Having worked on a few physics experiments where you have to use a microscope to measure the count of rings or even a simple screw gauge for thickness, at some point you just get sick of the very small measurements and write in a value of your choice that will give you a result that you want. Since that is just repetition of experiments in college performed by many batches of students over and over again each year, it would be passable (though not morally) and would really not affect the ‘world of science’ at all. But those working on the cutting edge of technology cannot do the same and when you are measuring sub-atomic particles, best guesses just won’t do.
That is why researchers at the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology in Barcelona, Spain have come up with the world’s most sensitive weight scale. Don’t be worried though as it is not designed to measure your ‘extra holiday weight’ and be a cause for embarrassment. The scale can quantify weights up to a Yoctogram and that for us common people is equivalent to a billionth of a billionth of a millionth of a gram! In other words, these guys are measuring stuff that for us would pretty much seem like ‘nothing’.
The scale uses nanotubes which vibrate at a specified frequency for each particular weight. By noting the vibrations of the nanotube, one can accurately determine the weight of a sub-atomic particle. This allows scientists to measure up protons, which weigh 1.7 Yoctograms and other particles far lighter. The applications for this technology are not just limited to the field of quantum physics though as medical applications of the weight scale hold significant promise. Many molecular diseases, according to Adrian Bachtold and his team that devised the weight scale, are only distinguishable using protons and the sensitive scale will come in handy there.