The new “Scale of the Universe” interactive animation – the best way to get perspective on life

If you need to gain some perspective on life, check out the Scale of the Universe 2, an updated interactive animation first published in 2010. The new version includes information on many of the featured elements. Starting at a common reference point – the size of an average human being – the slider lets you zoom waaaay out to see, for example, the largest galaxies photographed by Hubble and waaaay in to see, for instance, the smallest particles known (or hypothesized) by theoretical physicists.

Lest you think that this amazing animation is a big-budget product from some science-loving organization, think again. According to ABC News:

“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…”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.

Nice job, guys!

Click the image to start exploring the universe!

Three wonderful children’s books

Jon Acuff recently recommended a couple of children’s books with encouraging messages, which I quickly added to my reading list (though unfortunately, our library doesn’t carry them yet). Coincidentally, I also recently came across some children’s books that stand out from the dozens we plow through monthly.

I often feel overwhelmed when I enter our local library to find new books that the kids will enjoy and that have a positive and meaningful message. Thankfully, our librarians regularly pluck out some of their favorites and place them on top of the low children’s bookshelves. I’ve taken to simply browsing these selections since it has resulted in many gems. Here are three that recently stood out.

moon rabbit (Natalie Russell). If you’ve ever experienced the desire to travel beyond your home, then had the conflicting desire to return to the comforts of home, you’ll appreciate this charming tale. Little Rabbit loves her city life, but longs to find her soul mate. One day she follows the sound of music to the country and finds Brown Rabbit, with whom she becomes fast friends. Hanging out in the countryside enjoying her new friend, Little Rabbit eventually longs for the familiar experiences of the city. The two new friends find a wonderful compromise in the final pages of the book.

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves (Julie Rawlinson). Fletcher is a young fox who loves his favorite tree. But something is terribly wrong as the tree begins to lose its leaves. Fletcher struggles as nature and other animals begin to prepare for Fall, but in the end finds that change isn’t so bad after all! You can hear the entire book read in this video.

You and Me, Little Bear (Martin Waddell). “Mommy, Daddy, play with me!” This is a refrain every parent hears countless times every day. Little Bear is no different and wants to play with his dad. But Big Bear has a busy day of chores that he can’t put off (sound familiar?). The two find out, however, that work and play do not have to be as different as we often make them out to be. Simple watercolor images make this a great anytime story.

Best school assembly ever: A lifelike dinosaur puppet

Boingboing recently posted a video showing a life-like dinosaur puppet, controlled by a masterful puppeteer, that brought delight and surprise to a group of Australian school children. I can only imagine my daughters hiding in fear as this thing lunged and roared at them! What’s so amazing is that the incredible realism of the puppet and its movements almost completely mask the puppetmaster’s legs sticking out of the costume.

If the kids weren’t already enthralled with the subject of paleontology, I’m sure they are now!