From a human’s perspective, small can be anything from a single cell organism to miniature replicas of much larger things. We once thought that atoms were the building blocks of everything around us. But then, the protons, electrons, and neutrons opened a whole new world on the smallest scale.
And just as we started to entertain the thought that these are fundamental particles, researchers showed that neutrons and protons themselves are made of multiple quarks.
So, as far as we know, quarks and leptons (a family of elementary particles that include electrons) are the smallest, most fundamental matter in the universe. Below is a list of the smallest things.
12. Smallest Cannon
According to the Guinness World Records, the world’s smallest working cannon (15 µm x 5 µm x 5 µm) was designed by a group of researchers, including Stuart Ibsen, Joseph Wang, and Sadik Esener, among others. It was developed as part of a study to create futuristic microscopic cannons that can be used to inject targeted medicine directly to patients’ skin tissue.
11. Smallest Gun
Image Courtesy: Swissminigun.ch
The record for the world’s smallest (functional) revolver goes to Miniature Revolver C1ST. It was designed by SwissMiniGun, a Switzerland based company. The gun, according to the company, operates the same way as a standard firearm would do.
It is no bigger than 5.5 cm in length, fire 2.34 mm caliber rounds, and has a muzzle velocity of about 121 m/s. The bullet (muzzle) energy it produces is 0.97 J or about 0.71 foot-pounds.
Since only a limited number of C1ST’s are ever produced, a vast majority of them remain in collector’s possession.
10. Smallest Surviving Infant
Weighing at just 245 grams at the time of the birth, Akel or Saybie, as the doctors and nurses nicknamed her, is the world’s smallest surviving infant. The baby was born at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital in San Diego, California.
According to the University of Iowa’s Tiniest Babies Registry, Akel was seven grams less than the previous title holder at the time of her birth.
The infant was delivered after a gestation period of mere 23 weeks and three days in the mother’s womb. A pregnancy usually lasts for 40 weeks or 9 months.
9. Smallest Production Car
1965 Peel P50 at the Lane Motor Museum In Nashville
The world’s smallest car, the Peel P50 is a three-wheeled, single-seater microcar, which was initially manufactured by the Peel Engineering Company in the 1960s for commercial purposes. It only has one door to its left, one central headlight, and a windscreen viper.
The Peel P50 entered into the Guinness World Records in 2010, when Peel Engineering Ltd. (rebranded) restarted its production.
Specific changes have been made to the car’s mechanical components to make it road legal. It includes the suspension, drive-train, and functional reverse gear, which was not present in the original version.
The car is available in petrol as well as an electric model. The max. speed of both variants is 45 km/h. Back in 2016, a Peel P50 (initial production) was sold for US$ 176,000 in an auction.
8. Smallest Fish
A mature male specimen of the Photocorynus spiniceps, an anglerfish species, can measure anywhere between 6.2 to 7.3 millimeters in length. It is the smallest known of all mature fish species and vertebrates. The female individuals, however, can grow up to 50 millimeters.
Anglerfish species, including the P. spiniceps, exhibit a unique behavior known as parasitism, in which smaller males depend on much larger females for their overall survival. While the males only provide sperm for reproduction.
7. Smallest Horse
World’s smallest horse
Standing at just 56.7 cm, Bombel (“Bubble”) is the current smallest male horse in the world. It is a miniature Appaloosa (a North American horse breed with black spots) born and raised in Poland. At a young age, when Bombel was just two months old, he looked smaller even for a miniature horse. Both of its parents were normal-sized (miniature). The smallest horse ever was Thumbelina (43 centimeters), who died back in 2018.
6. Smallest Computer
Cross-section of the M3 computer | Image Courtesy: Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Michigan
In 2015, the University of Michigan unveiled the world’s smallest computer, Michigan Micro Mote (M3), measuring at just half a centimeter. The M3 carries a solar cell that produces 20nW (nanowatt), enough for the device to run uninterrupted under suitable conditions. While on standby, the device consumes as little as 2 nA.
Each M3 computer features as much as eight layers that carry out different functions. These layers can be interchanged or tweaked to achieve a new sensing system.
The Michigan Micro Mote can be used as motion detectors, pressure, and temperature sensor. Currently, the device has a small effective range of about 2 meters.
If you’re wondering about small personal computers that you can actually buy, then there are a couple of options. The FXI Cotton Candy has a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor and 1 GB DRAM, all inside a USB shaped stick. There are Android mini PC’s for you to choose from.
5. Smallest Primate
Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur at Kirindy Forest Reserve (Madagascar)
With an average body length of 9.5 centimeters, Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, or simply Berthe’s mouse lemur, is the world’s smallest primate. The species is found exclusively on the island country of Madagascar.
At the time of its discovery, Berthe’s mouse lemur was misidentified as Pygmy mouse lemur, an identical but slightly larger species of mouse lemurs. It is now believed that Microcebus berthae has gone through extensive speciation.
The species is listed as endangered in the Red List of threatened species due to large-scale deforestation in and near its habitat.
4. Smallest Radio
In 2007, a team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley designed one of a kind radio receiver out of a carbon nanotube measuring just 100 micrometers in length and 10 micrometers in diameter. It remains the world’s smallest radio to date.
Being the tiniest, the nanotube radio certainly works in a much different manner than conventional radio. Here, all the functions are carried out by a single nanotube together with two electrodes, between which it is placed.
It can not only tune into a radio signal but also demodulate and amplify it. An external speaker is used to play the audio.
3. Smallest Camera (Image Sensor)
World’s smallest camera | Image Courtesy: OmniVision
The record for the world’s smallest camera goes to OmniVision OV6948, developed by OmniVision Technologies Inc, a California based digital imaging products. The camera measures 0.65 x 0.65 x 1.158mm, while its tiny sensor is just 0.575 x 0.575 x 0.232mm.
It has a resolution of 200 x 200, with each pixel size just 1.75 µm across and generates color images using an RBG Bayer filter. The OmniVision OV6948 is designed to operate inside the smallest of places and something as intricate as human veins.
The camera’s minimal power usage and heat output mean surgeons can carry operations for longer duration without any discomfort to the patients.
2. Smallest Atom
Once thought the smallest thing in the universe, atoms were created shortly (on a cosmic scale) after the Big Bang. Atoms are made up of three particles; protons and neutrons, which are composed of much smaller quarks, and electrons.
In terms of mass, the smallest atom known to us is a hydrogen atom, which has one electron and one proton. It has an atomic weight of 1.008 and is the lightest element in the universe.
1. Smallest Particle
The standard model of Elementary particles
We have already established that quarks and electrons are the smallest known particles in the universe. So far, researchers have been able to identify six types or flavors of quarks, namely, up (u), down (d), charm (c), strange (s), top (t), and bottom (b). Multiple quarks bond together to form a subatomic composite particle known as hadron.
Protons and neutrons are the two most common types of hadrons that have an odd number of quarks (three), also known as baryons. For instance, a proton carries one down quark and two up quarks. Out of all six quarks, up and down quarks have the lowest masses.
The quark model was initially suggested (independently) by American physicists George Zweig and Murray Gell-Mann in 1964.
Electrons, unlike protons and neutrons, are elementary are part of a broader group of fundamental particles known as leptons. Electrons are about 1900 times less massive than protons.