# Some Perspective on Viruses

For sixth-grade science, I like to use a text called The Universe in My Hands, which is “a general science course in which the elements of the material universe are ordered by size and the student is introduced to the disciplines of the science as a function of their sizes.” The student encounters the universe by ordering things according to their magnitude. You and I, for example, as humans, are on the order of 1 x 10^0 meters (one times ten to the zero power), which we call the Zero Order of Magnitude, or [0].

A cat is smaller than that, at the 1 x 10^-1 meters or [-1] Order of Magnitude. A marble is at the [-2] scale. A human cell is at the [-5], and a virus is at the [-7], or 2 orders of magnitude smaller than a human cell.

If you and I were the size of the order of Mount Everest, or the [+4] Order of Magnitude, a virus would be at the [-3] OoM, about the size of a sesame seed. If you and I were the size of the order of the Earth, or the [+7] OoM, a virus would be at the [0], or the size of a human.

Viruses work by hijacking the protein replication in a cell and causing it to replicate more viruses instead of human genetic material.

Here’s a video on viruses that creeps my little daughter and me out:

https://youtu.be/QHHrph7zDLw

And here’s a great link to an interactive site that allows users to explore the scale of the universe.

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## There are 27 comments.

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1. Member
Sisyphus (Rolling Stone)
@Sisyphus

So how does the chicken soup work, again?

2. Member
Larry3435
@Larry3435

Good post.  Just for the record, the You Tube video is a little bit off point because Corona viruses are RNA viruses, not DNA viruses.

3. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

So how does the chicken soup work, again?

Right here

4. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

In February, Nebraska doctors were giving chicken soup to corona patients.

5. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

Here’s a recipe in case you don’t have one already.

6. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

Good post. Just for the record, the You Tube video is a little bit off point because Corona viruses are RNA viruses, not DNA viruses.

Good point. It is a pretty generic “virus” video and was never intended to focus on COVID-19, but it does help to explain the general working of viruses.

7. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

Well, you learn something every day…

Some viruses are DNA viruses. COVID-19, along with the common cold and SARS, is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus

Thanks @larry3435!

8. Coolidge
CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
@CarolJoy

A bit off topic, Mama, but yr enthusiasm over this cool vid on viruses made me think you might find this of interest:

My household signed up for curiositystreaming.com, which has lots of interesting vids on everything from the physics of bubbles, which I highly recommend, to various old movies and TV series. The owners of the vid site have lowered their prices for the sake of all of us stuck in our homes. (I think you end up paying under 3 bucks per month.)

Curiosity  streams things from HULU and other streaming services as well.

I found the bubbles video under a heading called “Collections” which also houses an awful lot of David Attenborough films about the wonders of nature. Anyone home schooling right now might find those nature films educational.

9. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

I send my kids into fits of laughter when I do my David Attenborough impression.

I do this bit about huge worms in Australia:

10. Member
Randy Webster
@RandyWebster

CB Toder aka Mama Toad: as humans, are on the order of 1 x 10^0 meters

This is probably being nitpicky, but aren’t humans more on the order of 2×10^0 meters?

11. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

CB Toder aka Mama Toad: as humans, are on the order of 1 x 10^0 meters

This is probably being nitpicky, but aren’t humans more on the order of 2×10^0 meters?

For our purposes of classification, we consider whether a thing is within 0.3 to 3 of the OoM in order to include it in that OoM.

There are not many humans who are 2 meters tall… That’s about 80 inches. I’m 166 cm, or 1.66m, and my student is about 130 or 140 cm.

12. Member
Sisyphus (Rolling Stone)
@Sisyphus

So how does the chicken soup work, again?

Right here.

Two birds, one stone! Nutritional and an aid to social distancing:

Onions: According to a 2013 review published in Critical Reviews of Food Science and Nutrition, the major onion flavonoid (a compound with antioxidant effects) is a molecule known as quercetin [13]. Furthermore, a 2005 study published in the Federation of European Biochemical Societies Journal reported that quercetin may exhibit antiviral properties [14].

Eat onions like apples, embrace the new age!

13. Coolidge
Limestone Cowboy
@LimestoneCowboy

CB Toder aka Mama Toad: as humans, are on the order of 1 x 10^0 meters

This is probably being nitpicky, but aren’t humans more on the order of 2×10^0 meters?

For our purposes of classification, we consider whether a thing is within 0.3 to 3 of the OoM in order to include it in that OoM.

There are not many humans who are 2 meters tall… That’s about 80 inches. I’m 166 cm, or 1.66m, and my student is about 130 or 140 cm.

@RandyWebster ; Mama Toad was using Mike Bloomberg in her class example.

14. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

Here’s another little comparison: If the Sun were the scale of us, or at the [0] scale, the Earth would be the size of a pea at the [-2]  OoM. If we were at the OoM of the Sun, the [+9] OoM, a virus, which is 7 OoMs smaller, would be the size of my yard, at the [+2] scale.

15. Coolidge
Skyler
@Skyler

16. Member
Basil Fawlty
@BasilFawlty

Here’s another little comparison: If the Sun were the scale of us, or at the [0] scale, the Earth would be the size of a pea at the [-2] OoM. If we were at the OoM of the Sun, the [+9] OoM, a virus, which is 7 OoMs smaller, would be the size of my yard, at the [+2] scale.

