Planck length

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Planck length
Unit system Planck units
Unit of length
Symbol P
Unit conversions
1 P in ...... is equal to ...
   SI units    1.616229(38)×10−35 m
   natural units    11.706 S
3.0542×10−25 a0
   imperial/US units    6.3631×10−34 in

In physics, the Planck length, denoted P, is a unit of length, equal to 1.616229(38)×10−35 meters. It is a base unit in the system of Planck units, developed by physicist Max Planck. The Planck length can be defined from three fundamental physical constants: the speed of light in a vacuum, the Planck constant, and the gravitational constant.


The Planck length P is defined as:

Solving the above will show the approximate equivalent value of this unit with respect to the meter:

where is the speed of light in a vacuum, G is the gravitational constant, and ħ is the reduced Planck constant. The two digits enclosed by parentheses are the estimated standard error associated with the reported numerical value.[1][2]

The Planck length is about 10−20 times the diameter of a proton. It can be defined using the radius of the hypothesized Planck particle.

Measuring the Planck length[edit]

In 2017 it was suggested by E. Haug[3] that the Planck length can be indirectly measured independent of any knowledge of Newton's gravitational constant with, for example, the use of a Cavendish apparatus. Further, it seems as if the error in the Planck length measures must be exactly half of that in the measurement errors of the Newton's gravitational constant. That is the error as measured in percentage term, also known as the relative standard uncertainty. This is in line with the relative standard uncertainty reported by NIST, which for the gravitational constant is and for the Planck length is .


In 1899 Max Planck[4] suggested that there existed some fundamental natural units for length, mass, time and energy. These he derived using dimensional analysis, using only the Newton gravitational constant, the speed of light and the Planck constant. The natural units he derived later became known as "the Planck length", "the Planck mass", "the Planck time" and "the Planck energy".

Theoretical significance[edit]

The Planck length is the scale at which quantum gravitational effects are believed to begin to be apparent, where interactions require a working theory of quantum gravity to be analyzed.[5] The Planck area is the area by which the surface of a spherical black hole increases when the black hole swallows one bit of information.[6] To measure anything the size of Plank length, the photon momentum needs to be very large due to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and so much energy in such a small space would create a tiny Black hole with diameter of its event horizon equal to Plank length.

The Planck length is sometimes misconceived as the minimum length of spacetime, but this is not accepted by conventional physics, as this would require violation or modification of Lorentz symmetry.[5] However, certain theories of loop quantum gravity do attempt to establish a minimum length on the scale of the Planck length, though not necessarily the Planck length itself,[5] or attempt to establish the Planck length as observer-invariant, known as doubly special relativity.[citation needed]

The strings of string theory are modelled to be on the order of the Planck length.[5][7] In theories of large extra dimensions, the Planck length has no fundamental physical significance, and quantum gravitational effects appear at other scales.[citation needed]

Planck length and Euclidean geometry[edit]

The gravitational field performs zero-point oscillations, and the geometry associated with it also oscillates. The ratio of the circumference to the radius varies near the Euclidean value. The smaller the scale, the greater the deviations from the Euclidean geometry. Let us estimate the order of the wavelength of zero gravitational oscillations, at which the geometry becomes completely unlike the Euclidean geometry. The degree of deviation of geometry from Euclidean geometry in the gravitational field is determined by the ratio of the gravitational potential and the square of the speed of light : . When , the geometry is close to Euclidean geometry; for , all similarities disappear. The energy of the oscillation of scale is equal to (where is the order of the oscillation frequency). The gravitational potential created by the mass , at this length is , where is the constant of universal gravitation. Instead of , we must substitute a mass, which, according to Einstein's formula, corresponds to the energy (where ). We get . Dividing this expression by , we obtain the value of the deviation . Equating , we find the length at which the Euclidean geometry is completely distorted. It is equal to Planck length .

As noted in,[8] "for the spacetime region with dimensions the uncertainty of the Christoffel symbols be of the order of , and the uncertainty of the metric tensor is of the order of . If is a macroscopic length, the quantum constraints are fantastically small and can be neglected even on atomic scales. If the value is comparable to , then the maintenance of the former (usual) concept of space becomes more and more difficult and the influence of micro curvature becomes obvious". Here appears a quantum foam.[9] The quantum foam consists of wormholes and tiny black holes a hundred billion billion times smaller than the proton. It was shown[10] that the generation of micro black holes (quantum foam) is energetically most advantageous in 3-dimensional space. This, most likely, predetermined the 3-dimensionality of the observed space.


The size of the Planck length can be visualized as follows: if a particle or dot about 0.005 mm in size (which is the same size as a small grain of silt) were magnified in size to be as large as the observable universe, then inside that universe-sized "dot", the Planck length would be roughly the size of an actual 0.005 mm dot. In other words, a 0.005 mm dot is halfway between the Planck length and the size of the observable universe on a logarithmic scale.[11] All said, the attempt to visualize to an arbitrary scale of a 0.005 mm dot is only for a hinge point. With no fixed frame of reference for time or space, where the spatial units shrink toward infinitesimally small spatial sections and time stretches toward infinity, scale breaks down. Inverted, where space is stretched and time is shrunk, the scale adjusts the other way according to the ratio V-squared/C-squared (Lorentz transformation).[clarification needed]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ John Baez, The Planck Length
  2. ^ NIST, "Planck length", NIST's published CODATA constants
  3. ^ E. Haug, Can the Planck Length Be Found Independent of Big G, Applied Physics Research, Vol. 10, No. 1. (2017)
  4. ^ M. Planck. Naturlische Masseinheiten. Der Koniglich Preussischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften, p. 479, 1899
  5. ^ a b c d Klotz, Alex (2015-09-09). "A Hand-Wavy Discussion of the Planck Length". Physics Forums Insights. Retrieved 2018-03-23. 
  6. ^ Bekenstein, Jacob D (1973). "Black Holes and Entropy". Physical Review D. 7 (8): 2333. Bibcode:1973PhRvD...7.2333B. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.7.2333. 
  7. ^ Cliff Burgess; Fernando Quevedo (November 2007). "The Great Cosmic Roller-Coaster Ride". Scientific American (print). Scientific American, Inc. p. 55. 
  8. ^ T. Regge, Nuovo Cim. 7, 215 (1958). Gravitational fields and quantum mechanics
  9. ^ Wheeler, J. A. (January 1955). "Geons". Physical Review. 97 (2): 511. Bibcode:1955PhRv...97..511W. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.97.511. 
  10. ^ Klimets, Alexander P (2000). "Geons - Candidates for the Role of the Initial Microblack Holes and Their Importance for the Planck Physics". Fizika B. 9: 23, § 4. Bibcode:2000FizB....9...23K. ,
  11. ^ Wolfram Alpha[1]


External links[edit]