Intuitively understanding the size of an atom

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If you build a humongous model of a human hair with a diameter equivalent to the width of a soccer field (~50m),
then the model carbon atoms in that humongous model of a human are pretty exactly the size of a human hair (~0.1mm).

The carbon atoms in the real hair (and everywhere else) are about ~0.2nm in diameter.

It's the same ratio!

  • 50m / 0.1mm = 500 000
  • 0.1mm / 0.2nm = 500 000


Why this works

Unlike other comparisons this for once works because
the size of a hair and the size of a soccerfield both
still fall into the range of our everyday hunamn experience.

What not to do

Shift one side of the comparison a bit (like making model atoms the size of marbles ~1cm) and
the other side falls way out of human everyday experience (model hair 5km diameter).
The comparison becomes completely useless as a means for intuitive understanding.

Also choose one magnification level and stick with it for as much as possible. Do not jump around with magnification levels wildly.