This is a cool tool for comprehending, appreciating, and demonstrating the scale of our universe. I used to recommend Charles and Ray Ames‘ classic film, Powers of Ten, as the best way to get a sense of our cosmos. It’s still effective, but two bothers have made an on-line portal that blows Powers of Ten away.

Check out The Scale of the Universe 2. It takes a minute to load. Once ready, be prepared to have your horizons stretched. I like the way they pile in the expected and unexpected size examples, which anchor the scale in a refreshing way. The continuous zoom is what makes this device work, rather than the quantum powers of ten of the film. (In fact you can read off the powers of ten in this model as well.) And the fact that you drive the slider. And like anytime you drive, you get a better sense of the place than you do as a mere passenger.

For the first time, I really got a visceral sense of our place in the universe. As many have noted before (but none have explained) we — our visible bodies — are located approximately in the middle of the universe’s size range. The largest things we know and the smallest things we know are roughly the same magnitude away from us.

And BTW, this app is what electronic “publishing” is really about.

– KK

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