One thing that sometimes confuses me is why electrically neutral atoms repel each other at close distances.
Everywhere I try to find an answer says that it’s because of Pauli repulsion at close distances.
The problem I have with that is that Pauli’s exclusion principle is, well, a principle. What would the Pauli force look like even?
Imagine two hydrogen atoms coming close to each other. At some point, the two electrons would begin to repel each other, and although the nuclei would attract each other’s electron, it would not be enough to overcome the repulsion because the Coulomb force scales with the inverse square of distance. Although that seems reasonable, it doesn't really make sense because atoms are neutral and shouldn't repel.
What am I missing here?