The Scale of the Universe

Really putting things in perspective

Featuring — Scale Tech

Want to feel better quickly? Rick Roderick used to say:

When you feel sorry for yourself, consider that you could be a starving in Africa with a distended belly swatting flies out of your eyes. Or just look up at the stars and consider your insignificance.

(Though, regarding that last bit, he also used to say, “When you’re on acid, I don’t advise you spend too much time looking up at the stars and considering your insignificance.”)

Getting a grip on the actual Scale Of Things is not easy. Or rather, is wasn’t easy—until 2008. Then it became actually realizable. Anyone can grasp exactly the Scale Of Things and get precisely how large they are in relation to the two poles of real magnitude, minimum and maximum.

I am speaking, of course, about the awesome interactive perspective-zooming website, The Scale of the Universe.

Here is the version I prefer. It tags significant landmarks with their sizes to help give you anchors for constructing your inner scale-line. Here is it:

The Scale of the Universe

I hope you find the final journey—from the ym (yoctometer) to the Planck length—as tender and melancholy as I do, and as profound. You are seeing to the bottom of things, here. Well, to the bottom of things-in-space. And think about the Planck grain: you are either in here, in space with the rest of us, or you do not exist at all.

And here’s a prettier version that unfortunately displays less textual information (important if you want to keep track of exactly where you are on the zoom-track):

The Scale of the Universe 2

Now here is the drill:

Scale Tech

Begin at 10-1.5, where you see the chicken egg and penny. Adjust the penny to actual size on your device and start your journey from there! The proportions and forward-speed are accurate. A 10th of the penny you see really is at the next inner ring. The next inner ring is always 1/10 of the ring that encloses it.

Your journey is actually accurate. You are presented with what would be presented in reality if you moved at that speed. And if you really follow along, you will get it.