'The Scale of the Universe,' by Two Teenage Brothers



Please be patient while this page loads -- it takes several minutes. But it does include, after all, the entire universe.

You may see a blank space below, then a gray box. Stick with it. When it's finished loading, prepare to be mesmerized.

Click "Start," and then use the slider across the bottom, or the wheel on your mouse, to zoom in -- and in and in and in... or out and out and out... It will take you from the very smallest features postulated by scientists (the strings in string theory) to the very largest (the observable universe.)


If you want background music (or don't want the distraction), click on the musical note in the upper right corner. Apologies if you're using a mobile device; the tool uses Flash animation, which doesn't work with all operating systems.

But a lot of work went into it. It turns out that "Scale of the Universe 2" was created by Cary Huang, a 14-year-old ninth grader from Moraga, Calif., with technical help from his twin brother Michael.

Michael and Cary Huang (Cary is on right in blue T-shirt). Huang family photograph.


"My seventh grade science teacher showed us a size comparison video on cells, and I thought it was fascinating. I decided to make my own interactive version that included a much larger range of sizes," said Cary in an email forwarded by his mother. "It was not a school project -- just for fun. However, my science teacher loved it so much she showed [it] to the class! My brother, Michael, helped me put it on the internet."

Cary said he worked on the project, on and off, for a year and a half, getting information from Wikipedia and astronomy books. It is now spreading virally online.

Click on objects in the animation for more information. Cary said he invites people to correct any errors they find. This is his second version, he said; the first had less information in it, and the graphics needed work.

"We're not sure what we want to do after we finish school, although we're both interested in computer programming and animation," said Cary. "And astronomy is also cool!"

Asked if he thought there was a lesson to be learned from the project, Cary wrote, "I would like to say that humankind is a very small part of the universe we live in. There could be so much more out there, but we just don't know it yet."


--Ned Potter