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ETpro's avatar

Why can't I walk through my wall?

Asked by ETpro (34508points) August 28th, 2013

We can’t really measure where the potentiality wave of the atom’s outer electron shell ends, but it is roughly 15 orders of magnitude larger than the nucleon. That would mean that roughly 99.9999999999999% of the atom is nothing but open space. Further, the individual quarks that make up the nucleon of a hydrogen atom stay so far apart that at least 99.99% of its nucleon is also empty space. Quarks may well be point particles like electrons, in which case the whole darned atom would seem to be nothing but empty space.

Jon Ronson relates this bit of humor about the above in his book, The Men Who Stare at Goats.
“This is a true story. It is the summer of 1983. Major General Albert Stubblebine III is sitting behind his desk in Arlington, Virginia, and he is staring at his wall, upon which hang his numerous military awards. They detail a long and distinguished career . He is the United States Army’s chief of intelligence, with sixteen thousand soldiers under his command… He looks past the awards to the wall itself. There is something he feels he must do even though the thought of it frightens him. He thinks about the choice he has to make. He can stay in his office, or he can go into the next office. That is his choice. And he has made it. He is going into the next office… He stands up, moves out from behind his desk, and begins to walk. I mean, he thinks, what is the atom mostly made up of anyway? Space! He quickens his pace. What am I mostly made up of? He thinks. Atoms! He is almost at a jog now. What is the wall mostly made up of? He thinks. Atoms! All I have to do is merge the spaces. ... Then General Stubblebine bangs his nose hard on the wall of his office. Damn, he thinks. General Stubblebine is confounded by his continual inability to walk through his wall.”

General Stubblebine is a man who thinks outside the box. And so am I. What if I hit my wall at relativistic speeds, I think. Maybe I could go straight through then. But then, the light from my office desk lamp hits my wall at relativistic speed, and it bounces off the wall too. Tiny little photons—point particles with no mass, hit a wall of empty space and—after having blithely traveled through a whole bunch of other empty space, they hit my wall and bounce off. Why? Since I am almost entirely empty space, and so is my wall, why won’t knowing that let me walk through walls?

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23 Answers

drhat77's avatar

the electron cloud, negatively charged, repels the electron cloud of the matter we “come in contact with”. That force we feel when we put out hands up against a wall is the sum of repulsion forces from the electron clouds in our hands, and that of the wall.

ETpro's avatar

So the answer is I am repulsive, and so are the walls of my house. Thanks. Thought so. :-)

drhat77's avatar

@ETpro and that’s why you’ve found a home on the internet, where the elctrons work FOR you, and not against.

rojo's avatar

I am thoroughly please that you think this way. Many times I fear that I was the only one who wondered about things like this.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Keep trying. It will eventually feel like you did.

Sunny2's avatar

You CAN walk through the walls. It’s just easier to use the door.

Jaxk's avatar

Don’t get discouraged, you’re just not running fast enough.

rojo's avatar

Relevant Actually the relevant part starts at about 43 seconds into it. “Gumby Theatre”

gondwanalon's avatar

“Why can’t I walk through my wall?” That is a negative and defeatist attitude. With that kind of thinking you will never walk through your wall. You must think positive grasshopper and never give up trying to achieve your dream. Never, never, never.

You must become one with the wall and start thinking more righteous and hopeful for a change. Aline your vibrations and positive vibes with those of the wall.

Also perhaps a running start may be of some help.

Strauss's avatar

The main reason you can’t walk through the wall is that your perception of this reality does not allow it.

Rarebear's avatar

Yup. What @drhat77 said.

Rarebear's avatar

@Yetanotheruser No. If you are absolutely convinced and your perception of reality is that if you jump off a 10 story building you will fly. Will you fly?

Reality is that which, when you stop believing it it, doesn’t go away.” —-Philip K. Dick.

drhat77's avatar

I’m just happy I got to answer before phinotphi did.

RocketGuy's avatar

Weak forces, such as gravity, act from a long distance. Strong forces act within short distances. So you can be attracted to Earth from 100,000 ft, but you will only have Strong Force-related problems the last few millimeters of your travel when you hit the ground.

rojo's avatar

@Rarebear for a few seconds anyway.

Rarebear's avatar

@RocketGuy heh! I think your wrong here, and you’re NEVER wrong. (Grins with glee). It’s not strong force that will affect @Yetanotheruser as he splats on the ground, but the electromagnetic force. The electromagnetic repulsion of the electron fields will prevent the body and the concrete from interacting.

flutherother's avatar

You will quantum tunnel through the wall if you just have patience.

drhat77's avatar

Quantum tunneling facts:
1) it’s awesome
2) it’s happening all the time
3) it’s random
4) it occurs over incredibly short distances
5) it only takes 1 elementary particle with at a time
6) did I mention it’s awesome?

Quantum tunneling is why we may soon approach how small we can make microchips – electrons will quantum tunnel across circuits too much, destroying the logic. With modern microchips they still do it every once in a while, but computers have error checkers that throw out “bad bits”

anartist's avatar

weighing in in total ignorance here – maybe it’s the bonds between the atoms that get in the way more than the atoms.

Rarebear's avatar

@anartist Actually, you put it pretty well.

ETpro's avatar

@drhat77 Ah yes, I do love those electrons and their ability to leave their dumb nucleons behind and migrate through the Internet and the chips on the devices I connect to it with. If I get to where I can walk through walls, I’m taking my router, modem, phone and laptop with me.

@rojo Fear not. You are far from being alone.

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I’m going to take a hint from General Stubbelbine’s failure and figure my nose may be less resilient than my wall.

@Sunny2 You can in martial arts movies. There are no studs at 16” centers in those walls though.

@Jaxk Thanks for the good wishes, old friend. :-)

@rojo Who would dream that a question on the nature of matter would be answered by Monty Python impersonating Gumbys? Never mind. Reasonable enough.

@gondwanalon I do not respond well to people who call me grasshopper, grasshopper.

@Yetanotheruser I do not think that’s the answer. Rather, present evidence that the put-down of such woo-woo given to us by Philip K Dick, and quoted by @Rarebear is closer to the way the world we actually live in works.

@RocketGuy “Close, but no cigar!” as you are about to see.

@flutherother Only if I am clever enough to become a point particle, or if I reduce both myself and my wall to just a tiny fraction of 1 degree above absolute zero. Will I remain a volitional, sentient being at temperatures that allow me to act using quantum mechanics?

@drhat77 Very true.

@anartist Not bad for a layman. Well put.

ETpro's avatar

@rojo Ah yes, but I do also recall that in the Boxer Rebellion there were a large group of monks who believed they were bulletproof. If the British and French forces facing them had shared that belief, perhaps they would have been. However, the Europeans held no such belief and the bullets were able to go through the priests as readily as the priests claim be able to walk through walls. There is also the fact that 3 separate times in China’s history, an emperor grew concerned about the threat the Shaolin Temple posed to him and sent armies to kill the priests and burn the temple. In each case, the priests were not able to walk through walls fast enough to save themselves.

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