SEPTEMBER 1, 2003
HOW TINY IS TINY?
Little Living Things Made Visible. Imagine a flea on a basketball. It would be rather difficult to see. But if the basketball is increased to the size of the earth, 7,900 miles in diameter, and the flea enlarged in the same proportion, 58 million times, what would you be able to see? The flea, 1.5 millimeters or 1/20 inch long would cover an area of 2,400 square miles - the size of Delaware.
Enlarged the same way, a single cell of a mammal would be as large as a city the size of Albany NY - about 10 square miles. The nucleus in this cell would cover City Hall Park in NYC - about 300,000 square yards. Also within this cell, the tiny spiral DNA which is necessary for the reproduction of cells, would appear as a very long, narrow footpath in the park - 6 inches wide and a little more than a half mile long. An ordinary molecule of water, so tiny to begin with, would still be quite small even after it was blown up. It would be like a large drop of water on a tile, or about 0.15 square inch.
When scientists measure bacteria, various kinds of cells, and tiny organisms, they do not use inches or centimeters for they would be too clumsy. What the use is the micron. Look at one millimeter on a ruler and then divide it into 1,000 smaller sections. Each of these smaller sections is a micron. If a micron becomes too large to measure something, then the millimicron is used. There are 1,000 millimicrons in a single micron.
Copyright 2000 Claude Dern, All Rights Reserved
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