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Unlimited atomic energy?

  1. Oct 22, 2015 #1
    First This is not a nuclear question... and I am not a physicist ...

    My question concerns the age of ALL atoms in the universe... From the big bang to now we are talking 15-16 BILLION years???... And looking at the galaxies and how many light years they are away from us, we (our atoms) are all extremely OLD.... SO how is it that Atoms can maintain an endless energy level.... Active Electrons, Neutrons, Protons...
    I would think all atoms would be dead (out of energy) at this age point (billions of years)...

    Where does all that energy come from and why has it not run out?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2015 #2
    Where all the energy came from originally is still unknown.
    Several conjectures exist, but an honest answer to 'What made the big bang happen' is that we don't know. (However work is progress, with the LHC experiments at CERN being the most famous example.)
    Much evidence exists though which indicates that the 'big bang' did happen for whatever reason, and the current model is able to determine various stages in the evolution of the Universe, including the point at which the first atoms, mostly of hydrogen, will have appeared.

    Once atoms exist many of them are very stable, although some of them do spontaneously disintegrate after some time has passed - this is nuclear fission.
    Stable atoms are very persistent and they don't break down other than in very rare and extreme conditions such as inside of stars - here fusion occurs and atoms of lighter elements can fuse together and make a bigger (heavier) atom. Atoms can also be destroyed when bombarded by very high energy subatomic particles.

    It is widely thought however that eventually everything will break down and the universes' fate in the very long term is to become nothing but a thin sea of energy at a very low temperature.
    'Eventually' is a heck of a long time though - billions of trillions of years, and the current age of the universe is a mere blip compared to that kind of time scale.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
  4. Oct 22, 2015 #3

    ZapperZ

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    The problem here is that you have a preconceived idea that the "atoms" should be losing energy. They don't!

    In its ground state, the atom radiates NO ENERGY. It means that it is stable in its current configuration. Until there is either a nuclear reaction, a transformation, etc., it will remain that way. So if it does not lose energy as it is, why would it be "dead" many years later?

    Zz.
     
  5. Oct 22, 2015 #4

    Nugatory

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    Why? It's not like their energy is leaking away or anything - an atom doesn't spend any energy just being an atom.
     
  6. Oct 22, 2015 #5
    Energy is conserved, so there's as much energy now as there was just after the Big Bang. This is assuming that we correctly account for gravity and dark energy in the total energy.
     
  7. Oct 22, 2015 #6
    If so, have you any references on global energy conservation?
     
  8. Oct 22, 2015 #7

    jbriggs444

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