Elementary Particles and Empty Space

Physics Asked by Szczyp on May 9, 2021

I have next to zero knowledge when it comes to physics, so I’m sorry in advance for any ignorant descriptions and mistakes. One question regarding subatomic particles and empty space has been in my head for quite some time.

I read a while ago that "Quantum mechanics tells us that there is no such thing as empty space. Even the most perfect vacuum is actually filled by a roiling cloud of particles and antiparticles, which flare into existence and almost instantaneously fade back into nothingness."
From what my monkey brain understands, the particles named here are subatomic elementary particles such as protons, electrons, neutrons etc.

Though in various depictions of atoms, which are made out of said particles, electrons are shown "orbiting" the center of the atom from a distance. In that case, what is that distance made out of, if there can be no empty space? Is it just depicted like that so it can be more easily understood when learning about it and in reality all these particles are perfectly next to eachother leaving no space like that?

Though if that’s the case then it leaves me with another issue that’s hard to wrap my head around. If the universe consists of these particles and antiparticles that are perfectly "squeezed togheter" leaving no empty space and it is said that they "flare into existence and almost instantaneously fade back into nothingness", then where do these particles have space to appear? Is it in the exact place and moment where another particle "fades into nothingness" (which is hard to imagine aswell if it doesn’t leave any empty space behind it) ? Do other particles get actually squeezed and expand to give place to new appearing particles and fill the space after they dissapear? Or does something else happen that disallows the existence of empty space?

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