Authors: Richard H. Price, Joseph D. Romano
Date: 12 Aug 2005
Abstract: The expansion of the universe is often viewed as a uniform stretching of space that would affect compact objects, atoms and stars, as well as the separation of galaxies. One usually hears that bound systems do not take part in the general expansion, but a much more subtle question is whether bound systems expand partially. In this paper, a very definitive answer is given for a very simple system: a classical "atom" bound by electrical attraction. With a mathemical description appropriate for undergraduate physics majors, we show that this bound system either completely follows the cosmological expansion, or -- after initial transients -- completely ignores it. This "all or nothing" behavior can be understood with techniques of junior-level mechanics. Lastly, the simple description is shown to be a justifiable approximation of the relativistically correct formulation of the problem.
© M. Vallisneri 2012 — last modified on 2010/01/29
Tantum in modicis, quantum in maximis