DNA, Quarks, The Milky Way and my Chiropracter

An interesting question came to my mind this morning. Cause in part by a conversation I had whilst my chiropracter was pummeling my back. We were chatting about my job, and got onto the topic of DNA. He said he was amazed at just how we can manipulate DNA molecules, due to there size. He commeneted on two recent patients of his. One guy was working with subatomic particles, and the next day, he cracked the bones of a astronomer who “works” with galaxies. The range of size of the objects these guys were researching is quite amazing.

This lead to a conversation with collegues later of just where am I in this range? With a scale going from a quark to a galaxy, just where does a chromosome fit. Now the initial opinion of people was that this is very very close to the quark. But this is not that true. A quark is many orders of magnitude smaller than an atom. A chromosome has many many atoms. You then have to consider what dimension to measure too. Volume, mass or length.

So as any lazy scientist does, instead of calculating something, off to wiki I went…!

  • Milky way width 10 +21
  • size of chromosomes 10 -7
  • upper limit for quarks 10-18

So if we take a quark as the smallest particle then a chromosome is much closer to the smallest particle than a galaxy. But wait…… the smallest theoretical particle is a string…. The theoretical size of a string is:

  • 10 -35

    So therfore the original question is not that daft. A chromosome is almost mid way between a subatomic particle and a galaxy. Crazy… !!

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