Saturday, February 21, 2009

That's the Size of It: Local Galaxies to Quarks

"Secret Worlds: The Universe Within"
Molecular Expressions

"View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf...."

A pretty good way to get a feel for the size of things, probably inspired by the Charles and Ray Eames 1977 short film, "Powers of Ten." "Secret Worlds: The Universe Within" is interactive - you can go from frame to frame after the whole thing has loaded.

There's a bit of artistic license here and there: orbits of the planets in the Solar system are shown as colored ellipses, and colors are assigned to parts of the 'foam' down at quark scales. But I think that helps get the points across. Besides, considering the physics involved, we can't see anything that small: units of the part of the electromagnetic spectrum we sense are too big.

The "Powers of Ten" film may be available alone, or as part of a collection, on

And, there's an 'Eames online' website:

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