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Study: Electrons are Really, Really Spherical

A new report shows that electrons are, in fact, quite spherical. According to the findings from a team at Imperial College, electrons appear to be within 0.000000000000000000000000001 cm of being perfectly spheres, which is actually the margin of error of the equipment used to take the measurement. If that figure were accurate, and reflected the actual shape of the electron, it’s hard to imagine the context. For that, from Wired:

To put that in context; if an electron was the size of the solar system, it would be out from being perfectly round by less than the width of a human hair.

To determine the roundness of electrons, scientists observed the subatomic particles with lasers, looking for any wobbling as the electrons spun. The degree of the wobble would indicate the degree to which electrons were not spherical. No wobbling was observed, forcing the researchers to conclude that as far as their instruments were concerned, electrons are perfect spheres.

Of course, no scientist can ever be satisfied, and the team is planning on backing up their research with new experiments derived from recent work done with antimatter. In forthcoming experiments, molecules will chilled to extremely low temperatures in order to greater control the movement of electrons. Hopefully, the team can take even more accurate measurements and add a few more zeros behind that decimal point.

(Wired via BoingBoing)

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