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

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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?
 

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  • #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.

https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/can-see-atom/
 
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  • #3
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Somewhat relevant: the smallest movie in the world made by IBM research in spring 2013.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeUmrK92ZIA
 
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  • #4
ZapperZ
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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?
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
phinds
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Somewhat relevant: the smallest movie in the world made by IBM research in spring 2013.
Very cool. Thanks for posting.
 
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  • #7
davenn
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  • #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.
 
  • #9
russ_watters
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The existence of atoms involves MORE than just what you can (or cannot) see with your eyes!
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
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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?
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.
 
  • #12
sophiecentaur
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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.
I have never seen the back of my neck bit I can be pretty certain it's there.
 
  • #13
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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.
 
  • #14
Simon Bridge
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From OP's statistics page:
Last Activity: Aug12-13 11:53 PM
 
  • #15
Nugatory
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I have never seen the back of my neck bit I can be pretty certain it's there.
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:)
 
  • #16
sophiecentaur
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I don't believe in mirrors or CCTV.
 
  • #17
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Starting a thread and never returning to it.
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!!
 
  • #18
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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
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?
 
  • #19
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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
That's what the "thanks" button is for :smile: :smile:
 
  • #20
davenn
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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.
that's the etiquette of life, not just this forum :smile:

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,
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
 
  • #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.
 
  • #22
Somewhat relevant: the smallest movie in the world made by IBM research in spring 2013.
Thanks again for this video, Very cool.
 
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  • #23
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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?
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
 
  • #24
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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.
Makes sense! Thanks!
 

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