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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alpha and Omega... in real life

Presently, only Yale and the University of North Carolina have one. It's a JEOL microprobe (a high powered microscope). What is so special about that? Well, your best biology lab microscopes can magnify up to 1,000 times. Now that's a lot, especially if you are in Biology 103 and looking at a fly. (Now you know where the idea for the Vincent Price movie, The Fly, probably came from.) But, through the lens of the JEOL, you can see 30 atoms laid end-to-end. That, my friends, is a 300,000 times magnification. OK, that's the alpha.

It doesn't take much imagination to know where to look for our omega. The universe, of course... you know, space everlasting. Scientists estimate it stretches to 6 billion light years from edge to edge... and is ever expanding.  As you may recall, just one light year is 186,000 miles per second x 60 seconds in a minute x 60 minutes in an hour x 24 hours in a day x 364 1/4 days in a year (yeah, about 6 trillion miles) x 6 billion years. (I just love that... it blows me away.)

That's the omega of the range of man's perceptual understanding... from .1 nanometers (about one ten- billionth of a meter (Shaq O'Neil, for example, is 2,100,000,000 nanometers tall) to 6 trillion light years.

Gives new definition to describing the one that got away, doesn't it?

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