# Size of all things in the universe

If all humans were between 5-6 inches tall we would not know we are small.

If all humans were between 50-60 feet tall we would not know we are tall.

Size is relative. We need a point of reference.

How big is the universe? Could it be real small?

## Answers and Replies

PeterDonis
Mentor
2020 Award
How big is the universe? Could it be real small?

If size is relative, why do you care? The universe is a lot bigger than you are.

Size is relative, and so is speed of change in relation to it... something large like a galaxy has causal influences that may take hundreds of thousands of years to pass from one end to the other, while small things like quantum entities are interacting among themselves untold zillions of times per second.

As far as a point of reference, we "sort of" have c, which relates time and distance, and the apparent order of scale below which classical concepts begin to fail... not sure how well defined that is, but it's "sort of there", too.

That is to say, if humans were between .5 and .6 angstroms, we would know that we were smaller than this classical / quantum boundary scale... as things are, we know we are above it...

HallsofIvy
Homework Helper
If all humans were between 5-6 inches tall we would not know we are small.
This makes no sense without more detail l If all humans were between 5-6 inches tall and everything else were the same size it is now, we would definitely know! Especially the first time your dog licked your face!

If all humans were between 50-60 feet tall we would not know we are tall.
If all humans were between 50- 60 feet tall and the earth were the same size, we would not be able to move!

Size is relative. We need a point of reference.

How big is the universe? Could it be real small?
For one thing, you need to say what "an inch" or "a foot" could mean without a reference! Before anyone can answer your question "Could the universe be real small?" you need to say what you mean by "real small".

Don't you see that clearly he is considering the scenario that were humans 5-6 inches tall that the entire universe of all things were scaled likewise... so that "we would not know"? His idea is of an absolute universal change in size of everything, and since all relative sizes remain in proportion, we don't know know how big or small we "really" are.

What I would wonder is if this change in size of "everything" would include the general boundary between classical and quantum - as in, what about size itself heralds the transition? Would that size be "invariant" across "different size scale" universes?

russ_watters
Mentor
If all humans were between 5-6 inches tall we would not know we are small.

If all humans were between 50-60 feet tall we would not know we are tall.

Size is relative. We need a point of reference.
That's self-contradictory and more or less meaningless: yes, words like "small" and "tall" are relative and so we'd need to measure with respect to other things. At 6", we'd be "small" next to a dog and at 60 feet, we'd be tall next to a giraffe. So what?
How big is the universe?
90 billion light years.
Could it be real small?
Relative to us, no.

Don't you see that clearly he is considering the scenario that were humans 5-6 inches tall that the entire universe of all things were scaled likewise... so that "we would not know"? His idea is of an absolute universal change in size of everything, and since all relative sizes remain in proportion, we don't know know how big or small we "really" are.

What I would wonder is if this change in size of "everything" would include the general boundary between classical and quantum - as in, what about size itself heralds the transition? Would that size be "invariant" across "different size scale" universes?

The problem is that if everything were scaled likewise, then so would the concept of an inch. So we would not be 5-6 inches tall.

russ_watters
Mentor
Don't you see that clearly he is considering the scenario that were humans 5-6 inches tall that the entire universe of all things were scaled likewise... so that "we would not know"?
It isn't clear to me because if that's the case, nothing has actually changed except the scale of the units. It's like saying I'm 6' tall, but you're 1.8 m tall so I'm taller than you. At best, it's just wrong.

phinds
Gold Member
How big is the universe?

90 billion light years.

NOTE: this refers to the OBSERVABLE universe, NOT to the whole universe. We have no idea how big the whole universe is.

If all humans were between 50- 60 feet tall and the earth were the same size, we would not be able to move!

Why is that? Or are you assuming all man made structures are also the same?

chiro
One idea might involve looking at anthropological argument (but not simply applied to humans, but all living things, and the stability of physical and dynamical systems).

There have been arguments made that for example if the gravitational constant were changed even slightly then things would be severely screwed up.

I'd suggest to look into similar ways to answer this question to understand why the scales are the way they are (at least in terms of making an inference with some sort of justification and evidence like in the above example).

Don't you see that clearly he is considering the scenario that were humans 5-6 inches tall that the entire universe of all things were scaled likewise... so that "we would not know"? His idea is of an absolute universal change in size of everything, and since all relative sizes remain in proportion, we don't know know how big or small we "really" are.

What I would wonder is if this change in size of "everything" would include the general boundary between classical and quantum - as in, what about size itself heralds the transition? Would that size be "invariant" across "different size scale" universes?

Thank you for explaining this better than I did.

Obviously if we were real small we could say we are only a few atoms long, but we would not know if we are big or small.

