Tales of the lab: 5 Size matters


Scientists in different research fields certainly see the world at different scales. When I was working in a colloidal assembly lab, hundreds of micrometers to a few millimetres were the norm. A centimetre-sized sample was already called big.
Talking to mechanical engineers and scientists, my samples felt very very tiny. To make relevant mechanical measurements, you need bulk samples, at least a few centimetres!
Asking a chemist to produce some particles for you? A few grams? That’s a lot! If you can get a 100 mg, that’s already massive.
A biologist and pharmacologist handling that amount, that’s also something else. DNA. Genes. That’s a few microlitres, a few micrograms.
I wonder what is the point of view of astronomers!
The most surprising thing is how hard it is to shape our mind to think in different scale. If you have been handling grams of powders in the past years, and you are suddenly given a few milligrams, down scaling is not easy. The science is different too. The applications as well. Similar in the other direction.
The brain twist is comparable as for an experimentalist to think like a theorist: adopting another perspective to the problem. Quite unusual, but worth the effort!