Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What does touch look like in the subatomic world?

  1. Jan 4, 2013 #1
    What does "touch" look like in the subatomic world?

    From my understanding, what looks like touch for us (e.g. my hand pressed against a wall) is not actually "touch," but a sensation. The charged particles in my hand are not actually "touching" the inversely charged particles in the wall, but are instead repelled by them, and it is this repulsion that gives me the sensation (and appearance) of touching. However, is there a phenomenon of actual "touching" for subatomic phenomena? If so, what would this look like? Do we have a picture for it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2013 #2
    Re: What does "touch" look like in the subatomic world?

    Hi Markb..welcome to physics forums.....lotsa fun here!

    Subatomic 'touch' includes a variety of phenomena.,,.some beyond our imagination. In the low gravity environment we usually find ourselves in, electron orbitals in your hand come close to those in,say, a fork. Repulsion keeps them from actually 'touching' yet describing this via quantum fields introduces a sort of touch...an interaction. But radioactive decay can split particles apart as radiation is emitted from a former higher energy state.

    In a very high gravity, like a neutron star for example, electrons are forced by immense gravity into the protons of the nucleus...and the combined particle behaves as a neutral neutron....The Pauli exclusion principle no longer applies.

    This extreme condition can go even further if the star was above about 1.5 solar masses...Such a mass can collapse into a black hole where the former subatomic particles seem to 'disappear' in a singularity....a spacetime so distorted by gravity that our theoretical mathematics diverges...that is, we approach 'infinities'.....like a mathematical series that fails to converge. It could be in the environment at the singularity, space,time,particle, everything merges into a quantum foam where none is distinguishable. Not unlike right near the Big Bang that initiated our universe.

    As if THAT weirdness isn't enough: Sometimes I can observe particles you cannot! If you and I are adjacent, and I am accelerating and you are not, I will observe a theoretical set of particles you do not...This is called the Unruh effect and is widely accepted as accurate, but is not yet proven.....As a result I will measure a different temperature accelerating than you do without acceleration. So not only can you not 'touch' my particles, you can't even detect them!!
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
  4. Jan 4, 2013 #3
    Re: What does "touch" look like in the subatomic world?

    If the charges were inverse, or opposite I assume you mean, they would not repel, they would attract. In fact, if it were inverse-opposite ANTI-matter you were touching, then you would blow up and take the Vatican along with you, like in Angels and Demons. How's that for a picture? See the "do not touch" sign? I would mind that, cause that would be a touch...a touch too much.
  5. Jan 5, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: What does "touch" look like in the subatomic world?

    Neutrons are fermions, the principle applies to them as well - which generates enough pressure to keep the neutron star stable.

    Overlapping wave functions of the particles (here: electrons) have some similarity to "touching".
  6. Jan 5, 2013 #5
    Re: What does "touch" look like in the subatomic world?

    The combined particles do not only behave like a neutron, they are actually neutrons. The electrons and protons are turned into neutrons and neutrinos by weak interaction. The neutrions escape immediately, so only neutrons stay in the star.

    These neutrons are not some quasi-neutrons that would still somehow contain protons and electrons. They are full-fledged neutrons without any protons or electrons involved.
  7. Jan 7, 2013 #6
    Re: What does "touch" look like in the subatomic world?

    just reading through this forums is the most beautiful thing I ever did!!
    I recently did a basics course on physics over at fxphd and now this whole thing caught me so badly. Can anyone recommend me any basic books of Physics and Mathematics which go into rather theoretical from explaining with examples on what and how like Naty1 did?
    I am heavily interested in all kind of weird things and read a lot about cellular automata/ chaos mathematics, but quatum physics/ physics seems to be the new interest.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: What does touch look like in the subatomic world?