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Handling particles

  1. Apr 20, 2010 #1
    This might seem to be a silly question to some. Please understand I'm no physicist.

    I've been watching a series on electromagnetism, energy, matter in general, for the general public. Nowhere can I find an answer to this simple question: if atoms and everything inside of them are smaller than the smallest light waves we can see, if no one has ever seen an atom, if the Atomic Theory is merely a (pretty good) description of how matter behaves, if the familiar image of electrons spinning around a nucleus is a useful model rather than the thing itself, how on Earth is it possible to place a single particle inside a particle accelerator, make it go several times around the block and see what happens when it collides with another, precisely placed, particle? How can you pick up, handle, place & accelerate an atom? Or a subatomic particle?

    Thanks.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2010 #2

    ZapperZ

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    We NEVER place "a single particle" in an accelerator and make it collide with another. That is a very wasteful way of doing high energy physics experiment.

    If you look carefully, ALL of the particle collider experiments have been done on CHARGED particles or ions, not neutral atoms. We guide, manipulate, and handle them using electromagnetic field (RF) with a particular geometry because they interact with such fields.

    Zz.
     
  4. Apr 20, 2010 #3
    Thank you for your reply. I wasn't necessarily making the distinction between a charged particle and a neutral atom, I was rather wondering how you could "handle" something like that. And I still don't get it. From what I've learned, the nucleus of an atom is a theoretical model which can make consistent and accurate predictions, but which no one has ever seen. How do you handle, or manipulate physically, something like that?
     
  5. Apr 20, 2010 #4

    ZapperZ

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    Who said that these are only "theoretical model"? Where do you get these impressions from? I can shoot at you alpha particles (which are helium nuclei) and considered to be a form of radiation. When you end up with cancer, do you think this is purely "theoretical"?

    Note that "seeing" with your eyes is a very POOR way to indicate something that is "real". Your eyes not only have a finite resolution, but also have a very finite range of detection in the EM spectrum. There are way better way to detect something that using your eyes.

    Zz.
     
  6. Apr 20, 2010 #5
    Thank you for your time.
     
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