From the Milky Way to the Proton

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Molecular Expressions: Science, Optics and You - Secret Worlds: The Universe Within - Interactive Flash Tutorial

[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]Secret Worlds: The Universe Within[/size][/font]

[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]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 into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.[/size][/font]

[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]Once the tutorial has completely downloaded, a set of the arrows will appear that allow the user to increase or decrease the view magnitude in Manual mode. Click on the Auto button to return to the Automatic mode.[/size][/font]

[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]Notice how each picture is actually an image of something that is 10 times bigger or smaller than the one preceding or following it. The number that appears on the lower right just below each image is the size of the object in the picture. On the lower left is the same number written in powers of ten, or exponential notation. Exponential notation is a convenient way for scientists to write very large or very small numbers. For example, compare the size of the Earth to the size of a plant cell, which is a trillion times smaller:[/size][/font]

[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]Earth = 12.76 x 10[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]+6[/size][/font] = 12,760,000 meters wide
(12.76 million meters)

[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]Plant Cell = 12.76 x 10[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]-6[/size][/font] = 0.00001276 meters wide
(12.76 millionths of a meter)

[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]Scientists examine things in particular ways using a combination of very sophisticated equipment, everyday instruments, and many unlikely tools. Some phenomena that scientists want to observe are so tiny that they need a magnifying glass, or even a microscope. Other things are so far away that a powerful telescope must be used in order to see them. It is important to understand and be able to compare the size of things we are studying. To learn more about the relative sizes of things, visit our Perspectives: Powers of 10 activity site.[/size][/font]

[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]Note: - The sequence of images in this tutorial has been optimized for maximum visual impact. Due to the fact that discrete exponential increments are not always the most convenient interval for illustrating this concept, our artists and programmers have made dimensional approximations in some cases. As a consequence, the relative size and positioning of several objects in the tutorial reflect this fact.[/size][/font]

[font=arial, helvetica, geneva][size=-1]The original concept underlying this tutorial was advanced by Dutch engineer and educator Kees Boeke, who first utilized powers to aid in visualization of large numbers in a 1957 publication entitled "Cosmic View, the Universe in 40 Jumps". Several years later, in 1968, architect Charles Eames, along with his wife Ray, directed a "rough sketch" film of the same concept and finally completed the work (entitled the "Powers of Ten") with the assistance of Philip Morrison in 1977. Other notable contributors to this effort include Philip's wife Phylis, who has assisted in translation of the concept into several beautifully illustrated books that are currently still available through the booksellers.[/size][/font]