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From the Earth to the sun. 93 million miles from our Milky Way To The other nebulæ of space millions of millions of millions of miles and on the other hand the diameter of the nucleus of an atom is so small that it would take several million millions of them laid end to end to make one in the millions of millions of millions aren't we fooling ourselves. How can man or his instruments possibly come up with such figures. How can science take such measurements. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah yeah.
Those are often best to keep millions of millions of millions to scientists dealing with small objects. However there are large numbers by themselves do not prove that objects are locked. For example 60 million is a large number. Yet 60 million inches is only about a hundred miles. Not a very long distance to cover by car a distance is not very large bites. It is only large or small in comparison with some other distance. For instance these are units so the distance length Well the same thing is to all the other quantities which we consider in physics a certain way too an example will be expressed by even a large number. If we stick as a unit of weight let's say an object waste 14 million. Actually this is only 1 schall time 2000
pounds and that's a very small quantity with a leg out to the weight of water displaced by an ocean liner. Do you see our fundamental units our measurements our escape mans the foot ball this leg. Well originally this standard of length was the length of the King's foot. They found they fit an ancient unit has no such immediate to life and wants to man size but because a convenient weight for any man who can date the scientific unit of time is this second and this is bin Laden the one beat of our work books. If necessary we use multiples of these units such as they my all the time. Ah well all sub multiples like the inch getting in this way things large or small. All the words in the last analysis lead to something definite out minds Kate. So with this human scale in mind it makes very good sense
to say that the Earth is something very large with a got to us all that the poteen molecule via this is very small neither of these are really so large or so small as to be unimaginable. But beyond the size of the earth and the size of the Vios and imaginable distances in space and the company sensibly smaller weight of the Elektra. The scientists of these may be described as an imaginable but nevertheless the scientists can measure it. I'd like to suggest to you how this is done and in so doing I'd like to point out that these measurements are not taken without good reason. The reason lies in the effects put used by at least some discoveries in science in the nineteenth century. Scientists may well have found out almost all things that I would skate emancipate have to contain it. But now 19:00 those
scientists. I discovered a name for you Sion in science which is still a fall from having on its course. Scientists started discovering that objects and kind of small the atom and below the atom the vibrations incredibly fast temperatures incredibly low behave in unexpected ways and perhaps these hold the key to the architecture of the physical universe. This secret may lie in a better understanding of cost me pocket goes off claim assumes all genes or events in nebulae far away in space in our understanding of the valued logic and even a small may well be the difference between life today and life 50 years and us. So these fairly large invented small measurements of being a fundamental part in the advance of science. So how do we get at that
with this a yardstick to measure length at this cadence of our body in assisting science to measure something as large as the size of the earth. It took a unit won't do. It's almost as if you were to use this to build a modern superhighway. It simply is not able to deal with the job of that size centuries ago. This was capable of dealing with the scraping and the chopping and the smoothing out which came that way of our earliest ancestors. It belongs to the least scientific world which was adjusted to deal with things you could hold in your hand Judge with your senses and work on DNA. Harder it is of the essence of content science but it has evolved. Indian methods of obtaining this size all the weight all the speed of things it talks about. Now this is not to suggest that the
senses fundamental measurements have no part in India in a measurement on the continent in the last analysis. All scientific instruments terminate in the use of a hand. All I instruments become extension obvious senses just as mathematics becomes an extension of simple mental that it may take all logic. You cannot escape using your hand and your eyes even if you are measuring things you cannot see. Full example in the heart of this saw it a finely processes are going on at temperatures and pressures which no man could stand and the actions are taking place in gases which no eye could see and yet you can only those instruments which gives you measurements of temperature I show and so forth and by hand. You can control the actions you cannot see in the end of the measuring out by it just must involve pointers and spades to be and I didn't evaluate it by the eye and switches and
knobs to be many purely by hand. On the DNA measurements taken in units at our skate all girls do it then it's to late. Then a lot yet to the gigantic measurements in space and you need this in most dimensions at the call of the atom. Science bridges that gap by Indian measurement. But evolving and up hope yet theory expressed in mathematical terms. The stand is a different one for each specific case. Use the framework of mathematical formulae to connect enormous or tiny quantities with this man's case. These theories are usually specific applications of the laws of physics such that the key to India measure. I'd like to show you an actual case of Indian measurement of an object of a large man skin. How can we find this size of the earth
