• Question: Is it possible for electrons to overlap each other?

    Asked by strangeness to Arttu, Ceri, James_M, Monica, Philip on 23 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Arttu Rajantie

      Arttu Rajantie answered on 18 Jun 2011:

      No, it is not. One has to be a little bit careful here because electrons are believed to be pointlike, so really the statement is that to electrons cannot be in exactly the same state. Therefore if their other properties are the same, they cannot be in the same position. This is known as the Pauli exclusion principle.

    • Photo: James M Monk

      James M Monk answered on 23 Jun 2011:

      I did comment on this before, but it seems the server has lost my answer. In some types of chemical bonding the electrons in two atoms share their orbitals, so in some sense they overlap. when this happens the probability distribution for the location of the two electrons overlaps.

      The two electrons are not in exactly the same quantum state though because they have a different alignment of their intrinsic angular momentum (“spin”). No two electrons can ever be in exactly the same quantum state.

    • Photo: Ceri Brenner

      Ceri Brenner answered on 23 Jun 2011:

      Yeah I was going to say the same thing, fundamental particles such as electrons are called fermions and they obey Fermi-Dirac statistics, which says that no two fermions can be in the same qauntum state at the same time (pauli exclusion principle thing) so they can’t overlap in the quantum world.