Thursday, July 22
Today on Pixy's Science Theatre: Tales of the Very Small!
A micron, or micrometre, is one millionth of a metre, 10-6 m. A typical human hair is about 80 microns thick (the range is rather large, from 18 to 180 microns). A human red blood cell is 6 to 8 microns across; the average bacterium is between 1 and 10 microns. The wavelength of visible light is around half a micron - ranging from 0.38 microns for violet to 0.74 microns for red. The smallest features of today's computer chips are just 0.09 microns wide.
An Ångström is much smaller, one ten-thousandth of a micron, one ten-billionth of a metre, 10-10 m. Atoms are around one Ångström wide - half an Ångström for hydrogen, the smallest of all atoms. X-rays have a wavelength of around an Ångström. The double-helix of DNA is about 20 Ångströms across.
The Fermi is far smaller still, one one-hundred-thousandth of an Ångström, one quadrillionth of a metre, 10-15 m. A proton or neutron is about one Fermi in diameter.
The Planck Length is really ridiculously small: about a tenth of a billionth of a quadrillionth of a Fermi, 1.6 x 10-35 m. According to current theoretical physics, that's as small as you can go: any distance smaller than a Planck Length doesn't actually exist.
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