Is It Possible To Truly Touch Anything?

Everything around us is made of atoms, and every atom is a nucleus surrounded by electrons. The trouble with touch comes down to those pesky electrons: they tend to repel each other, leaving a little bit of space no matter how forcefully they're brought together. There are a few ways that atoms can truly interact: chemical reactions and radioactivity. But if you're talking about touching a loved one, these are hardly useful. Hear a few inspired takes on the concept of touch.

What Does It Mean to Touch?

To know if it's possible to touch something, you need to define what touch really means.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Many scientists attest that it's impossible to touch anything, because electrons repel each other. 00:01

  2. Even though electrons repel each other, their wave packets can overlap. 00:46

  3. Electrons may not "touch" each other in the literal sense, but they do interact at short distances. 01:24

How Do Atoms Touch?

A demonstration of physics using soccer balls.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Physicists define "contact" between atoms or molecules as the moment when the attractive force balances out the repulsive force between them. 02:43

  2. The nuclear cores of different atoms and molecules do not naturally come together and "touch." 07:18

  3. Because electrons can't be defined as particles occupying a concrete space, analogies that involve them "touching" are problematic. 10:06

How Can You Really Touch Anything?

There may be a way to truly touch another person.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. An atom is a nucleus surrounded by an outer shell of orbiting electrons. When two atoms get close, their electrons repel one another. 00:54

  2. The nerves in your skin can feel the repulsion as texture. You can cut an object, but you're just pushing atoms out of the way. 01:41

  3. Your parents and your children may be the closest you get to touching a person. 04:46

Written by Curiosity Staff August 19, 2016

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