or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Long and Short of It

Okay. First you have to go to this web page, Universcale (brought to you by the friendly folks at Nikon), which is a display of the relative sizes of everything in the universe. It's reminiscent of the book (one of my favourite of all time) and short film "Powers of Ten" by Charles and Ray Eames, who also, among many many other things, designed the famous Eames chair.

How much time did you spend with Universcale? I must have wasted a good solid half hour just poking around. It's mesmerizing.* Go check it out for a while longer if you want. I can wait.

If you go to the 100-metre scale (that's the 2 under the "m" listing), you'll find the sequoia tree, the tallest living thing on Earth, and in the description of the sequoia you'll find the following sentence:

There are two types on the west coast of North America, and they are extremely longevous living for over 3000 years.

"Longevous"! Isn't that a great word? I had never heard it before. At first I didn't quite believe my eyes, but then I realized it must be the source of the noun "longevity", which isn't quite true: "longevity" dates from 1615, according to the OED, while "longevous" is from 1680. But they have the same root: Latin "longus", "long", plus "aevum", "age", which is also the source of "mediaeval", "coeval", and "primeval".

*Particularly hypnotic is what may be a coding error, or perhaps is an abstract way of forcing us to consider the infinity of sizes and scales in the universe, but almost certainly is a coding error: if you go to 100 billion light years, the very largest, rightmost measure, and click on the water-molecule-shaped wad that isn't part of the universe, you'll see something very interesting. Until, I guess, they fix it.


Blogger Frank said...

Either I'm not looking correctly or they've fixed it. What was it? I'm dying of curiosity now!

Sunday, April 01, 2007 1:30:00 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

Either I'm not looking correctly or they've fixed it. What was it? I'm dying of curiosity now!

Sunday, April 01, 2007 1:30:00 AM  
Blogger pyramus said...

I thought, "Oh, great--it's a Safari-specific problem!", so I tried it on Jim's Windows-based machine using Firefox, and it's still there.

Go as far right as you can and you'll see two outlines: a big swirly one (the entire universe) and something that looks sort of like Mickey Mouse in profile, which, I think, is a water molecule that's very much in the wrong place. If you move your cursor onto the molecule from the left-hand side (which is to say you should move your cursor far to the left and then back onto the molecule), you'll see that in the text box that pops up, there isn't any text, just a waiting text-cursor. Click on the molecule, and you won't get a writeup about water or its relative dimension: you'll get a message that the page is LOADING DATA 000% (which never changes) and, for some inexplicable Flash-page-coding reason, every single one of the previous dimensions, one on top of the other, over and over again, flickering, barely readable, almost subliminal. I found myself staring at it thinking, "That's must be the water drop...that's the giraffe, maybe...I don't remember that one at all...." As I said, hypnotic.

Sunday, April 01, 2007 6:48:00 AM  

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