Orders of magnitude (length)

February 17, 2016

Our minds conceptualize galaxies billions of light-years away and grasp the composition of tiny atoms, too small to be observed by any known tools. Our minds consider our physical being, in addition to reflecting on consciousness and existence. Where is this thing we call a mind? And, how is it that the mind has such an expansive grid of intelligibility?

Energy, matter, life and mind are all part of nature, as we know it. Each component possibly plays a different role at specific orders of magnitude. Modern science observes differing versions of physical laws of nature at different sizes, such as: Newtonian results for humans, quantum results for photons, and relativity theory for galaxies. These different laws exist synchronously in a universe of vastly different sizes despite our inability to understand all the pieces of the puzzle.

Humans lay at the center of a broad physical range of complexity, ranging from the Planck size (30 orders of magnitude smaller) to the visible universe of galaxies (30 orders of magnitude larger). Is this central position, if understood, vital to explain living beings?

The way that mathematics describes these sizes is using the powers of ten. If a human is a “one” in size, then a village may be 100, a region 1000. This is written as 102, and 103. An organ of the body would be 1/10th of the size of the human. This is written 10-1. So in this way the distance from the surface of the earth to the center of the earth is 107, and the size of a microbe is around 10-5.

As a rough reference below are some approximate sizes from the smallest to the largest physical beings in the known universe.


10-35 Planck length, size of string, quantum foam, smallest conceivable size
10-24 Size of neutrino
10-22 Sub-atomic particles of quarks and gluons
10-21 Sensitivity of greatest physics accelerators
10-18 Electrons
10-15 Proton
10-14 Lead nuclei
10-10 Atom
10-7 Virus
10-6 Red blood cell
10-5 Bacteria
10-4 Human cell
10-3 Raindrop
10-2 Queen Honeybee
10-1 Human Hand

100 (equals 1) Human being

101 Blue Whale
102 Washington Memorial
103 Yosemite Waterfall
104 Mt. Everest
106 Los Angeles to New York
107 Distance to center of earth
109 Radius of Sun
1011 Distance to Sun
1013 Solar System

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Fast Simulation of Laplacian Growth (2007) - Laplace Example
Fast Simulation of Laplacian Growth (2007) - Laplace Example
Order of magnitude
Order of magnitude
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