Size Relationships of Big History Objects From the Universe to the Atomic Nucleus

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David J. LePoire

Abstract

Big History involves a variety of sizes from the atomic nucleus to the size of the universe. How can we make sense of this? A popular video (Eames 1977) about the power of 10 took a “picture” for every factor of 10 in distance with over 40 “stops” from a nucleus (not even the smallest distance we can talk about) to the edge of the universe. Instead, we will explore just nine steps in distances of things we know about: the atomic nucleus, the atom, a bacterium, a human, the Earth, the distance to the sun, the distance to the closest star, the size of the galaxy, and the size of the universe. Quite amazingly, many of these distances can be estimated with only a few fundamental physics constants. Also, the ratio of the distances of the larger to the next smaller is about the same (with some exceptions): about 150,000. How can this factor of 150,000 be visualized? It is about the ratio of a commercial jet’s height compared to your palm, or, using the American standard unit of a football field, the smaller distance would be about 1/32 of an inch.

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