the earth is large but not so. As a matter of fact this was one of the first quantities which only scientists successfully measure. The man I sponsored voted was the Greek astronomer and he believed in Alexander had about 200 BCE to make his measurement. He first needed certain assumptions the first of these was that the earth was all they could each knew that because you know observing this sun they knew that this sun lay higher above the ice and as they say to all march to the south and lower as they know. Second day they knew that if they divided this year come phones of 360 bots all get good at least they could find the length of any portion of that circle by using simple proportions. Suppose the OC is limited by an angle of 34 degrees then the length of OC is to the length of the filaments as 30
for each to see hundred and sixty. It gets in this place getting geometers how devolved to following it up to express this checkup on service to bite. Ah ah here is the initial letter of a US buy is the initial lead paint emitter and it stands for the definite number seat and if traction. Knowing this formula if you have a value far be it I guess of a circle then you can find this chicken fillets and vice versa. With this information the knowledge that the earth was song that bit of a circle to and the length of the knock I tossed to knees began his measurement of this size of the earth for several of the same show is the Egyptian How do you like to invent cities besides having a village just and party ticket significance there where you was tossed on nomic observations at Xander and sighing city to the
south had such obvious Boston nice new that insight sighing. This son was exactly overhead at noon only one day in the year. The day we would call the 21st of June the day of this summer solstice on bad day noon the Albeniz consigning cost no shadow in any direction. However fall to the north in Alexander the immediate Dannion the obvious that short shadow known on the 21st of June found the length of that shadow. Knowing the height of the Albeniz yacht dust the knees good by how many degrees the sun fate to be exactly overhead and that was about eight degrees. All one forty fifth of 360 degrees. You have to ask the news then you would die. Which must have looked exactly like this one. This diagram you can see that eight degrees is also of the angle in which limits the OC between sight
and not exactly the angles on the diagrams made much but their legibility. These two angles are equal because the two lines do this son. And from Alexander the sun particularly the dust and this I assume that they were here because he knew that his son was very far away. I did distance at least hundreds of times the size of the earth itself. And today we know he's assumption is justified. Using the information he had about the earth being all depend I meant to buy Ah and this simple to make sure of Octave become felons. You state that the distance from science to Alexander Yeah worst of the confidence of the earth as a degrees west to three hundred and sixty degrees all as one to forty five then fall the second finance of the earth was 45 times that distance from Cyteen to Alexander Yeah. But it is
also true by our then fought the use of the earth which 45 divided by 2 pi times the distance from Syeed to Alexandria. How are the needs of the distance of science to Alexandria I don't know. He probably just Gyptian least distance between towns where well-known and the distance from signing to Alexander was known to be five thousand stadia when we tried to check this today. We failed because we don't know exactly how long it stayed Jim Ross. However if we compare it with modern measurements we can see that I started it was reasonably accurate. The modern value is 4000 miles for the ideas of the earth all 8000 miles for the diameter. This Indian like method of measurement is quite different in its not just from common sense. It's basic is a fairly straightforward but which connects elements which common sense wouldn't think of could make being the length of the
shadow of the all business create the idea solve the universe. This Indian measurement can become up to a campaign but by nomic command he'd like this scientist that ain't just as false as on paper first. On a field mat in this same way the scientist bends in advance that measurement he can make. Fits them into his formula which expresses an I-pod theory only an Indian actually and he choose that measurement which would have been impossible to make. Now we've been talking about that measurement all the site yes 4000 miles. Notice that this is indeed a very large distance the towers gate to each a height of 4000 miles about four million men would have to stand on one another's shoulders. So this is it then a larger measurement but beyond that much larger ones again. For instance after we measure the age of the earth we want to know the distance to the sun and this is quite another matter.
This one is so very far away that instead of measuring and mangle eight degrees as you know it's not that nice did we would have to measure an angle a third to 600 times smaller. Eight seconds and this is much too small to measure. So I asked one of us did not know the distance of this sun even a place icily and did quite nicely. About 20 years ago when they were able to find the distance to it then a minute planetoid called us circling between the Earth and the sun. With the help of illness as a steppingstone as tonic of theory it was able to obtain the distance to the sun. About 93 million miles. Note that we can beat these words 93 million miles hight them down in a notebook for future use. But imagine that distance. Never. We are already in that item of science where we at lesen we can bail we have a
new medical answers but we are so far off on my own scheme as to be much incapable to visualize what we have. India and I actually met in this same way. We go from this son. They need US stocks from these to the dimension of the Milky Way. From this to the distances of the nebula and each step we must invent a new theory a theory which enables us to climb on one kind of distance to another kind much greater. Each time involves measuring quantities which I Maskaev with a now leech. But once entered into with a formula they enable us to each sum he that to an approachable distance. So much for the very law which now they invent a small he had to the method of science is in DNA. You can measure this with a Oh no.
