Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Scale of the Universe 2

I am teaching my sixth grade student conversions from the customary system (inches, feet, miles, cups, ounces) to the metric system (liters, centimeters, grams). 
The hardest part of teaching the metric system is that my daughter does not have any concept of how big a centimeter is, or how far a kilometer is. She does not have  a reference for it.
I found a website that another blogger uses that is incredibly useful: The Scale of the Universe 2
The Scale of the Universe is a neat wonderful Flash app. Zoom in and it shows you the smallest things in the universe—smaller than atoms, smaller than electrons—and their metric measurements.
That's tiny.
Zoom out, and it shows you humans and animals. Zoom out even further than it shows you planets, stars, and eventually the size of the observable universe.
That's huge.
In minutes you can compare the size of a person to a bacteria and the united states to the moon, and our sun to the galaxy.
There are many fantastic applications for this tool, but the one I used was this: Look at all the important things smaller than an inch. At some point fractions of an inch become too complicated and fail you. Miles are even worse. Try using miles to measure the distance to Alpha Centuri, our nearest star, and the numbers are truly astronomical. No, the metric system is shown to be useful because the same measurement is used for all of these things and it works.
Good hunting!

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