From Simplicity To Complexity - Why Is The Universe ...The Science Channel
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All normal matter in the universe is made from electrons and two other tiny little guys called quarks. Put those three thing together; let them interact, and you get all of the incredible complexity that makes the universe such an interesting place. But how does that happen? How do you go from such simplicity to such incredible complexity?
We begin our journey in the world of the small. Basic particles are really really tiny. For a long time, people thought these particles had no size at all. But then along came quantum mechanics which proves it is impossible for anything real to have a size of zero. Today we know that fundamental particles have a real size, called a Planck Length ... named after Hall of Fame physicist, Max Planck.
A Planck Length is so small it is hard to imagine, much less to describe. If a Plank length were as large as a grain of sand, then a proton would be the size of the earth. And an atom would be the size of the orbit of Jupiter. And a single grain of sand would be almost as large as the whole Milky Way Galaxy!
Look at all these grains of salt ... to the naked eye they all look the same, but under a microscope, you can easily spot the differences. But every electron in the universe is absolutely identical to every other electron. If we could magically swap every electron in your body with some other electron ... there would be no change ... you would still be you.
When you try to picture the behavior of things this small, you have to resort to some really weird science - Quantum Mechanics - some really smart folks thought this stuff up. And they made it clear that these fundamental particles dont always behave as you might think they would.
Describing an electron is like describing dice at a crap table. (roll the die) There is an 50% chance that the electron will end up here (die magically moves to another spot)and a 50% chance it is there
In 1927 Werner Heisenberg had some new ideas about uncertainty. He said ... For an electron the MORE precisely the position is determined, the LESS precisely the momentum is known - and vice versa.
Einstein thought he was nuts ... but the more Scientists played with that notion ... the more they concluded ... that subatomic particles can disappear and reappear in another place. And they can do this without existing in the intervening space.
When an electron is trapped inside an atom, the places this activity is limited to the space around the nucleus. And that makes it look like a shell. Basic particles can also be in more than one place at a time if the time is brief enough. An electron can travel from here to there along all possible paths simultaneously.
And even more astounding ... These particles can appear out of the nothingness of space, exist for an extremely brief instant and then disappear. Scientists call them virtual particlesthey may be virtual but they can have very real effects.
Its all this jumping around that makes particle descriptions so inexactbut then EXISTENCE ITSELF IS INEXACT AT THESE TINY SCALES. You know time doesnt exactly behave itself on tiny scales either.
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