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Can we see atoms? How do we know they exist?

  1. Aug 12, 2013 #1
    Can we see atoms or other atomic stuff like electrons and protons, etc.? If not, how can we know they exist and how they behave?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2013 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    We "see" atoms by using tools to enhance our built-in senses. So "yes" we can see atoms etc. just like we can see anything that is invisible without some sort of equipment.

    The picture we have of atoms and similar is a model built up over lots of observations over a long time with a variety of equipment - at each stage establishing what is going on.
     
  4. Aug 13, 2013 #3
    Somewhat relevant: the smallest movie in the world made by IBM research in spring 2013.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeUmrK92ZIA
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2014
  5. Aug 13, 2013 #4

    ZapperZ

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    The existence of atoms involves MORE than just what you can (or cannot) see with your eyes! The accurate description of the atomic energy levels when compared to experiments is one VERY strong and compelling reasons why we know they exist the way we have understood it.

    Zz.
     
  6. Aug 13, 2013 #5

    Drakkith

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  7. Aug 13, 2013 #6

    phinds

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    Very cool. Thanks for posting.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  8. Aug 13, 2013 #7

    davenn

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    likewise
    thankyou -- amazing what they can achieve these days

    here's the longer video showing the making of the movie
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBpu4OPw6bM

    Dave
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  9. Aug 14, 2013 #8

    CWatters

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    AAAmelia: Our theory of atoms took a long time to develop. There was evidence matter was made of atoms long before we could see them. Wikipedia has a short history which details some of the early evidence that persuaded people matter was made of atoms.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atom#History

    Perhaps skip any bits you don't understand.
     
  10. Aug 14, 2013 #9

    russ_watters

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    I'd flip that over and say that in experimental sciences, very little (close to nothing) is based on what can be seen with our eyes.
     
  11. Aug 15, 2013 #10
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  12. Aug 23, 2013 #11
    probably better to ask can we detect atoms rather that can we see.
    you do not need to see with your eyes to know something exists.
     
  13. Aug 23, 2013 #12

    sophiecentaur

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    I have never seen the back of my neck bit I can be pretty certain it's there.
     
  14. Aug 23, 2013 #13
    X-rays are used to make images that show the positions of Atoms in crystals. X-rays are like light, em waves, so their images would be similar to light if it produced images.
     
  15. Aug 23, 2013 #14

    Simon Bridge

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    From OP's statistics page:
    Last Activity: Aug12-13 11:53 PM
     
  16. Aug 24, 2013 #15

    Nugatory

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    Mirrors don't work for you? Maybe it's time to start a thread on experimental investigation of vampirism and related phenomena.....

    (In case it's not obvious... I'm poking fun at the thread not you :smile:)
     
  17. Aug 24, 2013 #16

    sophiecentaur

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    I don't believe in mirrors or CCTV.
     
  18. Dec 31, 2013 #17
    Hi guys - I don't mean to "hit and run" as you call it and I apologize if that is the traditional forum etiquette here to return to a thread to post afterwards.

    I was quite busy with school and had forgotten to check back, but with my other threads I did actually read people's responses. I may not always post back, but I don't mean at all to imply that I was ungrateful for everyone's thoughts! It might just mean that I was either very busy and/or I may have read the responses and thought "Great!!!"

    I guess sometimes I just think it's OK to not respond, since it might be a "waste" of people's time for me to just say, "AWESOME!!" or something like that, but I shall try in the future here to at least let folks know I got their messages. I actually do genuinely appreciate people's thoughts and have learned some things from these forums. Thanks a bunch again!!
     
  19. Dec 31, 2013 #18
    I just watched both videos as well and they were very cool!

    Neat how they used an existing atom(s) to move the still atom by getting them to chemically react in creating that movie!

    As a follow-up question, do university chemistry/physics courses allow use of these super powerful "tools" for viewing atoms?
     
  20. Dec 31, 2013 #19

    Nugatory

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    That's what the "thanks" button is for :smile: :smile:
     
  21. Dec 31, 2013 #20

    davenn

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    that's the etiquette of life, not just this forum :smile:

    no that's just rude :wink:

    its ALWAYS polite to acknowledge responses when a question is asked and answered

    if you DONT answer how are we all to know that our posts helped you or not ??
    it leaves us all wondering .... ummm wonder if he/she understood ??

    happy New Year from Sydney, Australia

    Dave
     
  22. Dec 31, 2013 #21

    sophiecentaur

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    Afaics, if the OP doesn't return after a page or two of thread then it's open season. The thing to do, if you really don't know much about the subject you post a question about, you should make that clear. If you are already half way there then I feel you should word the question appropriately (say, with some Maths). It's all too easy to give an answer that's way below or above what the OP wants and that can frustrate everyone.
    I have read some excellent questions that start off "I am doing AS Physics and I have just come across a problem with the Photoelectric effect . . . . ." We all know where we stand then and the OP will probably have got the answer after a couple of responses.
     
  23. Jan 1, 2014 #22
    Thanks again for this video, Very cool.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  24. Jan 2, 2014 #23
    There are some photos of atoms and molecules

    29194901.jpg
    triptych350.jpg
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/media/inline/the-shape-of-atoms_1.jpg


    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21829194.900-smile-hydrogen-atom-youre-on-quantum-camera.html#.UsUzR41M84M

    http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2013/05/30/scientists-capture-first-images-of-molecules-before-and-after-reaction/

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-shape-of-atoms
     
  25. Jan 14, 2014 #24
    Makes sense! Thanks!
     
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