I knew it!

17. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

It did before it got “promoted” to the Main Feed.. I’ll try to fix it when I get to my ‘puter instead of my phone.

18. Coolidge
Nick H
@NickH

Order of magnitude scales are fun. One fact I find interesting is that while a zero point of 1 meter is pretty close to the middle between the smallest (which is called Planck scale (~10^-35 m) and the size of the observable universe (~ 10^28 m), we’re closer to the bigger end by 7 orders of magnitude. Set that zero point to 1 millimeter, and it’s almost exactly in the middle. So the tiniest possible part of the universe is as much smaller than an ant as an ant is smaller than the entire universe.

19. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

Order of magnitude scales are fun. One fact I find interesting is that while a zero point of 1 meter is pretty close to the middle between the smallest (which is called Planck scale (~10^-35 m) and the size of the observable universe (~ 10^28 m), we’re closer to the bigger end by 7 orders of magnitude. Set that zero point to 1 millimeter, and it’s almost exactly in the middle. So the tiniest possible part of the universe is as much smaller than an ant as an ant is smaller than the entire universe.

Yes, we study from the [0] to the [-35] and then up to the [+28]. It’s a very enjoyable and interesting course.

20. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

https://youtu.be/QHHrph7zDLw

21. Coolidge
Skyler
@Skyler

https://youtu.be/QHHrph7zDLw

Cells are enslaved to serve the virus?  So viruses are like democrats?

22. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

Skyler (View Comment):
So viruses are like democrats?

Yes except we don’t think we can develop a vaccine for democrats.

23. Member
Sisyphus (Rolling Stone)
@Sisyphus

Skyler (View Comment):
So viruses are like democrats?

Yes except we don’t think we can develop a vaccine for democrats.

But we can dream.

24. Member
drlorentz
@drlorentz

Are you familiar with the short film Powers of Ten? It was made by Eameses, known for the design of the iconic Eames lounge chair. These influential designers had a wide scope. The film was narrated by MIT physics professor Philip Morrison, a gifted teacher who also played a key role in the Manhattan Project.

The film gives students a good feeling for orders of magnitude and logarithmic scales from the very large to the very small. Although it was made over forty years ago, I think it has stood up quite well.

25. Member
drlorentz
@drlorentz

CB Toder aka Mama Toad: as humans, are on the order of 1 x 10^0 meters

This is probably being nitpicky, but aren’t humans more on the order of 2×10^0 meters?

For our purposes of classification, we consider whether a thing is within 0.3 to 3 of the OoM in order to include it in that OoM.

There are not many humans who are 2 meters tall… That’s about 80 inches. I’m 166 cm, or 1.66m, and my student is about 130 or 140 cm.

That’s right. Orders of magnitude are a logarithmic scale. If the exponent is between -0.5 and 0.5, it is rounded to zero. Since 10^(-0.5) is about 0.3 and 10^0.5 is about 3, that’s why all adult humans fit within order of magnitude zero. The number 2 is the same order of magnitude as the number 1.

26. Member
CB Toder aka Mama Toad

drlorentz (View Comment):
Are you familiar with the short film Powers of Ten? It was made by Eameses, known for the design of the iconic Eames lounge chair. These influential designers had a wide scope. The film was narrated by MIT physics professor Philip Morrison, a gifted teacher who also played a key role in the Manhattan Project.

Yes, the woman who wrote the text book we use was inspired by that film to develop the course.

At the end of the course, the student has a big fat binder stuffed with amazing pictures of things catalogued according to size. We’ll also model our solar system.

A large bush in my yard will be the sun at the [0] scale. We’ll make models of the planets and place them at the appropriate distances. Mercury will have a diameter of about 5 mm and be about 58 meters away from the sun/bush. Earth will have a diameter of about 13 mm and be 150 meters from the bush. Jupiter will be about 14.3 cm in diameter and be about 3/4 of a kilometer from the bush. Pluto will be about 2.3 mm and about 6 km away.

It’s pretty fun.

27. Member
Sisyphus (Rolling Stone)
@Sisyphus

drlorentz (View Comment):
Are you familiar with the short film Powers of Ten? It was made by Eameses, known for the design of the iconic Eames lounge chair. These influential designers had a wide scope. The film was narrated by MIT physics professor Philip Morrison, a gifted teacher who also played a key role in the Manhattan Project.

Yes, the woman who wrote the text book we use was inspired by that film to develop the course.

At the end of the course, the student has a big fat binder stuffed with amazing pictures of things catalogued according to size. We’ll also model our solar system.

A large bush in my yard will be the sun at the [0] scale. We’ll make models of the planets and place them at the appropriate distances. Mercury will have a diameter of about 5 mm and be about 58 meters away from the sun/bush. Earth will have a diameter of about 13 mm and be 150 meters from the bush. Jupiter will be about 14.3 cm in diameter and be about 3/4 of a kilometer from the bush. Pluto will be about 2.3 mm and about 6 km away.

It’s pretty fun.

You must have a pretty impressive yard.

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