Do Things Shrink in Outer Space?

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Things can definitely shrink in outer space, so long as a few very specific types of things actually happen. Find out if things shrink in outer space with help from an applied physics professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Such Great Physics
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Video Transcript

Hello, my name is Walter Unglaub, and this is "do things shrink in outer space?" If we examine a volume of some sort of gas, like air inside of a container, like a balloon, on Earth, we understand that there is an outward pressure inside of the balloon, and an inward pressure from the atmosphere. So, near ground level, this internal, this pressure from the external environment is approximately equal to one atmosphere. So, the shape of the balloon, and size, is given by the resultant pressures from the outside and the inside air. If we take this balloon, this volume of air, into outer space now, we see that there is very little, to no pressure, from the external world. So, we have something in thermodynamics and chemistry called the ideal gas law. PV is equal to NKBT, or sometimes, little N, RT, where P is the pressure, V is the volume, capital N is the number of particles, KB is the Boltzmann constant, T is the temperature. And, in this formulation, little N is the number of moles, capital R is the ideal gas constant, and T is temperature, again. If we model the air inside of the balloon in that volume as an ideal gas, then, in outer space, we see that since there is no external pressure, this volume is going to increase. So, the balloon will keep on expanding because there is no pressure to counteract the pressure of the air molecules inside of the balloon. So, the point is, nothing will shrink in outer space, but rather, one would expect objects to expand. My name is Walter Unglaub, and this is "do objects shrink in outer space?"

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