A View from the Back of the Envelope top

Scaling the universe to your desktop
Constructing your own desktops
Developing "deep" understanding
`Powers of Ten' scales
Scale of some things
How Big Are Things?

It is easier to understand something if you can play with it,
which is easier if you are about the same size.

Imagine you are sitting at your desk with

a grain of sugar

1 mm
a marble

10 mm
a ball

100 mm
a big box

1000 mm

That's a length spread of 3 orders of magnitude. Each is 10 times longer. The box is 1000 times longer than the grain of sugar.

Now we can zoom in...

What if a grain of sugar were as big as the box?
We could stand next to it. Could use it as a bed or a desk. Dust mites would look like hand-sized turtles. Blood cells would be little red and white marbles. Bacteria would look like little grains of sugar. You could swim in a raindrop.

And so...

10x meters
| nm's | um's | mm's | m's | km's | Mm's |
... -9
-6 -5



Nanometers in your hands
Micrometers in your hands
Millimeters in your hands
Meters in your hands
Kilometers in your hands
Megameters in your hands
Gegameters in your hands
Terameters in your hands
near space
Petameters in your hands

deep space

There is a more recent exploration of this concept at
How Big Are Things?

A View from the Back of the Envelope
Comments encouraged. - Mitchell N Charity <mcharity@lcs.mit.edu>

 Flesh out.
 Discuss selection of 3 oom, availability of a few more.
 Spin off area & volume.
 Do rest of frames.
 Discuss models/referents.  Art analogy.
 Ratio vs numeric vs this numeric/kinesthetic hybird.
 Anchor frames vs sliding frames concept.
 Do landmark theory here, just link to it, or...?
 Perhaps discuss developing zooming skills?
 Interim issues vis VR.
 Create some `how to construct reference desktops' pages.
 Big&little off-scale sketch alternative.
A verbal description - picture your desk, and on it a grain of sugar, a marble, a baseball, and a large beachball. Each is 10 times wider than the previous. There is a spread of 1000 in size, the beachball is 1000 times wider than the grain of sugar. Now, imagine we zoom in so that the grain of sugar seems as large as the beachball. Then the little parasitic mites which live on your skin look like turtles, blood cells are little red and white marbles, and bacteria look like grains of sugar. And we can repeat this, ...
 2001.Apr.20   Added link to `How Big Are Things?'.
 1998.May.20   Added small/familiar/nearspace/deepspace catagorization.
 1998.Apr.17   A slight format change - all columns are again the same width.
 1998.Apr.15   Added peta desk.
 1998.Apr.02   Added 1012 and 1015 desks.
 1998.Mar.30   Flipped `10x m' diagram (small now on left) to match pages.
 1997.Aug.27   Added verbal description note, links to 10^3-10^9 pages.
 1997.Aug.23   Created.