The size of the universe is large in relationship to us, but I wonder if our universe is real tiny in the greater scheme of things. A galaxy may be as small as an amoeba.

I assume that our current size is dictated by gravity directing human evolution. If we were a 1/4 inch in height perhaps we could jump as high as a cricket.

Thank you for explaining this better than I did.

Obviously if we were real small we could say we are only a few atoms long, but we would not know if we are big or small.

The size of the universe is large in relationship to us, but I wonder if our universe is real tiny in the greater scheme of things. A galaxy may be as small as an amoeba.

I assume that our current size is dictated by gravity directing human evolution. If we were a 1/4 inch in height perhaps we could jump as high as a cricket.

What greater scheme of things? The universe is all that there is.

Chronos
Gold Member
The Planck length is a convenient yardstick. It is about 1.6E-35 meters. The observable universe is about 1E27 meters in diameter. We humans are considerably closer in size to the diameter of the universe than to a planck length. It would be truly remarkable if we were smack in between. A fertilized human ovum is, however, just about the right size - see there, we are special after all.

What I would wonder is if this change in size of "everything" would include the general boundary between classical and quantum - as in, what about size itself heralds the transition? Would that size be "invariant" across "different size scale" universes?

As far as I know, whether a system behaves classically does not depend on it's size but on the amount of particle interactions in that system.

russ_watters
Mentor
A galaxy may be as small as an amoeba.
Huh? We know how big a galaxy is and we know how big an amoeba is. A galaxy is not as small as an amoeba.

This all sounds like gibberish to me. You don't seem to be applying logic here.

phinds
Gold Member
This all sounds like gibberish to me. You don't seem to be applying logic here.

+1 on that.

Guys don't take him so literally, what he means is that an ant is stupidly large compared to an atom, the world is stupidly large to an ant and the observable universe is mind blowingly large compared to the earth. What he means is that the observable universe might appear so large to us, but compared to the actual size of the entire universe, it may be like an atom compared to earth.

So in actual fact the observable universe is actually quite tiny. I don't like talking about this subject because it's just basically saying "what if, what if, what if" which tends to lead to philosophy which leads to a closed topic. Bottom line is, the observable universe in comparison to the entire universe could be as small as an atom compared to earth... then again it could all be controlled by a 8 headed dragon riding a pony wielding a trident making stars explode.

Guys don't take him so literally, what he means is that an ant is stupidly large compared to an atom, the world is stupidly large to an ant and the observable universe is mind blowingly large compared to the earth. What he means is that the observable universe might appear so large to us, but compared to the actual size of the entire universe, it may be like an atom compared to earth.

So in actual fact the observable universe is actually quite tiny. I don't like talking about this subject because it's just basically saying "what if, what if, what if" which tends to lead to philosophy which leads to a closed topic. Bottom line is, the observable universe in comparison to the entire universe could be as small as an atom compared to earth... then again it could all be controlled by a 8 headed dragon riding a pony wielding a trident making stars explode.

Thank you. I think i can sleep better now.

Huh? We know how big a galaxy is and we know how big an amoeba is. A galaxy is not as small as an amoeba.

This all sounds like gibberish to me. You don't seem to be applying logic here.

See the poster above. He seems to explain it a bit better.

Wiki: Abstraction is a process by which concepts are derived from the usage and classification of literal ("real" or "concrete") concepts, first principles, or other methods.

Comparing the size scale of different universes is an abstraction.
Multiple universes arise in both quantum theory interpretation and cosmology theories... One man's gibberish is another man's abstraction.

phinds
Gold Member
See the poster above. He seems to explain it a bit better.

Yes, but he has ignored such nonsensical statements of yours as

if we were real small we could say we are only a few atoms long

and

If we were a 1/4 inch in height perhaps we could jump as high as a cricket.

The last century of physics has been a remarkable exposition in experimental results that seem to be quite indifferent to our historical foundations of what constitutes the logical and sensible... I would think physics folks could demonstrate a little more graceful enlightenment than to dismiss a question by throwing the logic and sense cards down on the table so quickly.

Black pots that live in glass houses should not throw stones at the kettle... :)

The last century of physics has been a remarkable exposition in experimental results that seem to be quite indifferent to our historical foundations of what constitutes the logical and sensible... I would think physics folks could demonstrate a little more graceful enlightenment than to dismiss a question by throwing the logic and sense cards down on the table so quickly.

Black pots that live in glass houses should not throw stones at the kettle... :)

Thanks.

As for size: I doubt a cricket could leap real high if it was the size of an elephant.

Evo
Mentor
I think we are done here.