7513 — Scale

We now have tools like Google Earth to show us data. But they give us the supremely useful tool of being able to zoom in and out, and so we don’t get a sense of relative scale, even through these tools — of how we stand on our planet. How would we stand?

Imagine that you want to make a satellite map, and print this off in real life. Let’s use for our example a school gymnasium.

For our purposes, we can use Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map — the most accurate flat map of the Earth every created in regards to the relative size and scale of the surface.

Our map, longest end to longest end, is 67 feet. This gives us quite a spectacular view though, because, standing at about 5’5”, our eyes are at the height most satellites orbit above our planet. We see what they see.

We don’t have to worry about pricking our feet, or tripping as we walk around, even though the topography of our map is quite accurate. The tallest mountain rises up 3/16”, and the lowest ocean sinks that much. That’s less than the paper might waver on its own, if we were to simply set it down.

That’s our Earth. What’s around it? Where have we gone? With our best tunnelling and boring equipment, we have gone an extra 1/32” under the low point of the ocean. This is out of the ten and a half feet total to the very centre.

We have gone also outwardly, to the moon — which is sitting 70 storeys above us.

The sun is the next town over.

What about time? Why don’t I make a book that divides up all of human’s existence on the planet into equal book pages, starting from the earliest known humans that look mostly like us, and going all the way to the present. Let’s make our book 500 pages long. The Birth of Christ is on the second last page. The start of a written record — anything /ever/ written down — just three pages before that. All of the time from the Renaissance to the present day is the last half of the last page. That’s less than the copyright notice.

— cole