovering new properties of these particles and to characterize them as much as possible. Therefore, today it is known that they are particles that make up atoms, provide a negative charge, and that they exist in the furthest partplaced in different layers (as if it were an electronic cloud) and the ability to upgrade from one to another by absorbing or emitting energy.
Most of the properties of electrons are known and understood by the scientific community, but there is still a lot more to it remains a mystery. For example, the process of all its possible interactions is known and understood: gravitational interaction due to its mass, electromagnetic interaction due to its charge, weak interaction due to its subatomic nature. However, there is still no explanation for the size of its mass, nor for the value of its electric charge: An electron is 2000 times lighter than a proton Although it has the same charge but it is negative, and no one knows what the explanation is.
Electrons: the big charge
Electrons give shape to atoms and fill the outer layer, which is why, since atoms are the particles that make up matter, electrons become the great Responsible for all interaction properties between them. That is, every time an atom is close to another, either within the same body, or through two different atoms that meet together, electrons play the main role. The simplest example Colors.
It is known that photons are responsible for giving colors to objects: the frequency of their vibration determines one or more tones within the color spectrum. When photons hit things, there are some that are absorbed and some that are reflected, which is the combination of all of these things reflect those that provide color see nothing. But did you know that electrons are responsible for determining which photons are absorbed and which are reflected?
In order to move from one layer to the next in the shell of an atom, electrons need to absorb the energy that allows them to make that jump. When the photon arrives, the The electron will be able to absorb those who have the appropriate energy To make your jump and excitement to a higher class. Those that were not absorbed are reflected, giving the object the color that reaches the eyes of the observer.
Nothing touch nothing
Perhaps one of the most intriguing consequences of the existence of electrons is, really, Nothing is connected to anything. This means that since all electrons are negatively charged, that is, with the same charge, they feel repulsion between them, so a large force is required to bring them closer, which makes it impossible to reach a certain contact. So, really, Nothing comes into contact with anotherBecause the electrons of its outer parts repel each other.
Does this mean that the shoes don’t really touch the ground? Or that your hand does not rest on a table or touch another person’s skin when you caress it? That’s how it is. At all times, the force of repulsion between electrons will avoid That the atoms that make up leather, shoes, soil, surfaces, materials… touch. Then the sensation of contact comes from a simple chain reaction: the electrons feel the repulsive force, push back, and push back the group of atoms that make them up, and with them your skin, providing a sense of contact.
This is also the reason that would explain why Someone walking through walls It becomes practically impossible: the electrons of the outer atoms of the wall will interact with the outer electrons of your body, preventing, due to that force of repulsion, from merging with the surface, no matter how much force you apply. In fact, not only will you not pass by it, but you will never touch it.
Although correct, there is a small hole in that last theory. In fact, quantum mechanics holds that there is actually a small chance that a human could walk through a wall, because tunnel effect. However, the probability is one in a sextillion, i.e. zero followed by 35 decimal zeroes: something too small and improbable to be considered possible.
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