Travelling to The Most Extreme Place in The Universe

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2023

In a 1959 talk entitled There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, physicist Richard Feynman casually invented nanotechnology, inviting the audience and then the world to imagine exploring and making use of the “inner space” of the micro and nano realms. In this video from Kurzgesagt, thye imagine how things would seem if you could somehow shrink yourself down to the size of a grain of sand or a molecule or even smaller, sort of a more educational (but still fun) Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

You are the size of a grain of sand just 2 mm high, standing on a blade of grass that seems as tall as an eight storey building to you. A square meter of lawn is now a dense metropolitan area, with 100,000 blades, or two Manhattans worth of grass towers. From your new tiny perspective, the park that you could quickly stroll through before, is now the size of France. Crossing it would take at least a week. Human-sized humans loom over you, 4 times taller than the Empire state building, their steps falling from horizon to horizon.

A bee the size of a helicopter lands near you, making the ground shake, as its hairy carapace vibrates with each wingbeat. You try to escape but are barely able to move because the air is so… gooey. Before you clicked the button air resistance was barely noticeable — but as you’re now a thousand times smaller, it is as if the air has become a thousand times denser. It feels like you are moving through honey.

Flying insects like bees use this to their advantage. Their wings are not made for gliding but like paddles that row through the air. Scaled up to human size, the bee would outrun a Concorde Jet — except it couldn’t even take off because it would be too heavy for its wings.

See also Meet the Nano Sapiens, Scaling Laws and the Speed of Animals, The Biology of B-Movie Monsters, and Powers of Ten.