Matter of scale

show/hide words to know

Meter: a unit of length equal to 100 centimeters or 39.37 inches. A meter is also about the same length as a yard.

Millimeter: a unit of length that is one thousandth the size of a meter, and one tenth size of a centimeter.

Simulate: to look like, take the shape of, or sound like something else; imitate.

Scale Activity Part 2

Now that we know how large a one inch line becomes when we magnify it one hundred thousand times (100,000 X), what would happen if we magnify the same line a billion times (1,000,000,000 X)?

Back to our one inch line that we drew with our pencil and ruler. draw a line
magnify one billion times What would happen if we magnified it a billion times? Notice that a billion has four more zeros than when we wrote one hundred thousand (100,000).
To see how many feet we now have we need to divide our billion inches by 12. how many feet?
how many miles? Now that we have the number of feet let's get see if we can calculate the number of miles by dividing it the number of feet in a mile (5280).
For the width we will divide the total length by 36 since the width of the original line is 1/36 of the length. miles wide?
How much carpet do you think it would take to cover your entire city? Maybe you could cover the whole state of Texas. Could you possibly have enough carpet to cover one or all of the five continents below? texas
wikipedia After doing some research on Wikipedia, the following land surface areas were found. Which of the following continents could you carpet with the least amount of carpet left over? Could you carpet two of the continents below? If you could, which ones could you cover?
Continent Area (miles²) Area (kilometers²)
Africa 11,725,922 30,370,000
Australia 2,934,376 7,600,000
Europe 3,930,520 10,180,000
North America 9,455,642 24,490,000
South America 6,888,062 17,840,000

Here is an activity for you.

If you have followed the two mathematic activities it becomes clear that changing the size of things can have a very big impact. However, the biggest impact is still to be calculated. If the nano world is actually one billion times smaller than a meter, to get an idea of the reverse you need to calculate the size of a one meter line magnified one billion times.

Take a line one meter long by one millimeter wide. Calculate how big this line would be if we magnified it one billion times. Then, answer these questions:

  1. How many times could the line go back a forth between the Earth and the Moon?
  2. How many Earths could you cover with the magnified line if were carpet?

Send us your answers and we will let you know how well you have done.

Nanogears image from Wikimedia - Jie Han, Al Globus, Richard Jaffe and Glenn Deardorff

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Scale Activity Part 2
  • Author(s): CJ Kazilek
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: November 2, 2009
  • Date accessed: April 13, 2024
  • Link:

APA Style

CJ Kazilek. (2009, November 02). Scale Activity Part 2. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved April 13, 2024 from

American Psychological Association. For more info, see

Chicago Manual of Style

CJ Kazilek. "Scale Activity Part 2". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 02 November, 2009.

MLA 2017 Style

CJ Kazilek. "Scale Activity Part 2". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 02 Nov 2009. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 13 Apr 2024.

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see
Nanotechnology is not as much about size as what you can do in the nano world. Researchers from NASA used a supercomputer to simulate attaching benzyne molecules to the outside of a nanotube to form gear teeth. To "drive" the gears, the supercomputer simulated a laser that served as a motor.

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