How big is the universe? Visual representations of the size of things are always fun, and this new one, comparing celestial objects, is a nice new addition to the genre.

Still, I have to say that even though it lacks the modern special effects, the absolute classic in this field, Ray and Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten remains hard to top.

I think the difference here is the framing device of maintaining a consistent logarithmic scale — each step takes you out another power of ten, rather than the more fluid steps in the newer video. This gives a more constant frame of reference, something one always strives for in visually presenting research data. Perhaps there’s a lesson here relating back to this week’s post on variability in presenting citation data.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


1 Thought on "The Size of Things (and the Power of a Consistent Frame of Reference)"

The new video also focuses just on solar objects, rather than the entire range of what we know. If you want a modern take on powers on ten, complete with logarithmic scaling but with interactivity added in, a good one is here:

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