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Unlike some other Planck units, such as Planck length, Planck mass is not a fundamental lower or upper bound; instead, Planck mass is a unit of mass defined using only what Max Planck considered fundamental and universal units. For comparison, this value is of the order of 1015 (a quadrillion) times larger than the highest energy available to particle accelerators as of 2015.[a]. Alternatively, it is approximately 22 micrograms, or roughly the mass of a flea egg.
It is defined as:
Substituting values for the various components in this definition gives the approximate equivalent value of this unit in terms of other units of mass:
The Planck mass was first suggested by Max Planck in 1899. He suggested that there existed some fundamental natural units for length, mass, time, and energy. He derived these units using only dimensional analysis of what he considered the most fundamental universal constants: The speed of light, the Newton gravitational constant, and the Planck constant.
The formula for the Planck mass can be derived by dimensional analysis. The basic idea is to find a quantity based on "universals" like the "speed of light in vacuum", that are both objective and invariant or unchangeable as we shift from one experimental or observational situation to another. This is a somewhat idealized perspective, as we must think in a framework that is not experimentally accessible. For example, even if the speed of light is observed and estimated and is measured under careful conditions closely approximating "vacuum" (insofar as we can do so), we do not necessarily know if the results (under repeated identical conditions) which may well show some variability, indicate a flaw in our assumption of universal speed, for light, or is correlated with factors such as possible biases or mistakes we ourselves are making, or certain ambiguities inherent in the experimental set up. But the goal is to remove traces of the particular experiments or observations and concomitant specific measured quantities, like length or time that bear on a speed measurement. In this context, too, we must ask ourselves what "universal" quantities are relevant for mass estimations in experiments. The acceleration due to gravity, g, on the surface of the Earth is not quite an objective constant, but close enough for that environment under numerous typical conditions. Likewise, when we consider the general astrophysical context of stars, planets, etc. Newton's gravitation constant G seems to represent an adequate "universal" under numerous ordinary experimental or observational conditions. In this approach, one starts with the three physical constants ħ, c, and G, and attempts to combine them to get a quantity whose dimension is mass. The formula sought is of the form
where are constants to be determined by equating the dimensions of both sides. Using the symbols for mass, for length and for time, and writing [x] to denote the dimension of some physical quantity x, we have the following:
If one wants this to equal , the dimension of mass, using , the following equations need to hold:
The solution of this system is:
Thus, the Planck mass is:
Dimensional analysis can only determine a formula up to a dimensionless multiplicative factor. There is no a priori reason for starting with the reduced Planck constant ħ instead of the original Planck constant h, which differs from it by a factor of 2π.
Elimination of a coupling constant
Equivalently, the Planck mass is defined such that the gravitational potential energy between two masses mP of separation r is equal to the energy of a photon (or the mass–energy of a graviton, if such a particle exists) of angular wavelength r (see the Planck relation), or that their ratio equals one.
Isolating mP, we get that
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- "Planck mass". wolframalpha.com.
- Dryden, M.W. (1990). "Blood consumption and feeding behavior of the cat flea". [journal name missing]: 51.
average weight of a flea egg (3.42×10−2 mg)[full citation needed]
- "Planck mass value in GeV". CODATA. 2016.
- "Planck mass value in kg". CODATA. 2016.
- Planck, M. (1899). "Naturlische Masseinheiten". [journal name missing] (in German). Der Koniglich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: 479.[full citation needed]