Saturday, March 31, 2007

Stuck in the Middle

Nikon has this insanely gripping web site that, basically, illustrates the relative size of everything and our units of measurement. As ever, humans are somewhere in the middle, half way from the femto and half way to the light year. We always seem to be medium-sized things. Is this simply an artefact arising from our particular perspective? Would, in this sense, every conscious being conclude it was medium-sized? Or is it, in some way, true? Gordon, you awake?
PS Good grief! Now I stumble on this. Size, evidently, matters.


  1. Perhaps the only possible laws of physics which permit the evolution of intelligent life are those in which intelligent life exists at medium length scales.

    This comes from John Barrow's book, 'The Artful Universe':

    "If we build a larger and larger artifical brain, then the volume of its circuitry will grow faster than the area of the surface enclosing it from which the waste heat can be radiated away...If everything is simply scaled up in size, the 'brain' will eventually overheat and melt. To overcome this problem, we could take a leaf out of the book of Nature and give the computer a crenellated fractal surface structure, so as to boost its area relative to its volume.

    "There is, however, a price to pay for this strategy, too. To keep all the parts of the computer near an irregular surface interconnected will require a far greater length of circuitry. This means the computer will operate more slowly. More time will be needed to coordinate signals sent from one part of its surface to another. There seems to be a trade-off between increasing volume, computing power, surface cooling, and processing speed...

    "Likewise, if we look to small sizes, there is evidently a minimum number of cells for a living thing to function or respond to the pressures of natural selection." (p78-79).

  2. It's a talent that: being able to stop a conversation before it's even started.

    For your next deep thought, Bryan, I'll wait 24 hours before saying anything!

  3. Sorry, Gordon. Thanks for that. I see the point. But I did wonder if any intelligent being would be able to see as far downward as upward - hence feel it is in the middle.

  4. No need to apologise Bryan, I meant that I thought I may have deterred other people from posting.