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Scale weighs a zeptogram

03/30/2005 10:00 AM

Roger Pink writes:
The world's most sensitive scales can now detect a cluster of xenon atoms a billion, trillion times lighter than a gram. A zeptogram (10-21)g) is roughly the mass of a single protein molecule and its detection has set a new record. To put this in perspective, an average adult male weighs roughly 80,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 zg.

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The Feature Creep

Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Boston, MA
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#1

How can they be so certain?

03/30/2005 11:01 AM

According to the article they spray the atoms in gas form and let it condense on the blade. How can they be certain the number of atoms and the actual weight of the atoms without disrupting the system. Do they know what it should weigh and are just using it for calibration or is it a "the math works out and is what we expected".

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The Engineer
Engineering Fields - Engineering Physics - Physics... United States - Member - NY Popular Science - Genetics - Organic Chemistry... Popular Science - Cosmology - New Member Ingeniería en Español - Nuevo Miembro - New Member

Join Date: Feb 2005
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#2
In reply to #1

Re:How can they be so certain?

03/30/2005 11:16 AM

I'm not sure, but I think the key is the blade is oscillating at a particular characteristic frequency. The weight is measured as a change in the osciallation frequency of the blade. The accuracy comes from the minimum number of atoms needed to produce a measurable frequency change in the blade. This particular blade was made of a new material that produced a higher characteristic oscillation which led to more accurate measurements.

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