More than often it happens that in the race to find answers to bigger questions, we forget to stop and ponder on the small answers and situations that seem so simple, but despite their simplicity have so much in store to blow us off! Last evening I was walking down the dimly lit streets to buy my dinner, regular stuff. And as it happened, I was a bit too aware of my steps. Feeling every slight force of the pavement underneath as I paced slowly, as my feet touched the cement. And then it struck me, was I really ‘touching’ the ground, or for that matter any thing? What I admired for the remainder of the day, was something simple, amazing, and more importantly short enough to take out time and share it on my blog in this busy exam season.
The answer is : NO. I wasn’t. I am not. Neither is anyone else. Every time you pick up something, or move something, or ‘feel’ something, you weren’t actually ‘touching’ it. The reason is very basic high-school physics topic: Electro-magnetic force. In the simplest words, for electrical charges, the force has one rule: ‘Likes repel, Opposites attract’. This is one of the four fundamental forces in our Universe, besides Strong and Weak Forces, and Gravitational Force. It’s stronger than the weak force or the gravitational force, to compare electronic repulsion between two electrons is around 10^37 times stronger than the gravitational force between them. When ever we move our hands towards an object, the electrons in the atoms of our finger tips experience a repulsion from the electrons of the object, and it is this force that we call as ‘the feeling of touch’. The fact that we are able to pick them up is because of friction, and on the atomic level more or less because of the perfect balancing of forces to hold them up in between our fingers. Like when you grab a bottle around the neck, the surface of the bottle and our fingers are rough when zoomed in, and these rough surfaces kind of fit like puzzle pieces, even though they aren’t touching, they are strong enough to prevent them from falling under gravitational pull, and keep them up.
So why aren’t planets repelling each other due to their electrons instead of moving under the influence of their host star’s gravity? Well, unlike gravitational force, electromagnetic forces are not as effective over long distances.
Basically you are just floating over the chair, and hovering your way through the roads! When we say we are in contact with a thing, it just means that the separation between the atoms is negligible. This is the closest you can get to anything or any person.
It is amazing how every force and constant is perfectly tuned to allow the existence of our universe. The anthropic principle tries to give an answer to that, but nevertheless, simple things like these sometimes take us on a trip beyond the usual. A simple thought like touch, revealed a fact so basic and deep. Beautiful. I love how simple things, which seem so, ‘normal’, have so much to make us wonder. I am sure most of you who are reading knew or were aware of this in some level or other, but not most of us take out time to sit down, take out some time to think, about the wonderful science around us. It was also perfect and interesting enough to be shared with everyone here, perhaps might be a new thought to one or two of you. Science is elegant, and it is this elegance I am so in love with. Happy Reading!
-The Cosmogasmic Person
I found this really good video on youtube on this topic: Touch- Minute Physics