As a writer of educational articles with a Master of Science degree, I explore scientific research on fascinating subjects such as this.
There is a vast amount of space between planets, solar systems, and galaxies. But if we look inward, deep within atoms and molecules, we find an enormous empty space there too.
The frontier of space might lead us to the ends of the Universe. However, we can discover an entire unexplored world if we travel inward, within the inner-space.
I'll take you on an extended tour, both outward and inward, to discover that most matter in the Universe is empty. And I'll explain why.
Where Are We?
Let's start with a quick review of where we are in the Universe.
Our planet Earth is the third from the Sun in our solar system, and our solar system is off to one side of our Milky Way Galaxy. So when we look up at the sky on a clear night, we can see a band of stars. That milky white band of stars is the other end of our galaxy. That's why we call it the Milky Way.
It wasn't long ago when people believed the Earth was flat and that it was the center of the Universe. We have come a long way in a few hundred years, and we know a lot more now.
This Is What We Already Know
- We know that the gravitational pull of our Moon affects our tides.
- We know that Solar Flares can affect our radio communications and electronics.1
- We know that the Earth does not take exactly 365 1/4 days to go around the Sun. Besides adding a day every four years with a leap year, we have to skip a leap year every hundred years. We also need to adjust the calendar with leap seconds added every so often.2
- We know that the Universe is expanding. We have the technology to record the distances and movements of other bodies in space. Based on these measurements, we can tell that everything is moving apart, moving away from one central point that could indicate the origin of The Big Bang.3
The Limitations of Space Technology
There might be no end to the limits of our Universe. It can merely keep expanding, creating more emptiness within.
As we continue to improve the technology to reach out into space, we are still limited by distance and the speed of light.
We can send robotic missions out to space that send back information about their discoveries. However, the farther we reach out, the longer it takes for the signals to return to Earth. Eventually, it becomes impossible to receive returned data in a reasonable period, limiting our ability to gain further knowledge of outer space.
The Energy Field of the Universe
Ever since the Big Bang, we have imagined the Universe as a bubble with a radius of 13.6 billion light-years. However, we don't know if there are any limits at all. The Universe could be infinite, both outward and inward.
If we can go endlessly outward, there might also be no limitation to how far we can go inward. Interestingly, that inner world might be affecting our outer world just as much as all the known objects in outer space.
Inner space is just as massive and limitless, and it has yet to be fully discovered and understood.
Today we can go deeper and deeper into inner space with new technology already in existence. For example, we have instruments that can visualize individual atoms, but we can go even deeper than that!
We know that there is some form of energy field that spreads throughout the entire Universe. Dr. Peter Higgs proposed this idea in 1964. And with a breakthrough discovery on July 4th, 2012, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, physicists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that they named after Dr. Higgs, known as Higgs Boson.
The Higgs Boson particles might explain why objects have mass. The more mass objects have, the more gravitational pull they have on one another. That could explain the energy field that exists throughout the Universe.
Higgs Boson subatomic particle discovered on July 4th, 2012
The Physical Effects of an Empty Universe
Despite the emptiness, all mass in our Universe has a powerful force on one another.
The Sun's gravity holds the Earth and all the other planets in their orbits. In addition, all planets in our solar system pull on one another, causing minor fluctuations in their orbits.
Even our Moon causes the Earth to wiggle. Did you feel that? To some slight degree, every object in other galaxies has some form of effect on objects close to home.
As enormous as outer space is, inner space is just as limitless. There is mostly nothing in it, and therefore there’s a lot of room. The point I'm making is that there is mostly empty space deep within—so much empty space that the entire Universe can be squeezed into a small ball.
For that matter, there is so much emptiness that it can be compressed to a point so tiny that it has no dimension—no width, length, or height. That may be the point where our present Universe began with a Big Bang.
This Is Why the Universe Is So Empty
If the Universe is indeed expanding from a single point, which cosmologists believe began with the Big Bang, then one can understand why there is so much emptiness between everything.
The Universe may have no end in sight. That is hard for the human mind to conceive. We tend to want to place end-points on anything physical since the notion of infinity is somewhat incomprehensible.
An Endless Journey
If we could travel to the ends of the Universe, we may discover an endless journey. But as we look deep within the subatomic particles of an atom, that journey inward might be limitless, too.
Subatomic particles include the neutrons and protons that make up the nucleus of the atom and the electrons that spiral around the nucleus in an orbital cloud.
The nucleus of an atom is virtually 100% of the entire atom’s mass. If you were to enlarge a single atom to 500 square feet, the size of the nucleus would still be like a speck of dust. The space between it and the outer band of electrons is merely empty space.
Scientists have already found previously undiscovered subatomic particles in an entire physical world of their own deeper within the nucleus. They are known as Quarks and Leptons.4
There is so much more to discover. Going deeper into the empty space of atoms may eventually reveal the secrets of the Universe and provide a better understanding of the laws of physics.
Outer space is not the final frontier. Instead, we are only now discovering an endless world within the emptiness of everything in our Universe.
- John Papiewski. (April 24, 2017). “How Solar Flares Affect Communication.” Sciencing
- Glenn Stok. (June 25, 2012). “The Algorithmic-Rule for Leap Years and Leap Seconds.” Owlcation
- Avery Thompson. (April 26, 2017). “How We Know the Universe Is Expanding, and Accelerating.” Popular Mechanics
- Erik Gregersen, Senior Editor. (Retrieved April 2021). “Fundamental Force.” Encyclopaedia Britannica
© 2012 Glenn Stok
Andrew Smith from Richmond, VA on August 11, 2016:
Great stuff. I really enjoy thinking about this type of stuff, and do so frequently (it's either history or physics, with precious little time for anything else, other than jiu jitsu). Keep it up, Glenn!
Nathan Bernardo from California, United States of America on July 18, 2012:
Absolutely fascinating article. It seems we have much potential for exploration much closer to home. I like this approach and also your evocative and articulate explanations.