Physics Question #321
Jonathan Weiler, a 14 year old male from the Internet asks on January 21, 1998,
If atoms are so small, how can we split them?
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answered on January 21, 1998
People used to think atoms were the smallest possible things in nature.
Then they were split and found to contain neutrons, protons and electrons (and other things). People thought those were the smallest things. Then they split neutrons and protons and discovered they were made of quarks.
Now these are thought to be the smallest things. Maybe some day we will discover that there is something even smaller. It would not surprise me.
The reason we were able to split things into ever smaller pieces is because we developed higher and higher energy beams to do it. Currently the highest energy beam available is 900 billion electron volts. You can find out more about atom splitting technology and how nuclear rectors work on the United States Department of Energy website.
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