How to Understand the Vast Distances in Space


Tue, Oct 23rd, 2012 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Planets in our solar system are really far from each other. So far, in fact, that nobody really understands just how vast vast is.

Built in honor of Carl Sagan, the Cornell astronomer, author and science communicator, the Sagan Planet Walk offers lessons that reach far beyond astronomy. It's a case study in visualizing vastness.

Admit it. You have no real feeling for the size of the solar system. That's O.K. Nobody else does either. Even knowing the numbers doesn't help much. If I tell you the Earth is about 8,000 miles in diameter and 93,000,000 miles from the Sun, does that give you any sense of the distances involved? No, because the numbers are too big. Things that are so far removed from our daily experience -- like quarks, and dinosaurs, and Kim Kardashian -- are inherently hard to understand.

The designers of the Sagan Walk made the solar system accessible by shrinking it to a human scale. Each planet is displayed in its own monolith.



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