How do electrons not fall into the nucleus of an atom?

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  1. #1
    Slothstronaut Justice For All is offline
    Aug 2011 Join Date
    Almost thereLocation

    How do electrons not fall into the nucleus of an atom?

    So let's start off with a little backstory or context of what we will be talking about. This particular thread has to do with particle/nuclear physics (more particle physics than nuclear physics but I will delve into both subject matters pretty much equally).

    We start off with an atom. An atom is pretty much the most basic unit of matter we can observe confidently, I say pretty much because an atom itself is composed of other smaller particles called quarks, gluons and electrons. Every atom consists of 2 up quarks and 1 down quark. A quark is basically a form of electricity which holds everything together. Quarks haven't been 'proven' to exist 100%, but they have been confirmed through experiments such as through the Large Hadron Collider.

    The electromagnetic force (one of the "strong forces" of nature) is what holds all of these together.

    The common idea that electrons orbit around the nucleus of an atom is wrong, I have come to find out. If an electron orbited around the nucleus of an atom in a perfect circle then it would fall into the center of the nucleus due to gravity. So here is where a new theory comes into play, which is that the electrons are actually composed of an 'electron cloud' An electron cloud is used to describe where an electron is during it's 'revolution' around the nucleus of an atom. It explains that we cannot know the exact position of an electron due to a small number of factors, the factor that I like to use is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle - which explains that the more precise the location of a particle is known, the less the momentum of the particle can be known, and vice versa as the article explains. Basically, due to the expansion of the universe and everything inside of it constantly moving, it is impossible to know the exact position of anything at any given time.

    So this is where the electron cloud comes into play with this particular matter.

    To quote from an article explaining the electron cloud;

    It is theoretically possible, for an electron to be a nearly infinite distance away from the atomic nucleus it is orbiting, although the probability of an electron decreases dramatically the further away from the nucleus you search.

    So how does the electron behave exactly? If we cannot know exactly where it is at any given time, and it cannot orbit in a spherical path like planets and everything else in the universe (albeit elliptical and not perfectly spherical orbits) due to the force of gravity pulling it into the nucleus, how does it behave?

    This is where the debate comes into play. Do electrons actually 'exist' in our universe/dimension? Or can/do they 'pop' in and out of our known universe/dimensions and other universes/dimensions? Some people speculate and hypothesize that electrons can actually teleport therefore again adding to the fact that their position and momentum cannot ever be precisely known.