Visualizing nanotechnology in context

It’s hard for us macroscale beings to get a gut feel for the extreme size differences between, say, ourselves and nanoscale objects. The old “Powers of Ten” illustrations helped, but now there’s a new online version from Nikon called Universcale, which shows from 1026 to 10-15 meters.

One billionth is such an unimaginable, unrealistic smallness. What can this size be likened to? The ratio of the earth (1 meter) to a one yen coin (1 nanometer) is a commonly used example. Regardless, thanks to the microscope and in-depth probing, we have mastered the art of altering atomic configurations at will, manipulating, controlling, and generating them.

A cheery sentiment but overstated. It’s okay (perhaps better) to ignore the text and just zoom around by clicking — more than once, or for a long time, to trigger the zooming — on the orders of magnitude numbers at the bottom of the screen. Watch for the diamond, buckyball, and nanotube. (Credit: GMSV) —Christine

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