Salt of the Earth

I think this may qualify as the oddest image about which I’ve blogged. But, um, wow. It speaks to the power of a simple photograph, although in this day and age, one could be forgiven for thinking that it’s photoshopped. At first glance, you might not even notice the people in the photo, but once you do, the image really plays with your sense of scale.

The photo comes from a landscape architecture blog, via my friend Allison Duncan. Many more pictures show up on the blog. And for more info on the caves, you can also check out the official Naica Caves website or news stories from the BBC and National Geographic.

Stars, Planets, and Dwarfs

The above, rather featureless image of the Sun comes from a Google video that shows the scale of spherical objects in the Universe. It begins with an image of Mercury (N.B. not Pluto) and proceeds through all the planets of our solar system, from smallest to largest, then through a selection of stars of increasing size. The snapshot shows the transition from the planets (those itty, bitty blobs on the right, which are just the giant planets of our solar system) to the stars…

It’s cute. I like it. But here’s the caveat: some stars are smaller than the planets pictured. So the sequence gives the impression that there’s a much greater distinction between the two categories (of “star” and “planet”) than actually exists. In fact, an continuum exists that gives astronomers a bit of a headache. (Check out a comparison chart not dissimilar from the above from the educational resources at the Dwarf Archive.)

Communicating the scale of the Universe is a tricky thing, but as the recent Pluto controversy has shown us, classifying objects (even spherical ones) can be even trickier!

Tip of the hat to my friend who pointed this out.