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IPFS News Link • Science

We are not empty

• arclein

The camera zooms in on the person's arm to reveal the cells, then a cell nucleus. A DNA strand grows on the screen. The camera focuses on a single atom within the strand, dives into a frenetic cloud of rocketing particles, crosses it, and leaves us in oppressive darkness. An initially imperceptible tiny dot grows smoothly, revealing the atomic nucleus. The narrator lectures that the nucleus of an atom is tens of thousands of times smaller than the atom itself, and poetically concludes that we are made from emptiness. How often have you seen such a scene or read something equivalent to it in popular science? I am sure plenty, if you are fans of this genre like me. However, the narrative is wrong. Atomic nuclei in a molecule are not tiny dots, and there are no empty spaces within the atom. The empty atom picture is likely the most repeated mistake in popular science. It is unclear who created this myth, but it is sure that Carl Sagan, in his classic TV series Cosmos (1980), was c