Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Journey Beyond

As I go about my life's routines day and night, month by month, year by year, my perspective is usually confined to earthly existence. Occasionally, my focus reaches as far as the moon if it shines brightly when I retrieve the newspaper before morning daylight.

I recently saw a short video about the base ten number system and the powers of ten. It is amazing the way this number becomes huge when raised by an ever increasing exponent. We speak about thousands, millions, and billions and many of us don't have a perspective on how large these numbers really are.

Dr. Wendy Hageman Smith in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Radford University presented this talk and the below video at a conference I attended in Salem, Virginia on October 7, 2006.

One square meter, for example, is about the size of a card table top. Multiply that by ten and it's larger by ten times. Imagine moving vertically above the increased surface size by that same distance. Next, multiply this new number by ten and again move vertically above by the new calculated distance. Continue this again and again, 24 times. (A number with 24 zeros is a septillion) This video helped me visualize this explanation and took my imagination to places it had never been.

If you get the opportunity, watch the eight minute video called Powers of Ten. It starts with the man on the blanket in the above image and expands to include surrounding views with each calculation. When the multiplication gets to ten to the ninth power, the view is of the moon orbit diameter. Ten to the eighteenth power is the size of our Milky Way Galaxy. Ten to the twenty-first shows groups of galaxies.

There is lots of space in the universe.

Return here on Friday, October 27 for an update.

Have a good day!



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