Powers of 10: the Australian version

In the footsteps of the classic short film, we explore the powers of 10 (click to zoom).

We begin with a classic NASA photograph of the Earth seen from Saturn, with a field of view (in the distance) about 100,000,000 km across. We zoom in by a factor of 10 to see the Earth and the Moon beside it. After three more such jumps (to 10,000 km), the Earth fills the frame. Three further jumps (to 10 km) zooms in on Melbourne, Australia. Two more jumps show us the city centre (1 km) and St Paul’s Cathedral (100 m). Another two jumps (to 1 m) give us a small boy on the grass beside the Cathedral. Two more give us the iris and pupil of his eye (1 cm) and a small patch of his retina (1 mm). Finally (at 100 µm or 0.1 mm), we see red blood cells inside a blood vessel in his retina. Fifteen jumps in all, zooming in by 1015.


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The race that stops a nation

The first Tuesday in November marks the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most famous horse race. The race was first held in 1861 (over 2 miles) and altered to cover 3.2 km in 1972. The chart below shows winning times since then.

But Melbourne Cup Day often sees another big race too: the Tuesday after the first Monday in November is US Election Day. This year, it promises to be significant, with the entire US House of Representatives up for grabs, along with 33 Senate seats and numerous state positions. It will be interesting to see who wins this year!

Update: The Australian race was won by Protectionist in 3:17.71. The race was marred by the death of the race favourite, Admire Rakti. The American race is still to be decided.

My favourite bookshops


I ♥ science books!

Even in the age of the Internet, there’s nothing like browsing real books. Here are some of my favourite bookshops in Australia for science books. All of them are worth a visit:


Abbey’s Bookshop, Sydney

Abbey’s Bookshop, in Sydney, is an excellent bookshop, with the entire back wall being devoted to science and mathematics.


Books Kinokuniya, Sydney (photo by “Jason7825”)

Books Kinokuniya, just a short distance from Abbey’s (in The Galeries Victoria), also has a good science collection.


Boffins Bookshop, Perth (photo by Boffins Bookshop)

Boffins Bookshop, in Perth, specialises in technical subjects, including science and mathematics.


The Book Grocer’s branch in Albury, New South Wales

The Book Grocer, in multiple Melbourne locations and elsewhere around Australia (including Canberra), is an excellent discount book chain. All books are $10 or less. The Book Grocer usually carries a range of interesting mathematics and science books.


ANU Co-op Bookshop, Canberra (photo by “Nick D”)

In addition to the bookshops listed, bookshops in major universities (such as branches of the Co-op) can be counted on to carry interesting stock in the areas of science and mathematics. Clouston and Hall Academic Remainders, in Canberra (not pictured), offer a range of interesting books at a discount, and a number of other bookshops, such as Readings and Reader’s Feast in Melbourne, also carry a reasonable stock of science and mathematics books.

So why not celebrate National Science Week by reading a book about science?

The Melbourne Museum


Melbourne Museum interior (photo by “Dysprosia”)

In honour of International Museum Day on the 18th, it’s time for another museum post.

The Melbourne Museum, which I recently visited, is an excellent museum, although the curating of the permanent displays is perhaps a little less creative than some of the other museums I’ve covered. This may be because the real energy at the Melbourne Museum seems to go into their superb temporary exhibits. Their Pompeii exhibition in 2009 was particularly good.


A variety of stuffed animals (my photo)

The permanent displays are free for children and concession-card holders. See the Wikipedia article and the museum website for more information.


Dinosaurs are compulsory (my photo)