You’ve probably seen the classic Bohr’s model of an atom—with with electrons whizzing around a cluster of protons and neutrons—everywhere from science textbooks to the logo for The Big Bang Theory. While this schematic is often useful, the true picture of an atom is much stranger.
For one, 99.999999999999999% of the atom is empty space. If you could blow up a hydrogen atom to one trillion times its size, the nucleus would be the size of a grain of sand and the entire atom would be the size of a football stadium.
Stranger yet, an atom’s protons, neutrons, and electrons all live in quantum clouds—where you can only ever know where they’ll be with some probability. In this episode, we explore what an atom really looks like.