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The Physics of Touching Something

If you are reading this article right now, it is a sure bet that you are touching something, your laptop, phone, chair or just the floor. However, you are actually not touching anything. Everything you are seeing, touching, or feeling is made up of a lot of atoms. Atoms are infinitesimally small parts of matter. But, to really understand why you can’t touch something, you need to understand how electrons work.

Electrons, neutrons, and protons are found in atoms. Protons have a positive charge, while electrons have a negative charge. Particles, in their nature, are attracted to particles with an opposite charge and they repel similarly charged particles. Because of this, electrons can never come into contact with other electrons. The same thing is true for all of us. When you go sit down on a chair, the electrons within your body are repelling the electrons that make up the chair and thus you are actually hovering over the chair by an incredibly small distance. This is electron repulsion. You might be wondering, “then why do I perceive touch as a real thing?” The answer comes down to how our brain perceives the physical world. What happens is that our nerve cells send signals to our brain that tell us that we are physically touching something, when in reality, the sensation of touch is given to us by our electron’s interaction.

So at the end of the day, you are actually not touching anything, and what you are feeling is the interaction between our electrons, and the electrons from what we are touching. It’s crazy right?

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