microscopic and macroscopic

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The terms microscopic and macroscopic (from ancient Greek μικρός mikrós "small", μακρός makrós "wide, large" and σκοπεῖν skopeĩn "observe, look at") differentiate views that focus on the small or disregard it.

In some cases this corresponds to whether one uses a magnifying glass or a microscope to observe, or whether one restricts oneself to the structures that are visible to the naked eye:

  • Macroscopic: visible with the naked eye (clear vision )
  • Microscopic: visible with a magnifying glass or microscope


In medicine , viewing with the naked eye is called macroscopy (see also Macroscopic Anatomy ).


In physics , however, the term microscopic usually means an observation at the level of particles ( e.g. atoms or their components), in which typical quantum effects such as interference of the wave function are taken into account. By macroscopic , on the other hand, one means the consideration of statistical quantities according to the law of large numbers . For example, a gas is macroscopically homogeneous ; microscopically it consists of individual molecules with a lot of empty space in between.

Chemistry and solid state physics

In solid-state physics and chemistry , a transition area between microscopic and macroscopic is referred to as mesoscopic (from ancient Greek μέσος mesos "centered, in the middle"). Here, the material properties depend on the size of the system, e.g. due to a large free path , but the large number of atoms prevents the energy spectrum from being resolved into discrete levels. To put it simply, the mesoscopic range extends on a length scale from approximately one nanometer to approximately one micrometer.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Klaus Stierstadt: Thermodynamics. From microphysics to macrophysics , Springer, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-642-05098-5 , p. 11.