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Brian Cox demonstrates why atoms are empty - Comments

some asshole's Avatar Comment 1 by some asshole

I don't even want to say what I thought that image was depicting for the first split second after I glanced at it.

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 01:51:19 UTC | #900827

RSingh's Avatar Comment 2 by RSingh

Thanks Prof Cox! I tried alone to get this experiment right in 19996 alone and failed. What a lovely feeling to see it done rightly. Every school teacher should demonstrate it.

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 02:40:56 UTC | #900841

AnthropicConstance's Avatar Comment 3 by AnthropicConstance

As Richard Feynman said,"Fysics is phun."

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 05:30:21 UTC | #900860

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 4 by Alternative Carpark

I look forward to watching the full programme.

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 05:30:30 UTC | #900861

Nyarlat's Avatar Comment 5 by Nyarlat

Oh no. The "atoms are empty" fallacy again! Brian Cox should know it better. Fields and standing elektron wavefunctions are not "empty space". It´s only the newtonian understanding of nature that breaks down. Fields are real. Elektromagnetic waves are real. Wavefunctions (electron orbitals) are also real.

The demonstration is very good, but has nothing to do with "empty" atoms. Of course the mass is concentrated in the nucleus because of the huge amount of binding energy between protons and neutrons.

People who teach should not change the viewpoint from newtonian to relativistic and quantum theorie during the same demonstration.

The caption should be: "Why atoms are NOT empty."

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 11:18:07 UTC | #900914

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 6 by Rich Wiltshir

I'm glad I recorded this; several more viewings are needed to wring out as much as I can from this excellent program.

Thanks again Prof.

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 12:19:00 UTC | #900927

Save me jebuz!'s Avatar Comment 7 by Save me jebuz!

If some of you tech savvy types were to post this to YouTube, (bloody iplayer won't let me see it from here) I'd be much obliged.

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 17:46:07 UTC | #901011

hemidemisemigod's Avatar Comment 8 by hemidemisemigod

Comment 5 by Nyarlat :

Oh no. The "atoms are empty" fallacy again! Brian Cox should know it better. Fields and standing elektron wavefunctions are not "empty space". It´s only the newtonian understanding of nature that breaks down. Fields are real. Elektromagnetic waves are real. Wavefunctions (electron orbitals) are also real.

The demonstration is very good, but has nothing to do with "empty" atoms. Of course the mass is concentrated in the nucleus because of the huge amount of binding energy between protons and neutrons.

People who teach should not change the viewpoint from newtonian to relativistic and quantum theorie during the same demonstration.

The caption should be: "Why atoms are NOT empty."

Perhaps if you had seen the whole show you would have understood what Brian Cox was trying to explain to the audience. The glowing object on the pedestal was a large diamond (worth about £1,000,000) and next to it was a model showing the seemingly delicate lattice of carbon atoms that make this super hard substance.

If all the atoms that make up the entire human population were sufficiently squeezed (as they might be in a white-dwarf star) our mass would fit inside the small box the diamond came in.

That's the "empty space" that he was talking about.

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 18:05:03 UTC | #901019

Tord M's Avatar Comment 9 by Tord M

I'm a big fan of the Royal Institution Christmas lectures, and I've often wondered why there are not more lectures like these produced for television. They can't (at least needn't) be all that expensive to make (At least compared to the usual science documentaries which takes months of planning, have to fly a film crew all around the world to special locations, use fancy computer graphics, etc.)

A good lecturer, an exiting topic, a blackboard, and a few simple demonstrations, in front of an engaged audience is both interesting and exciting. If I had been working in the TV entertainment business, I would seriously have looked into the potential of this format.

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 21:33:17 UTC | #901110

papa lazaru's Avatar Comment 10 by papa lazaru

It was all right. Nice layman interpretations (right up my level),which I suppose was the name of the game.

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 21:49:34 UTC | #901118

Tord M's Avatar Comment 11 by Tord M

Comment 10 by papa lazaru :

It was all right. Nice layman interpretations (right up my level),which I suppose was the name of the game.

Aren't you being a bit cynical ("name of the game") and possibly bordering to arrogant ("Nice layman interpretations")?

There will always be things that could have been done better, and in only 58 minutes there is simply not enough time to go into depth or to get everything exactly accurate. But judging from the short comments from the audience(/participants) at the end of the program, it seems like they were really fascinated. (I.e.: got their heads spinning (Which is a good thing!).).

Mon, 19 Dec 2011 23:05:51 UTC | #901154

hellosnackbar's Avatar Comment 12 by hellosnackbar

Brian Cox is an excellent lecturer. This program should be shown regularly in every school just as excellent lectures from RD,Laurence Krauss, and Jim Al Khalili. Science should be given a bigger boost at the BBC.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 00:37:38 UTC | #901193

helena!'s Avatar Comment 13 by helena!

