If a soccer ball were inflated to the size of the Earth then how big would an atom be? In a recent survey, only 1.25% of respondents got the right answer, which was the least popular of all the choices available.
The overwhelming majority of respondents (70%) thought that, even after increasing an atom by almost 58 million times, it would still be smaller than a grain of sand.
A new interactive website by British author Wyken Seagrave is designed to help people understand the relative sizes of the smallest things in the Universe. He calls this imaginary planet Soccearth, a soccer ball inflated to the size of the Earth.
On Soccearth, an atom would be somewhere between 14 and 22 mm in diameter, about the size of a grape. A small amino acid (a constituent molecule of protein) would be the size of a tomato, a DNA molecule coding for a typical vertebrate gene would be as thick as a street light but about 600 metres long.
There are many other examples on the Soccearth website, including an interactive page where visitors can see Soccearth object superimposed on a map of the Earth at http://soccearth.com/index.php?p=cells
Soccearth is just one part of a suite of sites which Wyken has designed to enable people to understand where they are in the universe and how they arrived here. These are described below.
Results of Survey
Question: If a soccer ball were inflated to the size of the Earth then how big would an atom be?
(click to enlarge image)
|Smaller than a grain of sand||70.00%|
|The size of a grain of sand||10.00%|
|The size of a grape||1.25%|
|The size of a chicken’s egg||5.00%|
|The size of a soccer ball||2.50%|
|The size of a football stadium||2.50%|
|The size of Australia||8.75%|
Sites in Wyken Seagrave’s Suite
Wyken Seagrave has developed an arsenal of websites to help people understand where we come from and how we fit into the universe around us. We list these sites here.
Soccearth is a model of the smallest objects in the universe, revealed by imagining the Earth blown up to the size of a soccer ball, and everything on its surface increased in size by the same scale.
The cells page http://soccearth.com/index.php?p=cells allows the visitor to see Soccearth object superimposed on a map of the Earth and move them around, easily comparing their sizes and positioning them anywhere on Earth, such as the visitor’s home, to give an instant feel for their relative sizes.
Sizes of Atoms on Soccearth
There are several different ways of measuring the size of an atom. Wyken Seagrave has chosen to use the “van der Waals diameter”, as being the best representation of what you would see if you could visit Soccearth.
|Atom||van der Waals diameter on Soccearth|
A grape is a particularly good model of an atom on Soccearth, because it is squashy. Like a grape, an atom can easily change its shape, depending on the other atoms which surround it.
In “Penny System”, the whole Solar System is scaled down to the size of a penny (or any other coin 2 centimetres across). With this interactive system, anyone who uses the website can position models of universal objects at any place on the map of the Earth. These objects include an average galaxy, the Milky Way, a cluster of galaxies and a void (space between clusters of galaxies).
History of the Universe
This site tells the complete history of the creation and evolution of the universe from the beginning through to today, integrating a wide range of sciences into a coherent and meaningful story. It then uses the lessons of history to make some predictions about the future.
It is available as a website http://www.historyoftheuniverse.com
or as an ebook from: http://bit.ly/hotuebook
Solar System Model
This allows visitors to create a model of the universe at any location on Earth, and gives the necessary information to transform this into a real physical model.
Other Sites by Wyken Seagrave
Wyken is passionate about helping people understand where they are in the universe and how they got here. He has created a wide variety of sites and resources to help engage people who might not be too interested in science.
Following a 3000 year old tradition first established in Babylon, this video shows Wyken retelling the 21st century version of the story of creation on the spring equinox.
Citizen of the Universe
By taking a simple on-line test, visitors can show they understand the basic facts about how they came to be here and become a Citizen of the Universe. They will receive a badge with their name, city and Grade of citizenship.
Time Crystal by Wyken Seagrave is perhaps the first ever attempt to cover the whole history of the universe as a work of fiction. The characters go back in time to the Big Bang and beyond, learning about how planets and stars and atoms and molecules work by actually interacting with them and solving problems in order to rescue the crystals which they need to re-start time and save the universe.
Wyken is currently working on the third volume.
Time Crystal website: www.timecrystal.co.uk
Wyken’s blog: http://wykenseagrave.co.uk
Tele Office: +44(0)24-7671-7275
Wykens’s Portrait: http://bit.ly/wykensphoto
Background to Wyken Seagrave
Wyken Seagrave is a British author who was born and still lives in Coventry. After gaining a degree in physics and mathematics at the University of Nottingham, he spent several years in Cambridge studying the wide range of subjects required to write the history of the Universe. Since then he has been a teacher, university lecturer, IT consultant, science communicator and is now a professional author. He is currently a staff author at Penny Press Ltd.
Wyken is not alone in believing that a broad overview of history is important. There is a world-wide movement called “Big History”, supported by the Gates foundation, which is developing and promoting school courses based on this idea.
“I am very happy to see that others are beginning to promote the study of this subject,” says Wyken, who has been studying the subject for almost 40 years. “My version of the history of the universe is more based in science than Big History, which tends to give more emphasis to human history, but our aims are similar and I have great hopes that eventually more people will see the benefit of becoming more familiar with this incredible story.”
Why has Wyken Seagrave devoted so much time and effort to writing about the history of the universe?
“There are two main reasons: spiritual and practical.
“I think it is spiritually uplifting to know something about the incredibly beautiful secrets which science has revealed about where we came from and how the world works. I agree with Richard Feynman that to understand how a flower works does not reduce the flower to the level of a boring machine, but on the contrary, it makes the flower appear even more beautiful. But more than that, I think that to understand how the flower or a butterfly or a stone got here, how we are similar to it, and in what ways we are different from it, gives us a new perspective not just on the flower but on ourselves.
“And I also think that, to cope with modern life and make decisions about the future, it is important for the average person to have a little familiarity with a wide range of basic science, from climate change to chemistry, from genetics to geology. The history of the universe delivers this understanding, showing us the links between the branches of science, and giving them structure and meaning.
“I want to provide different ways into this incredible story, both for those already interested in science and for those who have no interest at all. So I have created both factual and fictional versions of the story, and added interactive tools to let people explore for themselves.”
Penny Press Ltd
Independent British publishing house Penny Press (http://www.pennypress.co.uk) was founded in Coventry in 1998. It publishes information about the history of the Universe, develops websites, produces eBooks and creates IT systems through its subsidiary Penny Systems http://www.pennysystems.co.uk/
Penny Press: http://www.pennypress.co.uk
Press Room: http://pennypress.co.uk/?cat=1
Tele Office: +44(0)24-7671-7275
Publisher: Philip Brown
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