ONE in three people reading these words will do so on a device powered by electrons. To make that possible, we go to incredible lengths: generating electrons in vast power stations, stringing cables across the countryside to bear them to us, and installing sockets in the walls of every room. In short, we depend on them – which makes it a shade embarrassing that we don’t fully grasp what they are.
It’s not just that our best theories paint a strange picture of their nature, although that is true. As far as we can tell, electrons are points with precisely zero size that obey the strange rules of the quantum world. One of these particles can influence another through a spooky property called entanglement, for example. Electrons can also tunnel from one place to another without existing in between.
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