Brian Cox is awesome as ever! So enjoyable to watch and learn from him. All and any posts of Professor Brian Cox is appreciated greatly thanks! More of this please.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 03:59:40 UTC | #901256

Starcrash's Avatar Comment 14 by Starcrash

Very interesting. I had no idea.

I love the way Brian Cox lectures. He makes the ideas crystal clear through nice analogies.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 05:21:13 UTC | #901262

Ivan The Not So Bad's Avatar Comment 15 by Ivan The Not So Bad

A kindly cyber criminal with no regard for copyright laws has posted the full lecture on YouTube. It might not be long before the Beeb take it down so enjoy it while you can:

BBC | A Night With the Stars | feat. Brian Cox | 58 minutes.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 11:11:06 UTC | #901313

Teknical's Avatar Comment 16 by Teknical

I don't know what the media do with Prof Cox but he grates on me when they over produce him. This is the forum where he should be seen. It is also the forum where others should be seen.

Why not 'an evening with' Prof Cox, Dawkins etc instead of some numbty wittering on about how difficult it has been amassing millions of pounds in the entertainment industry.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 11:48:06 UTC | #901320

Wokkie's Avatar Comment 17 by Wokkie

Nice talk by Brian Cox. We can't have enough science in the world! The talk will definitely inspire some kids to look at the marvels of the universe.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 17:16:45 UTC | #901415

RomeStu's Avatar Comment 18 by RomeStu

If you like Brian Cox then check out the podcast "The Infinite Monkey Cage" - it's a BBC radio 4 comedy show with Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince doing science-based comedy (yes really) with a bunch of guest stars ..... and I believe Richard will be on next week (Boxing Day).

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:26:51 UTC | #901442

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 19 by Steve Zara

comment 18 by RomeStu

If you like Brian Cox then check out the podcast "The Infinite Monkey Cage" - it's a BBC radio 4 comedy show with Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince doing science-based comedy (yes really) with a bunch of guest stars ..... and I believe Richard will be on next week (Boxing Day).

It's great - it combines light-hearted banter with good science discussion. Cox is one of those rare people (in my view) whose celebrity is richly deserved. I find he always brings a new way of looking at things, even things which are familiar to me.

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 18:50:59 UTC | #901450

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 20 by Alan4discussion

Brian Cox brings physics in interesting, simple, and clear forms, to many people who would not otherwise encounter it. He shows great skill in simplifying complex subjects to bring them to lay audiences, while holding the interest of those better scientifically informed at the same time. Nothing can beat playing around with some of this practical kit to build up concepts and understanding, especially in the young.

Fri, 23 Dec 2011 11:45:06 UTC | #902198

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 21 by Alan4discussion

Brian Cox gives a science lesson to celebrities. The comedian Simon Pegg and physicist Jim Al-Khalili help him explain standing waves in a demonstration to show why atoms are so large and empty.

The concept of "large and empty" is universal:- .......

... .. If we look at standing waves and particles in a demonstration to show why solar systems and galaxies are so "large and empty", but act like "particles" in relation to objects at a great distance.

Fri, 23 Dec 2011 11:51:46 UTC | #902199

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 22 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 5 by Nyarlat

Oh no. The "atoms are empty" fallacy again! Brian Cox should know it better. Fields and standing elektron wavefunctions are not "empty space". It´s only the newtonian understanding of nature that breaks down. Fields are real. Elektromagnetic waves are real. Wavefunctions (electron orbitals) are also real.

I was more amazed at his total mis-representation of the Pauli exclusion principle. The idea that every electron in the entire universe alters its state because he warms up the diamond isn't the exclusion principle I've ever heard of. The effects are surely only local.....and are so small beyond that as to be drowned out by even the tiniest magnetic variance. One would have one or two relativistic and temporal problems if atoms billions of light years away are changing instantly as a result of what Cox does here.

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 00:46:25 UTC | #902542

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 23 by Steve Zara

Comment 22 by Schrodinger's Cat

I was more amazed at his total mis-representation of the Pauli exclusion principle. The idea that every electron in the entire universe alters its state because he warms up the diamond isn't the exclusion principle I've ever heard of.

I have just watched that section of the program, and I agree - it's a very strange mis-representation. As you say, the effect is purely local. How could it not be?

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 02:14:19 UTC | #902554

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 24 by Steve Zara

I have changed my mind. Cox came onto a Physics forum a few days ago, and posted this link to teaching materials given at Manchester, explaining his reasoning:

http://www.hep.manchester.ac.uk/u/forshaw/BoseFermi/Double%20Well.html

The Fermi Exclusion Principle is one of the strangest things in physics. It's not a true force, but acts like one. Looks like it's very strange indeed.

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 04:02:40 UTC | #902561

Frank Pruiksma's Avatar Comment 25 by Frank Pruiksma

Glad to see Simon Pegg doing something else besides Comedy! Great Lecture!

Sun, 01 Jan 2012 07:03:08 UTC | #904170