May 25, 2011 AT 9:34 pm

Electron is surprisingly spherical

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Electron is surprisingly spherical

The experiment, which spanned more than a decade, suggests that the electron differs from being perfectly round by less than 0.000000000000000000000000001 cm. This means that if the electron were magnified to the size of the solar system, it would still appear spherical to within the width of a human hair.

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4 Comments

  1. chocobo_rider

    nice!

  2. Paul J. Ste.Marie

    Not quite sure that this:

    >>> Using a very precise laser, they made careful measurements of the motion of these electrons. If the electrons were not perfectly round then, like an unbalanced spinning-top, their motion would exhibit a distinctive wobble, distorting the overall shape of the molecule. <<<<

    means "round" as much as is does a symmetric moment of inertia. As far as I know the size of the electron is zero in the usual sense. It has intrinsic angular momentum and magnetic dipole moment, but that's not the same thing as saying it occupies volume.

  3. Yeah; not quite sure how to interpret this in light of the “higher education” views of electrons and electron “movement” in atoms and molecules (OTOH, didn’t those psi functions assume infinitesimal size or something?) But I’ll bet “spherical” is not the actual technical finding…

  4. @WestfW

    I agree, “But I’ll bet “spherical” is not the actual technical finding…”

    Popular media drives me crazy regarding science.
    You know, using a very powerful laser” measuring at 10^-12 the size of an electron probably gives the impression to a lot of people that there’s just a fancy laser range finder type of tool that they made. These datas are interpolated (as in over 10 years of data)… We have no idea what this means but certainly isn’t “spherical” in a simple sense. Shape and form kind of change a bit on that scale.

    Reminds me of LIGO, worlds biggest observatory looking for gravity waves… I’ve been there and that’s one “very powerful laser” that measures within “fractions of the radius of a proton”. Basically an interferometer for Galactus. Interesting though, you have to drive less than 2mph there to prevent vibration. (It’s a 4km beam path built into the Earth!) I accidentally went over a speed bump at like 5 mph or something and ruined their current run of data :o – embarrassing.

    But 10^-12 of an electron!?!?! This had to be an awesome interferometer. I’d love to see the vibration isolation! This paper I HAVE to read… pretty phenomenal data!

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