A Vast Solar System: To Scale

I adore those simple science-based moments where someone gets me to stop and exclaim “huh”… Maybe it’s an upset of pervasively incorrect ideas about how the world works (See Radiolab’s Robert Krulwich’s fervently amused post regarding the true supposition that trees get most of their mass from air rather than the ground), or just a mild re-positioning of the nuances to how we see things.

Apparently all those beautiful little models of spangly little planets in orbit around one another are overwhelmingly flawed. Not surprisingly, if everything were to scale, the planets would both be greatly farther apart and almost microscopic in appearance relative to how they are often depicted. While I was aware of the need to bend some of these rules in order to allow us to develop a reasonable mental model of the solar system, I don’t think I would have appreciated the reality without a little help.

Luckily, filmmakers Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh have filled that void by creating an elegant little video where they model the real relative sizes and distances of our planets  in the desert (albeit while Pluto was demoted to “not a planet”). Watch below and ruminate while we all rotate on this pale blue dot:

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