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Questions and Answers

Questions are an important part of the scientific process and, over the years, hundreds of people have sent their questions to us. Listed below are some of the most common, and most interesting, questions visitors to our site have asked. A special thanks to all of the staff members who have taken the time to help answer these questions. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!

Atoms, Elements and Molecules

Since Jefferson Lab is a nuclear physics research facility, it isn't surprising that we're often asked questions about atoms. We've selected the most common questions from the main archive and have listed them here for your convenience.

Complete Question Archive

Atoms and Matter

What keeps the electrons revolving around the nucleus of an atom?

How much of an atom is empty space?

If atoms are made up mostly of "empty space," what is in that empty space?

If atoms are 99.999999999999% empty space then why don't things pass right through them?

If all physical things are made of atoms, then why do different physical things have different physical properties? Like why is wood hard and rubber soft?

How fast do electrons move?

What do we use to measure mass?

Is matter everywhere?

If everything around us is matter, what about germs?

How do you prove air is matter?

Why is matter not being created at the present time, nor being destroyed?

Why don't atoms weigh anything?

What are the exact relative masses of protons, neutrons and electrons?

If different types of quarks have different masses, then why are protons and neutrons said to have the same mass, when they have different compositions of quarks?

What is plasma?

How do you know plasma is real if you can't see it?

What is the smallest particle of matter known?

Could there be anything smaller inside of an electron or inside of a neutron or a proton?

How many quarks are in a proton? How many quarks are in a neutron?

What kinds of quarks are protons and neutrons made of? What was the old name for the Top and Bottom quark?

What is the charge of an up quark and the charge of a down quark? How many quarks make up a proton and a neutron?

Are quarks confineable for study?

Is vacuum matter? What are ten things that are not matter?

What is a vacuum? Is it matter?

Elements and the Periodic Table

Electricity and Magnetism

History of Science

Scientific Math

Radiation and Radioactivity


Lasers and Light

Jefferson Lab

Scientific Instruments and Experimentation

Miscellaneous Questions

Citation and linking information

For questions about this page, please contact Steve Gagnon.