Even in deep space, atoms feel the the cosmic microwave background left over by the Big Bang. The cosmos is filled with electromagnetic interactions that show atoms they are not alone. Stray electric fields, like from a nearby electronic device, will also slightly adjust the internal energy levels of atoms, a process called the Stark effect.

Even the universal vacuum, presumably empty of any energy or particles, can very briefly muster virtual particles that buffet electrons inside atoms, further shifting their energies; this form of self-interaction is known as the Lamb shift.  

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