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…)