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Section 1.2 Large and Small are Relative


We noted that one light-year is about 12 million trips to the moon and back. But one light-year is also 

As we said, large quantities are large compared to smaller quantities, but large quantities can can also be very small when compared to much larger quantities.

Exercise Set 1.2

  1. As of 2010, the smallest time interval that can be directly measured is approximately 12 attoseconds ($1.2 \cdot 10^{-17}$ seconds). What, then, is the smallest possible distance that can be directly measured with a laser?

  2. The volume of an average-size human body is 66.4 liters ($0.0664 \mathrm{ m^3}$). The volume of an average-size human cell is approximately $1.1 \cdot 10^{-15} \mathrm{m^3}$Use this information to estimate the number of cells in an average-size human body. (Data derived from Wolfram Alpha and Bianconi et al., 2013.)

  3. In 1989, Admiral Grace Hopper, inventor of programming languages, handed out  nanoseconds to members of her audience. The nanoseconds she handed out were pieces of wire that were the distance that light could travel in one billionth of a second. How many meters long were these pieces of wire?

  4. You have watched television news reports from a reporter who is on the other side of the earth from the newsroom. The reporter’s image and voice is being transmitted by satellite. The orbit of communication satellites is approximately 23,000 miles from earth’s surface. What is the shortest delay you could expect between seeing a news anchor finishing a question and seeing the distant reporter beginning to reply? 

  5. The diameter of a carbon atom is about $2.20 \times 10^{-8}$ cm. Use a pencil to draw a 10 cm line segment. Suppose that this line segment represents the distance from Sun to Proxima Centauri (approximately 4.22 light-years). The distance from Sun to Earth is approximately $1.49\times 10^8$ km.

    1. How far along your line, in carbon-diameters, would be the distance from Sun to Earth?

    2. The New Horizons space probe is the fastest spacecraft ever launched. It traveled at 58,536 km/h. How far along your line segment, in cm, would the New Horizon probe be after 10 years?

    3. What does your answer to Part (b) imply about the possibility of sending a space craft to Proxima Centauri using existing technology?