Atoms – A Bunch of Empty Space

Atoms – A Bunch of Empty Space

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Everything in the universe is made of matter. Matter has mass (that means it is made up of something) and takes up space. Matter is made of atoms. Atoms are teeny, tiny – so tiny you can’t see them.

srpatomthumbSome things are made up of just one kind of atom. These things are called elements. Some examples are oxygen, hydrogen & copper – you can look at a list of all of the known elements on a periodic table.

A single atom has three parts:

  • Electrons – a particle with a negative charge
  • Protons – a particle with a positive charge
  • Neutrons – a particle with no charge

The center of the atom is called the nucleus and the protons and neutrons are located there. The electrons are outside the nucleus. Sometimes two or more atoms come together to make a molecule.  Water is an examply of a molecule. Water is made up of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom.


What you might not know, is that there is a whole lot of empty space between the parts of an atom. When atoms come together to form molecules the molecules also have a lot of empty space.  Atoms and molecules are made up mostly of empty space. You can prove that this is true:

What You Need:

  • A Glass
  • Warm Tap Water
  • Powdered Sugar

Fill the glass all the way to the top with warm tap water – the water should bulge at the top of the glass but not spill over. (Surface tension makes the water do that!) Now take a teaspoon and slowly add 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar to the water. Doesn’t it seem like 1 teaspoon of water should spill out of the glass when you add 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar? Does it? Add another teaspoon of powdered sugar. How many teaspoons of powdered sugar can you add before the glass of water finally overflows?

The powdered sugar molecules dissolve into the water. The powdered sugar fills in the empty spaces between the water molecules. Even though it doesn’t seem like it…the glass of water is actually full of empty space!

Science Experiment Idea: Get 3 identical glasses. Fill the first glass with ice water (remove the cubes!), the second glass room temperature water and the third glass with hot tap water. Remember to fill the glasses up until the water bulges at the top. Now count how many teaspoons of powdered sugar you can add to each glass before the water start to spill out. Does the temperature of the water effect how much powdered sugar you can add?

Bill Nye Home Demo – Hole-y Water

Atoms and Molecules Energy & Atoms: Nuclear Power Atoms and Molecules Who Invented teh Periodic Table? The Periodic Table

Words to Know:

Atoms – The smallest, most basic unit of matter. An atom is made up of a nucleus surrounded by electrons.
Molecules At least two atoms held together by a chemical bond.
Matter – Has mass and takes up space.
Periodic Table – A table or chart of the chemical elements.
Mass – How much matter fits in a given space.
Dissolve – When a solid comes apart and spreads out into a liquid…like kool aid in water.

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One Response »

  1. This video is a really cool way of thinking about how molecules work. I don’t know how they would prove the theory, but if the atoms are, in fact, never touching one another how can those atoms send a signal through our bodies telling us that there is pressure. On another note, how would this theory work with super glue? If the atoms are never touching how does the glue stick?

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