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The Size of the Universe

January 28, 2013

How to conceptualize the size of the universe?  I think we find it so hard to do it because astronomical numbers dwarf anything we use in day to day life and on some level, our brains can’t process them.  It’s like trying to visualize the national debt.  What’s a couple more zeros here and there on the scale, really?  I was looking around the internet for good ways to help my visualizations, and I stumbled upon a website that posted five different websites showing different ways of conceptualizing the scale of the universe:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2010/10/11/the-scale-of-the-universe/

The one that had the slickest presentation (and therefore the one I liked most) is the Nikon Universcale (#3) (even though I’m really a Canon kind of guy).  This website gives a visual representation (to scale) of various objects in our universe, beginning with tiny things like protons and neutrons and growing to galaxies.  The sizes of the objects at the end are truly vast, but they don’t seem so big until one compares them to the things at the other end of the scale, which are completely dwarfed.  It’s really cool to see that, from a universal perspective, we are the size of atoms.

Universcale

Universcale

Another model that fascinated me is the one from Primax Studio (#2).  It’s similar to the Universcale, but Scrolling to the end of the scale, one sees a comparison of the estimated size of the universe and the size of the observable universe.  Even though the observable universe is vast, it’s still only a small percentage of the whole universe.

Size of the Universe

Scale of the universe(s)

In the end, it’s still hard to wrap my mind around these gigantic scales, but I have found that these visual representations make it a bit easier.

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One Comment
  1. mlundastro permalink

    In Universcale, what sorts of objects/things are you talking about at either end of the scale when you’re comparing the relative sizes?

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