But this is another problem again and beyond the ball bailing. How to measure what you cannot hold in your hand and it set up the blood. Perhaps instead of something smaller than that said how do you measure the size of a virus. For the bone banding you can use this micrometer more sensitive than your naked eye. When I turned this done here I advanced a very precisely constructed school. And when it has advanced the diameter of this ball then I can read off and on exactly what the diameter is in two with a many thousand Albany. For the United States however you must first locate the object to be measured and then devise your method. Is this
solution to that albeit a microscope to a notch DNA etc.. This installment in cases that I look through the eyepiece and you see this and I said Now suppose you attach to this microscope another sort of my common arrangement we have to take the cure learn piece out first and we substitute this my comment on this place is to carefully build good in your field of vision or take to get this done. Hiya moves at Hamline high cost to get it. You can line up one end of this with a on line then move the line at cos they sell to the other edge. And note how many divisions of the dog will need to do this. Again this is the measure because you see you can't get the DNA of the size up they say you have to know what fraction of an inch is they presented by each division.
They don't get my comment. And how much the microscope amplified this particular measurement the make up of the microscope provides that information by means of an extremely physical. The magnifying power of this installment depends upon the type of lead says the maker used in the US. It says inside of this due upon the distances between the lenses the defunct curvatures he gave to the lens surfaces and so on. Let's say that the distance that the designer made tell us that data you know the distance between one edge of the United set and the other magnified 38 times. They live all of this my comment let's say by twisting this time for divisions we move the hand line by 100 of an inch. And suppose that that moves they have cos they had said no by magnifying the magnifying power of the lens has been long with this my
comment that he had two he is 30 and so 30 times hundred is three thousand. They have all the diameter of the sail is one. So you thousandth of an inch. So they meant a measurement of the size of a high blood cell is dealing in this sense that we are using our eyes to look at that center. Just as DNA does looking at find find by means of a magnifying glass. But the actual measurement is the size of the size of the sale is in DNA. It too is just a troll merely because it depends not only on this the micrometer but upon the whole design of this instrument. They Smike Oh school now. So that day years ago scientists believed that there was a limit to the use of optical instruments in seeing small things because optics is based on the cone told you was light. It was known that some particles would be too small to send like they effectively backed with the lances of a
microscope. Their fall they believed that we would never be able to see objects smaller than about one ten thousandth of an inch. However this scientist of 30 years ago did not foresee the use of a beam of electrons in place of a beam of light and they did this was a light just that's Gaston says DNA and focus light so it's team of electron was focused by electric called magnetic glances just as light would expose it for the plates so we don't look at times with the electron microscope. We no longer look at the object itself. We look at the photograph of the object made by steam of electrons exposing a photographic film. All we look at a screen like that in on your TV set and it jives by a stream of elect. He again and now you can measure the dimensions of a very tiny object using the very involved formulae describing the
electron microscope. Here is a picture of a virus. Each of these little particles has a with how they all do one minute of any notice that they wait you are looking out. This spying on us is identical live the manner in which you are looking at me. Now you are not looking at meet directly but a photograph of me made by electron skate steams on a photographic scene and in turn my photographic image is translated by another beam of electrons into the image. On you have televisions and yet only a purist would want to insist don't you think that you are not at this moment seeing me in this same way this scientist commonly forgets that he's measuring the earth all the blood etc. all there is value in the effect today because he's so sure that he's obtaining the size of the thing. Well perhaps you're getting used to this India likeness of science but you may still
want to at the large and the small of it. The huge time in numbers I've got in this way you may state it won't be hollow using measurement but our own skate. We point to such enormous and imagine there'd be large figures. I want you to notice that the common characteristic of the formulas which we use in this approach of science is that they usually involve most depict cation all division. Look the distance from science to Alexander divided by this confidence of the earth eight degrees divided by three hundred and sixty eight multiplied by two by confidence of the earth is 45 times the distance from scion to Alexander you know distant things we are working with where distance measured did stage out today in mass and angles in degrees. Now we can't add or subtract quantities of the fun guy it's like adding distances and angles. We can only be multiply or divide. Now he has one effect of this. The ideas
of the earth is 4000 miles he said. And they are five thousand two hundred eighty feet in a mile. But what you will notice in these noble numbers in the thousands. But when we multiply them we find that the ideas of the earth in feet is twenty one million one hundred twenty thousand feet which is an imaginary number multiplication and division. All this method of manipulating the any different sorts of quantities to get easy was all volts and amperes and hours. This connecting of very different sorts of things made possible by multiplication and division. He's been a stick of physics and some other sciences. This significance they work. The beauty of physics consists of just that. That physics go next little by little and of me I think in the physical world weights distances beats
temperatures these voltages this sun and then electron waves and particles and play thing with it I think yes that is physics and that is why physics always multiplies multiplies and divides quantities of different guns and incidentally in so doing it produces these then a large and very small numbers I've been talking about. Incidentally but not meaninglessly because there are things in nature that are fantastically larger than math for instance to make a way and they are off things. Then a much smaller than man so very much smaller say the electron and physics is finding out about both to make a way and the electron. It would be open to to say that he has connected them. He does not yet. But several of physicists have had the coverage to say out loud what many others just too shy to admit that they believe they are connected
although they cannot yet in any case between the event and then a small stance man about half way inside. I'm going to guess and also physical quantity which seem to be prominent in the physical universe. Some like the speed of light. Then they launch man skate all those like the energy carried by a good light that photon vented a small amount of slang. Again so long and so small that without doubt this is the reason why it is difficult for a man's imagination to invent new ways of thinking to accommodate that meaning and the implication is. I am I am.
