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Otters Oddities

Water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

Well, you could drink it. But you would quickly regret it.

Anyone who has tasted salt water knows what I'm talking about. And fresh water? I don't know about your definition of fresh, But you're a fool if you drink from 99% of the lakes and streams in this world. (unfiltered, of course)


Water is one of those double edged swords. We need it to survive, but most of it would kill us, or make us very sick, if we drank it as it sits.

And it's our fault. Partially. We put a lot of crap into water. We've polluted out rivers and lakes either directly or indirectly. And the oceans? Even if we hadn't polluted them into oblivion, we couldn't drink the water without regretting it almost immediately.

But I'm not here to talk about ecology or pollution or save the planet. I'm here to talk about size. Big size and small size. But the sizes I'm talking about will blow. Your. Mind.

I'm going to attempt to put some things into scale for you. Scale is something some people, a lot of them really, have a hard time with. The problem is, our minds aren't wired to comprehend the really small or the really big.


And that's were I come in. I'm going to give you a couple of examples to try and help you understand how big something is, and how small something is.

Let's start with small.

Go to your cupboard and grab a glass. Let's be scientific about it and make it an 8 ounce glass. Fill it up with water. All the way to the rim. Now set it down and just look at it.


Look at the water inside the glass. We all learned in science class that water is made up of 2 parts Hydrogen and one part Oxygen. Like many people, when I was a tiny otter pup and first heard that, I pictured in my mind one drop of water as being 2 Hydrogen 1 oxygen atoms.

But no, it's not that simple. And it took me a while to wrap my brain about the size of an atom. It's small. It's very, very small. It's so small, you have no idea how small it is. So picture this in your head:

Imagine taking that glass that you filled with water, and using it to empty all the oceans on the planet. Imagine there was a big bucket you could dump the water into. One glass at a time. Start with the Atlantic, then move to the Pacific, then Indian and Arctic. I hope you kept count of all the glasses you moved out of the oceans.


Now, think back to that full glass of water on your counter.

There are more atoms in that one glass of water, than glasses of water that you moved out of all the oceans. That's how small an atom is.


But it get's better. Atoms are made up almost entirely of empty space. You really get the sense of how small an atom is when you remove all that empty space.

Now, While you're still getting over the number of atoms in that one glass of water, lets do this: Picture in your mind the planet Earth made up of atoms. I know, it's tough, but try. Don't even try to imagine how many atoms it is, just imagine Earth as innumerable tiny dots that represent individual atoms.


Now, remove all the free space from those atoms. That will compact the Earth down, right? But how much?

If all the free space in all the atoms that make up the Earth were removed, the Earth would end up about the size of a baseball.


So, now you can start to maybe comprehend how tiny an atom is.

Let's move on to big, shall we?

It's hard to conceptualize how big things are. Like the universe. Don't worry.....I'll be demonstrating a smaller scale than that.


The Earth is so big, a lot of people have a hard time understanding it's size. The more people travel and the farther afield they go, the better they begin to understand the size of the planet. But the Earth is tiny compared to the Sun.

If the Earth and the Sun were right next to each other, the Earth would be a poppy seed and the Sun would be a golf ball. But let's go bigger. Let's think about the size of the Milky Way Galaxy.


We're going to use the Sun as our scale to put agains the galaxy. So we need to shrink the sun to manageable proportions. Unfortunately, this means using something really small to avoid making the large side of the comparison too large. So I'm going to use a white blood cell.

If you prick your finger and let one drop of blood spill onto the table in front of you, there will be between 7,000 and 25,000 white blood cells in that one drop. (4 to 6.2 million red blood cells, depending on your gender/age/health)


So, there's a lot. And even though it's hard, imagine one white blood cell. Once you have that imagined, pretend that's the sun. At that scale, our solar system would be about the size of that poppy seed. (smaller, actually, but roughly is close enough).

If we use that scale, the Sun the size of a white blood cell, then the Milky Way Galaxy would be the size of......


The Continental United States.

And consider this: The Milky Way Galaxy is just one of an estimated 140 billion galaxies in the universe.


I've tried to make it a little easier to understand scale. But it's hard when you talk about the really big and the really small. Maybe next time I'll explain how long it would take to drive to the edge of our solar system........(a long time)

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