Zoomable cell size application helps you understand size of tiny things

The University of Utah's Genetic Science Learning Center created this zoomable window that compares the size of a coffee bean with smaller things like a grain of salt, a paramecium, a red blood cell, a human egg, a glucose molecule, and so on, all the way down to a carbon atom.

Cell size and scale (Via Good Experience newsletter)


  1. I’ve always enjoyed these sorts of things. It’s interesting to wrap one’s mind around the staggering scales involved. I recall seeing a video a few years back which went from the cosmic scale, to the atomic and back again. Something like these:
    Star and planet sizes:

    Also, is it just me, or does the lone carbon atom seem to be larger than the carbon atoms in the adenine?

  2. It doesn’t help me understand the size of tiny things at all! It messes with my intuition, because I want to say “I can see a grain of salt with my naked eye, so I could definitely see something half that size.” “Oh, only a couple of paramecium could fit on a grain of salt. That’s not so small”

    And so on and so on, until I convince myself that if I really squint hard enough I can see electron shells.

    Still mindblowing, though! ;-)

  3. I can’t adequately explain just how much I have always wanted to have a visual explanation of this very scale… containing several of these very objects. Thank you!

  4. The size of the nucleus in the carbon atom is off by a factor of about 10,000. If you expand the nucleus to the size of one pixel, the carbon atom would be too big to fit on your screen. It would be more than 40 feet in diameter.

    Ain’t that something?

  5. Why does it not zoom all the way out to real size?



    If The Eiffel Tower were the size of a walnut, then the Earth would be 6.1 times the size of the Eiffel Tower.

    Fucking profound

  6. Good non-god, I love vector art, especially for its more or less infinite scalability. Very groovy little simulation.

  7. “Actual size” it tricky on an app like that (for example, imagine it running on an iPhone, or at least a phone that can do flash, like the N900) – but yeah, I’d like to have seen it try, and maybe even zoom further out, too.

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