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written by Michael Davidson
This updated version of "Powers of Ten" provides a visualization of scale, beginning with a distant view of the Milky Way from a reference point 10 million light years from Earth (10^23). It moves through space at successive orders of magnitude until it reaches an oak tree in Florida. At that point, it moves from a single leaf through cells on the leaf surface, the nucleus of one leaf cell, chromatin, and DNA strands (a scale of 10 nanometers, or 10^-8). From this point, an artist has rendered illustrations of nucleotides, electron cloud surrounding the nucleus, the nucleus of one carbon atom, a single proton, and quarks (estimated at 100 attometers, or 10^-16 meters).
Editor's Note: See Related Materials for a link to Nanoreisen, virtual "nano-journeys" that take the user deep inside a laptop microchip, an LED, and a carbon-based cell. It is formatted in descending powers of 10, from the scale of one meter to the femtometer size. Remarkable photography and computer-generated imaging!
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Milky Way
= Milky Way Structure
General Physics
- Measurement/Units
Modern Physics
- Atomic Physics
= Atomic Models
- Nuclear Physics
= Models of the Nucleus
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Interactive Simulation
- Reference Material
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 2006 NHMFL and Michael Davidson
Powers of 10, Powers of Ten, orders of magnitude, perspective, scale, size
Record Creator:
Date Metadata Instance was created October 10, 2003 by Bruce Mason
Record Updated:
July 18, 2018 by Bruce Mason
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Too Old to Learn

Author: gibson john
Posted: February 5, 2010 at 4:14PM
Source: The Nucleus collection

I am a 57 year old African American male who recently enrolled in an astronomy class.  I feel lost.  When I was in grade school some hundred light years ago, education was a deprived comodity for me.  Now that it is made available, it is difficult for me to remember all the terms.  Can anyyou give me some advise for doing well in this new subject.  The interrest is there, it is the comprehension that is getting in my way.

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Next Generation Science Standards

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity (3-12)
  • Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small. (6-8)
  • Phenomena that can be observed at one scale may not be observable at another scale. (6-8)
  • Using the concept of orders of magnitude allows one to understand how a model at one scale relates to a model at another scale. (9-12)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4A. The Universe
  • 9-12: 4A/H3. Increasingly sophisticated technology is used to learn about the universe. Visual, radio, and X-ray telescopes collect information from across the entire spectrum of electromagnetic waves; computers handle data and complicated computations to interpret them; space probes send back data and materials from remote parts of the solar system; and accelerators give subatomic particles energies that simulate conditions in the stars and in the early history of the universe before stars formed.

9. The Mathematical World

9A. Numbers
  • 9-12: 9A/H1. Comparison of numbers of very different size can be made approximately by expressing them as nearest powers of ten.

11. Common Themes

11D. Scale
  • 6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.
  • 9-12: 11D/H1. Representing very large or very small numbers in terms of powers of ten makes it easier to perform calculations using those numbers.

12. Habits of Mind

12B. Computation and Estimation
  • 6-8: 12B/M9. Express numbers like 100, 1,000, and 1,000,000 as powers of ten.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Measurement and the Language of Physics
Unit Title: Scale, Order of Magnitude, and Estimation

An updated version of "Powers of 10".  View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from Earth, then move through space at successive orders of magnitude until you reach an oak tree in Florida. After than, move from a single leaf to the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA, and subatomic particles.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
M. Davidson, (2006), WWW Document, (https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/).
M. Davidson, Science, Optics & You: Secret Worlds - The Universe Within (2006), <https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/>.
APA Format
Davidson, M. (2006). Science, Optics & You: Secret Worlds - The Universe Within. Retrieved July 18, 2024, from https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/
Chicago Format
Davidson, Michael. Science, Optics & You: Secret Worlds - The Universe Within. 2006. https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/ (accessed 18 July 2024).
MLA Format
Davidson, Michael. Science, Optics & You: Secret Worlds - The Universe Within. 2006. 18 July 2024 <https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Michael Davidson", Title = {Science, Optics & You: Secret Worlds - The Universe Within}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {18 July 2024}, Year = {2006} }
Refer Export Format

%A Michael Davidson %T Science, Optics & You: Secret Worlds - The Universe Within %D 2006 %U https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/ %O application/javascript

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %A Davidson, Michael %D 2006 %T Science, Optics & You: Secret Worlds - The Universe Within %V 2024 %N 18 July 2024 %9 application/javascript %U https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/

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This free visualization tool takes users on virtual "nano-journeys" into a laptop microchip, an LED diode, and a carbon-based cell. Scaled in descending powers of 10.

relation by Caroline Hall

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