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Thread: Subatomic particles: Comparative sizes

  1. #1 Subatomic particles: Comparative sizes 
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    Hi,

    Now that my science fiction book is finished, Iíve been toying with an idea for an animation Iím thinking of doing. One of the things I want to show is the real comparative sizes of subatomic particles (including strings) and how much empty space there is at the atomic and subatomic levels. People donít have a good understanding of this Ė in fact, most representations have given people the wrong idea. I do not want numbers. Numbers are great but they do not give a layperson any kind of feel for size especially with atoms wrongly being represented as compact objects in textbooks and elsewhere. So, Iíve been researching this angle and what Iíve come up with so far is:

    ē If an atom were the size of our solar system, a string would be the size of a tree (perhaps this depends on which theory? If so I want the smallest and the average).
    ē If an atom were a mile in diameter itís nucleus would be the size of a marble. Actually, I found several comparisons that all seem a little different. LikeÖ
    ē Imagine the atom as the size of a professional baseball stadium (in 3D). The size of the nucleus would be about the size of a baseball in proportion. Ants would be far too big to represent as the electrons.
    ē That an atom is 99.9999% empty space.

    Iíd like any consensus on the above that I can get.

    What I donít yet have is how the size of a quark fits into all this. I understand that this one is not so easy but I need something. Anyone?

    I assume that in most string theories (if not all) that ALL particles are based on strings and that a string's vibration determines what type of quark or Leptons or other particle (gluons) you get (is this correct?). So it sounds like one string per quark or Lepton, therefore 3 strings per hadron.

    As always, any help is greatly appreciated!
    Rusty


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope MagiMaster's Avatar
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    Part of the problem is that protons, neutrons, electrons and especially quarks and strings aren't little marbles. Their shape is kind of fuzzy. (Well, ok. Strings shapes are pretty much the most well defined of their properties.) For something like an electron, there's really nothing to say "this is the edge of the electron." You could probably work something out in that it'd be at least as big as it's Schwarzschild radius, which depends only on its rest mass, which is well known.


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  4. #3  
    Reptile Dysfunction drowsy turtle's Avatar
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    Another problem is that, because of effects like quantum tunneling, any particle could at any point be absolutely anywhere in the universe, so in a way every particle occupies the entire universe.
    "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair." ~ Douglas Adams
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  5. #4  
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    I just want to give people a feel for it. Most people think the nucleus of an atom is 50% of the atom's size. They think quarks are 25% the size of protons and strings are 25% that of a quark. These views are so far off that any rough approximation would help.

    Rusty
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  6. #5  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope MagiMaster's Avatar
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    I'd just make a table of the Schwarzschild radii of the various particles (other than strings). As best I can tell, it'd be the easiest way (one formula and a bunch of constants that are easy to find) and roughly as accurate as anything else, especially if you're only using the ratios between particles.

    For atoms though, I think the sizes of the various electron shells is better defined than the sizes of the constituent particles.
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  7. #6  
    Time Lord
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    Why not stick with solar system comparisons. You can show objects, orbits, and clouds of same magnitude that way too.


    Might be fun to do time as well.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Why not stick with solar system comparisons. You can show objects, orbits, and clouds of same magnitude that way too.


    Might be fun to do time as well.
    That's very much what I want to do except, in general, people have no feel for solar system distances so I want to, where ever possible, use comparisons that people do have a good feel for. For instance most people have been to or at least seen a football stadium so the follow would work well:

    If the atom were the size of a football stadium, the atom's nucleus would be the size of a pea in the middle. Make the nucleus was the size of the football stadium then the proton and neutron would be the size of <? Not yet figured out> and if the proton was the size of the stadium then quark would be the size of <? whatever this would be> and if the quark were the size of the stadium a string would be the size of <what ever this is>.

    Remember this will be a video with me talking and 3D animation scenes or composites with real life for visualization.

    I'll then show branes (although no one yet has given me any clue on how this works in real life*) and finally how universes on other branes are right there in between our strings... i.e. all around us and within us!

    Rusty

    * See post entitled 'Riding on the brane train'.
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