I am I am. I am.
Of Science and Scientists
Episode Number
The Large and the Small
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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Episode Description
Ninety-three million miles from the earth to the sun, one hundred thousand light years from one end of our galaxy to the other (remember that light travels 186,000 miles in one second), the size of the red blood cell: one three-thousandth of an inch. These are everyday figures in the language of science and scientists, and yet they are so incredibly large and unbelievable small that the non-scientist finds difficulty in imaging them. Before the dawn of science, man could only understand what he could see, touch and measure directly; today he understands and uses these fantastic sizes with ease. In "The Large and the Small," Professor Le Corbeiller shows how man has learned to measure such quantities far beyond his sight and grasp. With simple, animated pictures, he shows step by step how one very large figure - the size of the earth - was discovered in classical times. With Le Corbeiller, you examine more modern problems of extreme scale: the electron microscope measuring the size of viruses: the control and measurement of unseen reactions taking place in pressures and temperatures phenomenally high by our everyday standards. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Series Description
Americans tend to think of the sciences as potentially useful (air-conditioning) or potentially troublesome (Strontium-90). We accept or marvel at the revolutionary products of science while giving little thought to the basic ideas, concepts, techniques and logic that have gone into exploring, understanding and explaining our universe or in building our technical civilization. Such an understanding of science does not come easily. Limited by time and opportunity, scientists do not often explain themselves to non-scientists. Also, the quality of science is most difficult to the layman to understand is its indirect approach to the discovery of truths. Robert Frost summed up the problem by commenting that to his mind all science rested on the question, "How she differs from what she's like."Without attempting to teach physics or chemistry or geology, these programs suggest the qualities and outlook of science. By analogy and demonstration, they reveal the ideas which guide scientific research and the truths that research uncovers. They give an appreciation of what the scientist can and cannot do. As one speaker says, "The important thing about science is not merely that it gives rise to technological miracles, but that it provides us with one of many guidebooks we need to find our way in this universe." Today, as non-scientists are called upon to make decisions or concur in decisions that may affect the future of scientific research and even the future of life, a knowledge of "how she differs from what she's like," may not only be useful, but necessary. By explaining and demonstrating the guiding principles of science and scientists, these programs attempt to convey that increasingly necessary knowledge. Produced by WGBH-TV, Boston, the producer-director was David Walker and the executive producer Lawrence Kreshkoff.Dr. Phillipe Le Corbeiller is Professor of Applied Physics and of General Education at Harvard University. He is host and program editor for Harvard in the television series, "Of Science and Scientists." A leader in Harvard's general education program since its beginning in 1946, when he started the course, "Principles of Physical Science," Dr. Le Corbeiller was the first to be appointed professor of General Education in 1949, in addition to being professor of Applied Physics. Throughout the series Dr. Le Corbeiller is joined by other scientists. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
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Director: Walker, David
Executive Producer: Kreshkoff, Lawrence
Host: Le Corbeiller, Philippe
Producer: Walker, David
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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Chicago: “Of Science and Scientists; 7; The Large and the Small,” 1957-00-00, WGBH, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 30, 2023,
MLA: “Of Science and Scientists; 7; The Large and the Small.” 1957-00-00. WGBH, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 30, 2023. <>.
APA: Of Science and Scientists; 7; The Large and the Small. Boston, MA: WGBH, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from