# Why does my coffee cup not just fall through the coffee table?

After all, the distance between the bits my coffee cup is made of and the distance between the bits the coffee table is made of is absolutely hugemoungous. If you were a person standing on one atom of my coffee cup, scaled so the atom was the size of, say a Sofa, and you looked out in the direction of the next atom, it would look like a distant star. Or something.

Perhaps there is some kind of force working, I dunno.

Anyway, this is the kind of question that arises when you look at this thing. Teachers, you can use this to freak out your students!

September 24, 2010

Think of how many things there are to be discovered between the Plank distance and the Neutrino.

2. #2 Navin
September 24, 2010

Hmmm, chart is missing the photon, which I suspect is smaller than the neutrino.

And yeah, “some kind of force” is your answer. Maybe a force 10^39 times stronger than gravity?

3. #3 Mr Ed
September 24, 2010

1) because it is the law:

III. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

2) the force holding the subatomic bits together is the strong force. The force reacting on the cup is gravity.

4. #4 Bodach
September 24, 2010

Yeehaw! I remember watching Powers of 10 in college in an altered state. Remember kids, don’t do drugs.

5. #5 Navin
September 24, 2010

#3, I think it’s the electromagnetic force that’s responsible, not the Strong force. The electrons in the cup and table (all being negatively charged) are applying the forces keeping the cup from “slipping though” the table.

6. #6 Todd
September 24, 2010

Anyway, this is the kind of question that arises when you look at this thing. Teachers, you can use this to freak out your students!

Ha! I just covered this in my non-majors biology class. It’s always fun to break out my best Spicoli: “Whooa! Dooode! If the protons and electrons in the table are far apart and the protons and electrons in my hand are far apart, then I can put my hand right through the table! Far out!”

Spicoli will make another appearance when we get to vision: “Doode, how do I know the color I see as blue is the same color you see as blue?”

Fantastic link, thanks for posting. My only complaint is that they forgot to add the turtles before (or after, I guess) the strings & Planck length. Even so, that will be great for illustrating scale (which is hard to do when 99.9% of one’s students don’t know how long a meter is….

7. #7 Birger Johansson
September 24, 2010

Careful, you are about to bring up forces of nature that are non-intuitive (aka Jewish Physics), and therefore an invention by elitisty blokes who don’t go to Church.

Quantum physics is OK for patriotic stuff like building bombs, but if you spread those ideas around you could harm the way young people think. Real, lasting knowledge is only found in the Book. (sarcasm)

8. #8 feralboy12
September 24, 2010

I had a good answer for this, but the letters I typed all fell through the computer screen and got mixed up.

9. #9 Todd
September 24, 2010

@8:

That’s ‘cuz God didn’t want you corrupting people’s minds with your Darwinistic Marxoid death-cult secular humanitarianistic propaganda. If He Whose Name Shall Remain Nameless wanted you to spread your vile, elitist so-called “science,” he would have made your computer screen impermeable to typed letters!

Just sayin’.

(I just realized that “@8:” looks like a googly-eyed dude wearing a turban. I just invented an emoticon!)

10. #10 Dave v.
September 24, 2010

Cool animation. There’s at least one error, looks like a cut ‘n paste typo. Finding it could be assigned as an extra credit problem to make students really look at the values — maybe it’s intentional.

And yeah, I sent Primax Studio a message…

September 25, 2010

What is it?

12. #12 Dave v.
September 25, 2010

Well that’s no fun…

Look at the distance from Sun to Earth: the first parenthesized value appears copied from the Sun-Mercury distance of 60M km, while all the other listed values are variations of 150M km.

I only spotted it because it’s one of the few distances in the chart I know offhand — although I think “8 light minutes” is a more thought provoking variation than any of those listed.

It’s still there, I doubt anyone’ll even look at it ’til next week.

13. #13 Tristram Brelstaff
September 25, 2010

The Pauli Exclusion Principle is the ultimate source of the solidity of matter. From the Wikipedia page on Freeman Dyson:

A seminal work by Dyson came in 1966 when, together with Andrew Lenard and independently of Elliott H. Lieb and Walter Thirring, he proved rigorously that the exclusion principle plays the main role in the stability of bulk matter.[13] Hence, it is not the electromagnetic repulsion between electrons and nuclei that is responsible for two wood blocks that are left on top of each other not coalescing into a single piece, but rather it is the exclusion principle applied to electrons and protons that generates the classical macroscopic normal force. …

14. #14 Sinan
September 25, 2010

Very good, this like page.

September 25, 2010

Tristram, I don’t buy that. The “normal force” is not one of the fundemental forces. Or at least, I don’t think it is. Mathematically the exclusion principle may work, but doesn’t that predate the current version of the standard model? Or, if not, how not?

16. #16 Pierce R. Butler
September 25, 2010

One fine morning your coffee cup, like Wile E. Coyote, will make the mistake of looking down.

17. #17 IBY
September 26, 2010