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Question:
If everything in existence is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and these particles are made up of solid energy, then what is this energy made of? Doesn't this count in the realm of "everything in existence"? Where does energy lie in existence, and how does it make up something that makes up everything else? Shouldn't the atoms make up the energy then, logically? Is this a paradox of science or simply confusing?



Replies:
You are OK except for the part about "everything in existence is made up of atoms." It is not, as you have concluded. In addition, astronomers now believe that most of the mass in the universe is composed of "dark matter" which interacts with gravity but not light, so it cannot be made of atoms. Even fairly prosaic astronomical objects like neutron stars are not made of atoms. So you do not have a paradox on your hands, just a false statement.

Richard Barrans
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Wyoming


You have hit upon a difficult problem in particle physics. Yes "things" are made of atoms, ..., etc. But energy and mass are > equivalent forms -- E=mc^2-- but therein lies the problem. As the world gets "smaller" our usual laws of matter and mechanics fails us and in order to "get the correct" predictions about how tiny matter behaves, one must use quantum mechanics, which really introduces many non-intuitive concepts, such as particle / wave duality. That is tiny "things" have the characteristics of both particles and waves depending upon how they are viewed. Particles, if manipulated properly, and separated by distances exceeding the speed of light can "remember" the properties of its partner, which is quite weird and non-intuitive, but in fact that is what occurs. At a certain level, where we have no direct experience to provide intuition, it is necessary to follow the mathematical scaffolding and let it take us where it does. Only after we have experience in the weird world do we develop intuition. I wish this "explanation" could be less confusing, but that is the way Nature behaves.

Vince Calder



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