An atom is mostly nothing, essentially empty space. So we heard on the MKMMA webcast last week. So there is more “nothing” than “something” in us, and indeed in everything that exists in the physical world.
Well… it is true in a sense of course, but I was not quite satisfied. Why? Because I think there is an even better way to express it. How about a little detour into the world of quantum physics?
You may have heard that every solid physical particle is simultaneously also a wave, or a packet of energy distributed in space. This is the dual nature of matter – it is both solid and energy.
In the webcast we were presented with the model of an atom: Nucleus in the middle and electrons spinning around it at insane speeds. And because the size of both electron and nucleus are very much smaller than the size of the atom, the rest must be empty space, right? No!
In quantum physics, the electrons in the atom are not represented by solid particles. Instead they are represented by wave functions. The wave function describes the probability of finding the electron at any given point in space, essentially a probability distribution. At any given point inside the atom there is a certain possibility of finding the electron. But we don’t know where the electron actually is, just that it is somewhere in the vicinity of the nucleus. In fact, it could be anywhere… it has a certain probability of being at any given point in space. Or we could say, it has unlimited possibilities.
Why do I bring this up? Because there is no such thing as “empty space” or “nothingness”, instead there is a field of possibilities.
Another fun fact of quantum physics is, that if there are situations where a lot of energy is present, usually in the form of radiation, then particles can spontaneously create themselves out of thin air (so to speak). This may happen – and it does happen – all over space! It is simply energy converting itself to matter.
Energy converting into matter. Unlimited field of possibilities. Sounds familiar?