Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Scale Of Things

My professional life has been spent attempting to see things not normally visible to the naked eye. Peering through magnifying glasses, dissecting microscopes, high-end light microscopes, even transmission electron microscopes, trying to see sub-cellular structures and even localizing individual protein complexes. I never tire of it. Yet no matter how small the structures are that we study, we find there are ever smaller magnitude objects to find.

The same goes for large structures. No matter how far out we look into the universe, galaxies continue to appear. We are such a tiny part of that universe that we easily disappear in the immensity of it. When I try to comprehend how individual proteins fit into that grand scheme, it makes my little, confused head whirl.

So it is with a great pleasure I recently discovered this nifty webpage devoted to comparing the sizes of everything from quarks up to the known universe, from Angstroms to light years. When you visit, feel free to click around on things and scroll back and forth:

http://www.nikon.co.jp/main/eng/feelnikon/discovery/universcale/nano.swf

And, while we're on the topic, here is a similar little journey called "Powers of Ten" which takes you from the edge of the universe down to the sub-atomic level (likely you have seen it, made in 1977 by Charles and Ray Eames, but still excellent):

http://www.stage6.com/user/air44/video/2068223/Cosmic-Voyage-HD---(Power-of-Ten)(a plugin is required, but it is worth it !)

So, if you have a hankering for feeling insignificant in the grand scheme of things, please, give these a click!

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