Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Smallest Possible Length

Quite often at FQTQ, we like to talk about immense cosmic structures, such as nebulae and galaxies. And as I’m sure you know, there is a realm of physics that deals with the unimaginably small, like the atomic and subatomic; however, beyond the atomic and subatomic, another realm exists that is far below even those levels of existence. At this level, there is a number that goes so far beyond the conventional understanding of ‘small’ that it"s truly hard to fathom. This number is actually a length – called the Planck Length. It is 20 powers of 10 smaller than the diameter of a hydrogen nucleus, and it is suspected to be the level at which the ‘foam’ of space-time is built. If you want to have a visual aid in understanding just how small this is, take a look at The Scale of the Universe.

The number in question is 1.616x10ˉ³⁵m, and it belongs to a series of numbers known as the ‘Planck base units’. It can be calculated using an equation involving 3 fundamental constants; Planck’s constant 6.6261x10ˉ³⁴(kg/s), the speed of light in a vacuum 2.9979x10⁸(m/s), and the gravitational constant 6.6738x10ˉ¹¹(kgˉ¹sˉ¹). Max Planck first came up with this remarkable number after studying black body radiation and quantum mechanics, and he also came up with base values for time, mass, epoch, scale, and temperature.

To learn about just how amazingly small this is, see:

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