Our imagination is made up of atoms

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Helmut Eberl, Institute for High Energy Physics: "We know that we consist of 10,000 billion cells on average, that is, the whole organism is a myriad of cells. And now every single cell is built up like its own organism and consists of say and write 10 million billion elementary particles. "

Another incomprehensible finding in particle physics is that atoms, and therefore humans, consist of more than 99.9 percent empty space.

Helmut Eberl: "To illustrate the dimensions that prevail inside, I take a hydrogen atom. It consists of a proton - in my model I say it is a sphere one meter in diameter. At a distance of about 10 kilometers Now an electron that is smaller than one centimeter flies in a circular orbit. Seen from the outside one has the impression that one sees a sphere about 20 km in diameter. In the classical sense, there is now between the electron and the proton - in between - just empty space. If you bring all of the matter in the human body to the density of such an atomic nucleus, then the whole body is no bigger than the head of a pin, smaller than a millimeter. "

The eye could not keep up with the human endeavor to see small things very big - from the beginning of the 19th century the microscope developed into the most important detection device in medicine and science. It allowed magnifications of 10 to the power of minus 4 - that is, a thousandfold - man looked for the first time into a world that he had never seen before.

This reached the limit of optical magnification, which is not related to the quality of the microscope, but to the wavelength of the light visible to the eye.

Helmut Eberl: "The microscope was the first step into the microcosm. You use ordinary light and irradiate an object - mostly from below - and then magnify it through a lens system. You can still see it with the normal eye - the microscope was great interesting because for the first time you could see bacteria that we didn't see before, it was a revolution in medicine. "

The nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer was the entry into the world of the millionths - 10 to the power of minus 8 - here nothing can be seen directly with the eye. The device measures the nuclear spin, the rotating charge on the atomic nucleus. This enables insights into the atomic structure of material samples. A milestone: the human genetic information, the DNA, became visible on this scale - the foundation for genetic engineering was laid.

The scanning tunneling microscope records dimensions in the billionths - 10 to the power of minus 10 - the world of atoms has been reached.

Helmut Eberl: "The last step before entering the elementary particle world is the tunneling scanning microscope. With this one can already look into the matter, that is, one can already see individual atoms on the surface."

This microscope feels the object with an electrically conductive tip. The atomic surface structure is mapped in great detail - this was made possible by nanotechnology.

The last step in the journey into matter is the particle accelerator. With a magnification of 10 to the power of minus 18, it allows a view of atoms and elementary particles. But particle accelerators are not only found in CERN, almost every Austrian household has had one in everyday use for decades.

Gerhard Walzel, Institute for High Energy Physics: “Everyone may still own an old black and white television or have owned one and may not even know that they owned a small electron accelerator. It is the same principle as with an accelerator at CERN - an electrical acceleration and the deflection or curvature in the path is done with magnets.
The electron accelerator in a black and white television set has a hot cathode, which you can see glowing red, which is used to set the electrons free. These electrons are accelerated with a small anode that has a hole in the middle and are then finally accelerated to the picture surface by a much higher voltage that is applied to the screen. If you take a small permanent magnet and come close to the electron beam, you can see that the electron beam is deflected and that the image moves on the surface of the screen. "

This is how the principle of the tube television can be applied and explained to the largest machine in the world.