UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information

1)Can a perfect vacuum exist?
-If your answer is no, why can you not consider deep space a vacuum (where there is only about 1 atom per square meter)?; isn't that space between the atoms a vacuum?
-Also, can the space between atoms in the objects around us be considered a perfect vacuum?: ex. a block of steel or wood (or can that neither be proven nor disproven given our knowelege of particles smaller than protons, neutrons and electrons, such as quarks)
-If your answer is no, is another explaination that because if a spcae has no matter in it, then it has a teperature of exactly 0 Kelvin, and if one part of the universe is 0 Kelvin, all of it must be as well (because motion creates heat; and any movement in the universe will be reverberated between atoms) where if the universe was 0 Kelvin, life could not possibly exist.

If a perfect vacuum is not humanly attainable, then:
2)How does a particle accelerator work?... given that you are colliding subatomic particles of matter much smaller than atoms themselves(atoms being the matter that cannot be removed from a space to create a perfect vacuum).
-If you cannot remove particles as large as atoms from a space, how can you possibly keep them from effecting the path of a proton traveling close to the speed of light?If it hits anything at all, wouldn't that ruin the test?

Thank you for your patience.
Question Date: 2010-01-12
Answer 1:

First off, we need to be clear on just what a vacuum is. A vacuum is a region of space that not only has nothing in it, but it implies that something would move into it if it could. So while the space between objects in our solar system is a vacuum (relative to the air on the surface of the Earth, or the inside of a space ship), the space between atoms in a rock is not vacuum. The atoms in a rock are held in place by chemical bonds; they don't want to be any closer together than they already are, despite that most of the rock's volume is, indeed, space. However, interplanetary space is not a vacuum when compared to interstellar space, and interstellar space is not a vacuum when compared to intergalactic space, and even intergalactic space has stuff in it.

I am not enough of an engineer to know how you could take, say, interplanetary space and turn it into a higher-level vacuum than it is, although I'm know it can be done. I doubt that you could ever get a truly perfect vacuum, but, given your observation that particle accelerators work, you obviously can get pretty close.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2017 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use