Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

The Scale of the Universe: from yocto to yotta


From the smallest observable length, the Planck length, measuring 0.00000000000000000000000000000000001 meters; to the greatest length, the length of the whole Universe estimated at 930. meters: there are many zeroes, many orders of magnitude that mey be difficult to grasp.

To make that a tiny bit easier, a user on Newgrounds named Fotoshop created an amazing interactive Flash animation, through which you can travel between all the scales of the Universe, from the tiniest end of the quantum foam in fractions of yoctometers, to quarks, atoms, molecules, viruses, cells, animals, mountains, planets, stars, nebulas, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, the local group, the observable universe and the Universe itself, measring several yottameters.

That’s going from 10^-35 to 10^26, and you can travel by dragging the bottom bar with your mouse or using your keyboard, with the left and right arrow keys for greater precision.

As Phil “Bad Astronomer” Plait noted, “my favorite part is on the smallest end, when you have to go through several factors of ten with nothing happening to get to the Planck scale, the smallest scale in the Universe. It’s really quite a forbidding notion.”

Is is merely a coincidence that most of the familiar objects that illustrate the animation are those around our own size, or those that we can view in the sky from Earth? Obviously not. Physical theories suggest an incredible level of complexity at the quantum foam level, and much may be going on between the quantum foam and quarks, and then from quarks to hadrons, and so on. There’s also quite literally a whole Universe to discover in stellar, gallactic scales, with intricacies we have barely grasped. We have almost 60 powers of ten of a very real world to explore scientifically. It’s almost beyond imagination that such complexities may fit inside the head of a person measuring a few dozen inches.

As Carl Sagan said, we barely began exploring the shore of the cosmic ocean. And it extends both away to the stars as well as inside the foam of the sea. “Recently we’ve waded a little way out, and the water seems inviting”.

[Via RicBit, BAblog]

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Posted in Science | 3 comments

3 Comments so far

  1. RICK52 January 30th, 2010 3:09 pm

    I have always been curious exactly where humans fit into the scheme of things. If you identified the smallest subatomic particle and the largest structure in the universe (galaxy?) exactly where on that grand scale would humans lie? Closer to the top or closer to the bottom? Perhaps a silly question but has always had me wondering.

  2. RICK52 January 30th, 2010 3:15 pm

    Hmmm. Looks like I got an answer to my question. Almost exactly halfway between a neutrino and a galaxy lies a human being. Just a coincidence I suppose. But interesting.

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