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Smaller than an electron?

  1. Apr 22, 2005 #1
    Hi All,

    To the best of my knowledge the electron microscope is the smalled visual mesurment tool available. So it's my understanding that the smallest "thing" we've been able to "see" is another electron. I've probably make some very bad scientific statement but I'm trying to find which of all these quarks, fermions etc. are really measurable and which are simply thought to exist based on experiment.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2005 #2


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    Nope,a protonic and an ionic microscope have greater resolution than an electronic one...

    As for "seing" particles,well,nope,never ever and simply doubt it will possible...

  4. Apr 22, 2005 #3
    Oh wow, I didn't know there was such a thing. So I'm guessing these work on the same principal? You have a proton gun firing against some tightly packed latice and you measure the bounce back (I have no idea what you'd call this ;) )?

    I've always wondered how these guns work? How does an electron gun or a proton gun superate one electron and "fire" it?
  5. Apr 22, 2005 #4
    Is the resolution of those even better than AFMs?

    warrick: I suppose the principle should be pretty much the same.
  6. Apr 22, 2005 #5


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    BTW, an electron microscope doesn't see electrons. It uses electrons to see things larger than electrons. To see anything, your "seeing" mechanism has to be smaller than your "seen" object.
  7. Apr 22, 2005 #6
    True - so if there is such a thing as an proton based microscope is it possible to see an electron using it? I'm making the assumption that electrons are larger than protons which I have a feeling is incorrect.

    I know the scale of an electron the the nucleus is about 1:2000 but I'm not sure what size a proton is.
  8. Apr 22, 2005 #7


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    A proton is 1836 times the mass of an electron.

    In a hydrogen nucleus, there's only one proton. A uranium nucleus might be about (1836x238) times as large as an electron.

    This is why they use electrons in microscopes. They're the lightest/smallest subatomic particle = best resolution.
  9. Apr 22, 2005 #8
    So does that mean that there really is an image somewhere that represents the shape of a proton? Just wondering if there is something out there that allows you to physically see the shape.

    How on earth did anyone ever get to that figure 1836 x the mass of an electron? I can't begin to imagine the experiment that determined this.
  10. Apr 22, 2005 #9
    hey- what about using a hadronic collider to create artificial quantum-scale black holes and bombard an object with them- then anaylize the hawking radiation as the the little fellows go poof- couldn't you perhaps get some kind of data to reconstruct a detailed image/timeslice of the femto/atto/zepto/yocto scale? :bugeye: :cool: :tongue:
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2005
  11. Apr 22, 2005 #10
    What's a hadronic collider ?
  12. Apr 23, 2005 #11


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    Yep. There's pictures, but I can't find any right now.
    You smash atoms together and let the debris pass through a strong magnetic field. Because the pieces are charged, their paths bend. The degree of bending tells us how heavy they are.

    See Wikipedia's bubble chamber entry.
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