Planck length
Encyclopedia
In physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, the Planck length, denoted P, is a unit of length
Length
In geometric measurements, length most commonly refers to the longest dimension of an object.In certain contexts, the term "length" is reserved for a certain dimension of an object along which the length is measured. For example it is possible to cut a length of a wire which is shorter than wire...

, equal to . It is a base unit
Fundamental unit
A set of fundamental units is a set of units for physical quantities from which every other unit can be generated.In the language of measurement, quantities are quantifiable aspects of the world, such as time, distance, velocity, mass, momentum, energy, and weight, and units are used to describe...

in the system of Planck units
Planck units
In physics, Planck units are physical units of measurement defined exclusively in terms of five universal physical constants listed below, in such a manner that these five physical constants take on the numerical value of 1 when expressed in terms of these units. Planck units elegantly simplify...

. The Planck length can be defined from three fundamental physical constants: the speed of light
Speed of light
The speed of light in vacuum, usually denoted by c, is a physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is 299,792,458 metres per second, a figure that is exact since the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time...

in a vacuum, Planck's constant, and the gravitational constant
Gravitational constant
The gravitational constant, denoted G, is an empirical physical constant involved in the calculation of the gravitational attraction between objects with mass. It appears in Newton's law of universal gravitation and in Einstein's theory of general relativity. It is also known as the universal...

.

## Value

The Planck length is defined as

where is the speed of light
Speed of light
The speed of light in vacuum, usually denoted by c, is a physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is 299,792,458 metres per second, a figure that is exact since the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time...

in a vacuum, is the gravitational constant
Gravitational constant
The gravitational constant, denoted G, is an empirical physical constant involved in the calculation of the gravitational attraction between objects with mass. It appears in Newton's law of universal gravitation and in Einstein's theory of general relativity. It is also known as the universal...

, and is the reduced Planck constant. The two digits enclosed by parentheses
Bracket
Brackets are tall punctuation marks used in matched pairs within text, to set apart or interject other text. In the United States, "bracket" usually refers specifically to the "square" or "box" type.-List of types:...

are the estimated standard error
Standard error (statistics)
The standard error is the standard deviation of the sampling distribution of a statistic. The term may also be used to refer to an estimate of that standard deviation, derived from a particular sample used to compute the estimate....

associated with the reported numerical value.

The Planck length is about 10−20 of the diameter of a proton
Proton
The proton is a subatomic particle with the symbol or and a positive electric charge of 1 elementary charge. One or more protons are present in the nucleus of each atom, along with neutrons. The number of protons in each atom is its atomic number....

, and thus is an extremely small length. Measurements of electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

radius showed that it is smaller than 10−20 m, which is a value still 1015 larger than Planck length.

## Physical significance

The physical significance of the Planck length is a topic of research. Because the Planck length is so many orders of magnitudes smaller than any currently possible measurement, there is no hope of directly probing this length scale in the foreseeable future. Research on the Planck length is therefore mostly theoretical.

In some forms of quantum gravity, the Planck length is the length scale at which the structure of spacetime becomes dominated by quantum effects, and it would become impossible to determine the difference between two locations less than one Planck length apart. The precise effects of quantum gravity are unknown; often it is suggested that spacetime might have a discrete or foamy
Quantum foam
Quantum foam, also referred to as spacetime foam, is a concept in quantum mechanics, devised by John Wheeler in 1955. The foam is supposed to be the foundations of the fabric of the universe. Additionally, it can be used as a qualitative description of subatomic spacetime turbulence at extremely...

structure at Planck length scale.

The Planck area, equal to the square of the Planck length, plays a role in black hole entropy. The value of this entropy, in units of the Boltzmann constant, is known to be given by , where is the area of the event horizon
Event horizon
In general relativity, an event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman's terms it is defined as "the point of no return" i.e. the point at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible. The most common case...

.

If large extra dimension
Large extra dimension
In particle physics, models with universal extra dimensions propose that there are one or more additional dimensions beyond the three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension that are observed...

s exist, the measured strength of gravity may be much smaller than its true (small-scale) value. In this case the Planck length would have no fundamental physical significance, and quantum gravitational effects would appear at other scales.

In string theory
String theory
String theory is an active research framework in particle physics that attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity. It is a contender for a theory of everything , a manner of describing the known fundamental forces and matter in a mathematically complete system...

, the Planck length is the order of magnitude of the oscillating strings that form elementary particles, and shorter lengths do not make physical sense.

In loop quantum gravity
Loop quantum gravity
Loop quantum gravity , also known as loop gravity and quantum geometry, is a proposed quantum theory of spacetime which attempts to reconcile the theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity...

, area is quantized, and the Planck area is, within a factor of order unity, the smallest possible area value.

In doubly special relativity, the Planck length is observer-invariant.

According to the generalized uncertainty principle, the Planck length is, within a factor of order unity, the shortest measurable length.

The search of the laws of physics valid at the Planck length are a part of the search for the theory of everything
Theory of everything
A theory of everything is a putative theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena, and predicts the outcome of any experiment that could be carried out in principle....

.

• Doubly special relativity
• Fock–Lorentz symmetry
• Orders of magnitude (length)
• Planck epoch
Planck epoch
In physical cosmology, the Planck epoch , named after Max Planck, is the earliest period of time in the history of the universe, from zero to approximately 10−43 seconds , during which, it is believed, quantum effects of gravity were significant...

• Planck scale
Planck scale
In particle physics and physical cosmology, the Planck scale is an energy scale around 1.22 × 1019 GeV at which quantum effects of gravity become strong...

• Planck time
Planck time
In physics, the Planck time, , is the unit of time in the system of natural units known as Planck units. It is the time required for light to travel, in a vacuum, a distance of 1 Planck length...

• Planck unit
• Max Planck
Max Planck
Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, ForMemRS, was a German physicist who actualized the quantum physics, initiating a revolution in natural science and philosophy. He is regarded as the founder of the quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.-Life and career:Planck came...