Everyone knows that all items surrounding us are made of atoms. Even the ancient thinker and traveler Democritus from Abdera knew that there is an end to materiality division and it ends on the smallest, indivisible particles. Later scientists discovered that those particles are atoms and they have atomic nucleus made of protons and neutrons – around it circulate electrons. But what’s the rest of the atom made of? The answer is simple – nothing.

Actually we can say that our body and other things are mostly made of nothing. You may be astonished right now but just imagine something. If protons and neutrons had diameter of 1cm, electrons would have a thickness of a hair or even smaller. The best part is that this size of the atom would be bigger than the length of 30 football pitches, and more than 99,99 % of it would be just filled with… nothing. But don’t worry! In a single drop of water there are 10 thousand billion billions of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, so at least there are a few electrons and atomic nucleuses which will recompense this nothingness.

The next question may be “How can we get energy in nuclear reactors if almost the whole atom is built of nothing?” It’s simple to imagine if we some numbers. In the reaction of the atomic nucleus splitting, the energy we get from one nucleus splitting is about 200 MeV, which equals to something around 3,2· 10-11J. To imagine how much energy it is, you need to multiply it by the number of atoms in a sample. As I said earlier, one drop of water has a lot of them, so just think how many of them are in one kilogram of uranium. Surely a lot!

As you can see, even if we are made mostly of nothing (cause the sum of masses of electrons in all of our body cells equals to 20 grams), this “nothing” has a lot of energy and without it there wouldn’t be anything.

Dawid Mazur (1e Liceum)