A Question of Scale

Quarks to Quasars

This website presents the universe in powers of 10.
From the smallest particles within the nucleus of an atom to the expanse of the visible universe and beyond, a unique sequence of images displays the relative sizes of objects in our universe.


The concept

This site is a study on the effect of adding another zero. Since I was young I have been fascinated and inspired by the essay "Cosmic View" by Kees Boeke and the book The Powers of Ten, written by Philip and Phyllis Morrison and the Office of Charles and Ray Eames. The idea was to examine the relationship of the size of things from the atom to the entire universe. I have used these sources as a jumping off point for this presentation. The internet provides a flexibility unavailable to the linear structure of printed books.

This site contains a series of drawings and pictures illustrating a universe that is currently estimated to be 13.7 billion years old, at least 1026 meters in diameter, and made up of quarks and electrons that are known to be smaller than 10-16 meters. Each successive image shows a view ten times wider or narrower than its neighbor. In either direction, new information is presented at each step: Outward, the view widens, showing 10 times the heighth, width, and depth of the previous image; inward, a closeup of the center of an image expands to allow the resolution of more detail. This relationship is emphasized in each picture by outlining a small central square whose edges are one-tenth the size of the whole frame.

At the center of each image, whether visible or not, are the three quarks within a proton within a carbon atom within a virus on a bacterium on a pollen grain on the eye of a bee collecting pollen from a lily in San Francisco's Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park on the third planet from the star Sol -- a small unregarded yellow sun in the western spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, an average galaxy within the Virgo Cluster. The journey occurs along a straight line originating within that proton, proceeding directly upward from Golden Gate Park, and out of the Milky Way into deep space.

I have used the International System of Units (Le Système International d'Unités, or SI) throughout these pages. For other conventions used in these pages, check out my Scales page. Finally, I have purposely limited the use of bells and whistles, since I'd like to reach as wide an audience as possible with the ideas presented here.

If you find these pages interesting and informative, please bookmark this home page. Plan to spend some time here. There are nearly 200 pages and a growing collection of images and external links. Please be patient, and visit often -- I believe you will find this site worth some of your time. Start by selecting one of the images above, or use the Index to begin your journey of exploration. In the Frames section, I have presented the information in yet another format.


Credits and dedication

Copyright © 2005-12 by Bruce Bryson
Latest update 2012/07/13
Tell me what you think! Send comments to eebrysonba@wordwizz.com