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For those of us who never really figured out how to use a microscope effectively, the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center has created a compelling interactive graphic showing the relative sizes of tiny things. The range starts at coffee bean and grain of rice, measured in millimeters. Slide the bar to the right and the scale gets smaller, from microscopic cells measured in micrometers all the way down to individual atoms measured in picometers, a trillionth of a meter, a.k.a. 10-12 meters.  It really made me wonder how an X chromosome could fit inside a sperm cell along with all of the other chromosomes that make up the human genome,but I happily noticed that that very question is answered lower down on the page!

It is a fascinating graphic, immediately understandable and completely compelling. Moreover, it is an excellent example of presenting information to an audience with both friendliness and extreme accuracy.

Thanks to the Make magazine blog for the link.

UPDATE 11/02/09: Speaking of fascinating graphics that present information well, check out today’s xkcd in which the artist maps out all of the relationships in Lord of the Rings, Star Wars (original trilogy, natch), and a few other modern flicks. (Then, of course, go back and read the last several years’ worth…)

The Shrinkage Is Good blog—an excellent source for interesting financial tidbits on a personal level and part of—has gathered information and compared four popular smartphones by total cost of ownership. This is what I would term “low fruit for bean-counters”, but it is not the method many propellerheads use to figure out whether we can afford something, and I think that’s a shame. In my experience, geeks are task-oriented and thus tend to miss the forest for the trees. Or the lichen on the trees. Or the tardigrades living in a droplet in the lichen on the trees. You get the picture.

If anything good comes from the current recession, I hope it is that we will all have a slightly stronger grasp on the impact what we spend, and start seeing the forest a bit.

Also check out JD Roth’s excellent personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly. And for those who need a few more tardigrades to feel sane, Wired has a video demo of Droid.

Full disclosure: I live in the forest.

Some links for Friday:

This just in from NASA, care of the Boston Globe, some fantastic shots of Saturn marking its 15-year equinox. I realize this has nothing to do with open-source software (doesn’t the Cassini spacecraft run VxWorks?) but the photos are monumental for humans regardless of the licensing or software ownership philosophy. Well done again, NASA.

Thanks to Nick for the link.