This video recreates the classic “Powers of Ten” film, zooming out to larger and larger scales to the limits of our understanding of the universe, and then zooming in again, down to the smallest things we know about.
It’s an excellent way of illustrating relative magnitudes of distance. One gripe: it all happens a bit too quickly: try watching it at half speed.
Stand on Zanzibar is a 1968 science fiction novel by John Brunner. It takes its name from the author’s projection that by 2010, if all the world’s population stood shoulder to shoulder, the island of Zanzibar could accommodate them.
Take a set of numbers collected from “the wild”. You might take company profits, city population statistics, street numbers or odometer readings. How many of the numbers in your set start with “1″? how many with “2″? with “3″?, “4″? …
Amazing as it sounds, these leading digits are NOT evenly distributed but follow a pattern (30% “1″s, down to less than 5% “9″s). This pattern is so reliable, it’s been used in fraud detection, to trap companies cooking their books: the invented numbers did not follow Benford’s Law.
Follow the link for a fascinating explanation of why this is so.