Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A sense of scale

In chapter 1 of volume 1 of the legendary Feynman Lectures on Physics, Feynman starts by imagining zooming in on a drop of water, past amoeba and so forth, until one can see the water molecules. Starting this way is genius. The tiny length scales and the associated invisibility of atoms and molecules is the single largest barrier to developing a chemical intuition - a barrier that molecular animation can help overcome.

I am often thought of bringing Feynman's imaginary magnification to life by animation, so I as very happy when Nathan Baker brought this site to my attention. The above screencast shows it in action, but the real fun is interacting with it yourself. It's a brilliant piece of interactive animation.

The site brought to mind the granddaddy of them all, Powers of 10, which some kind soul put up on youtube.


polaritythread said...

"A Sense of Scale" - nice post! It's fun to experience a sense of synchrony - I've been exploring the topic at the level of molecular machinery in some posts on my blog recently.

Mr. Steinmann said...

I'd suggest these two comics from the xkcd website about scale. they're quite funny




Jan said...

polaritythread - Thanks! Gorgeous pictures on your blog. I'd love to know how you make them.

(The mysterious) Mr. Steinmann - :)

polaritythread said...

Jan - Thanks!

From the technical standpoint, there is a nice tutorial at:

Then you may like to invest some time in learning software such as Maya, or the like, which has for instance ambient occlusion rendering capabilities via the mental ray render engine.

The rest, as they say, is a matter of flavour.

I hope you'll stop by and visit my blog again soon.