Asked by: Duncan Henderson, Ruislip

While atoms are indeed mostly empty space, the void is filled with the electromagnetic fields generated by the electrons within the atom. These affect light waves as they move through materials, preventing them from passing straight through unimpeded. Switching to radiation of shorter wavelength, like X-rays or gamma rays, allows even relatively dense materials to become transparent.

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.


Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.