Laotzu explains the five basics and weighs the sun
One morning the Emperor asked Laotzu to describe the fundamental constants. Laotzu replied: "The Son of Heaven knows that there are five basic proportions in nature: the constant of gravity, the speed of light, the frequency coefficient of temperature, the voltage coefficient of frequency, and the elementary charge. In the units of the Forbidden City the values of these proportions are a millionth, a billion, a trillion, a quadrillionth, and a quintillionth."
"In one trice, which is your Majesty's unit of time (may it always be remembered that a trice is one thousandth of a minute!) the light which the sun sends to illuminate the Forbidden City travels a billion of your Majesty's fingerwidths. This illustrates that the speed of light is indeed a billion."
"The keynote frequency in the light from a glowing object is a trillion times the object's temperature, measured on your Majesty's scale. This is the frequency coefficient of temperature. The surface temperature of the sun is 40 grade and therefore the keynote frequency in sunlight is 40 trillion per trice."
"Now I shall describe the voltage coefficient of frequency. When one of your Majesty's electrons absorbs the energy of a quantum of light, it becomes able to rise to a higher plane of voltage. The energy acquired, indicated by this step in voltage, is proportional to the frequency of that quantum. A blue light frequency is 250 trillion per triceto find the the voltage, your Majesty may divide by a quadrillion and get 0.25 tao. The voltage created by that blue light is one quarter of tao, the Son of Heaven's voltage standard. This division of frequency by quadrillion to get voltage illustrates the voltage coefficient of frequencyyet another of the natural proportions."
"The charge on an electron is a quintillionth of your majesty's standard of charge. This expresses the fundamental constant called the elementary charge."
"O Sage," said the Emperor, "you have described but four of the fundamental constants. Describe the constant of gravity as well."
"I shall illustrate this to your Majesty by weighing the sun," said Laotzu. He had a bronze dragon weighing one tod, which the barbarians say is twentyseven pounds, set before the throne. This the Emperor had established as the Forbidden City's measure of force. "The Son of Heaven may wish to know the attraction which two copies of the sun would exert on each other if they were separated by the same distance that earth is from the sun. Indeed it can be reckoned from circular orbit speed at this distance, by squaring the speed twice in succession. Each quartic unit of speed must be counted as a million tod and this illustrates one of several forms taken by this constant."
The earth's orbit speed is a mile per trice, which is typical of a circular orbit at this distance. In the measure favored by the Son of Heaven, this speed is 100 thousand of the Emperor's fingerwidths per trice. Squaring that twice in succession gives 1020 quartic units of speed. In accordance with the fundamental constant of gravity, each quartic unit of speed is worth a million tod, which amounts to ten thousand tons. In this way Laotzu discovered that the sun's weight, at this distance, is 1024 tons. If the sun could weigh itself in its own gravity at this distance, Lao-Tzu explained, it would weigh a trillion trillion of the Emperor's tons.
Copyright © 2002 Leonard Cottrell. All rights reserved.
Table of contents for the New Metric Fables