Picture of the Atom of Hydrogen

Getting into a Hydrogen atom for the first time in History

Who would imagine a few decades ago that we would be able to photograph a Hydrogen atom. Well this has just happened. A team of scientists have taken a photo of a hydrogen atom which even shows the electron orbiting.

Such a photo must be considered a big achievement since when we go down to such small sizes matter behaves in a completely different and unpredictable way and the principle of uncertainty comes into play. For those that do not know what the principle of uncertainty is, it’s when you try to observe the position or the speed of a particle at those levels of magnification and by doing so you alter its position and its speed. And this happens because in order to observe something, photons (which are also tiny particles) will have to bounce on the particle that you observe in order to give you the information of speed and position. Thus you alter the position of the particle you observe, which makes reality at this level subjective. This are of Physics is known as quantum physics and is fascinating.

Thanks to a new quantum microscope that was invented in Netherlands, A. S. Stodolna and her team managed to take the image of the hydrogen atom. In order for this to happen in quantum mechanics they have to use wave functions according to the Schrödinger equation which governs the atomic structure. At this microscopic level we may think of electron and protons as ‘objects’ but in reality they are closer to energy rather than mass. If you would like to read more about the scientific process you can read the paper here.

It is exciting to be able to verify what theoretically we believe happens at a quantum level, and we also need to realize that everything in the universe consists of atoms and atoms at their foundation are energy. So basically the first question that will pop up in our minds is whether matter is in reality an illusion? Food for thought.

By John Black

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