A penny
April 26, 2001 4:00 PM   Subscribe

A penny for your thoughts? Why not one quintillion pennies!?
posted by MarkBakalor (21 comments total)
I love the Megapenny project. Kokogiak rules.
Check out his 5k contest entry, Pauciloquent Obnubilation.
posted by waxpancake at 4:07 PM on April 26, 2001

This reminds me of a book my parents had when I was a kid. It was called 'Powers of Ten' or something similar.

It started off trillions of miles away in outer space, at 'many hundreds of factors of 10' away from Earth. It was like a flipbook. The picture was on the right, and there was some text about each picture on the left.

As you progressed through the book, you kept getting 10 times closer to Earth. Eventually, after 15 pages or so, the Earth filled the page.

Eventually, you zoomed down onto a man lying down in a park in Chicago. Then onto his hand. Over the next 20 pages, you got closer and closer to his hand, and it kept zooming in and in. Eventually you got to DNA, then atoms, then quarks, and actually one page beyond quarks.. but scientific knowledge in 1980 only went as far as that.

It fascinated me as a kid. Anyone know if there's a new book like this which uses our more recent scientific knowledge to paint a more accurate picture?
posted by wackybrit at 4:23 PM on April 26, 2001

All I can think of is Dr. Evil:

"One hundred BILLION pennies...."
posted by jpoulos at 4:31 PM on April 26, 2001

The quintillion pennies didn't spin me out - the fact that Mt Everest was still another 1,700 feet higher than a cube of one quintillion pennies did.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:34 PM on April 26, 2001

There's an interactive version of it online. Use the numbers to zoom in or out by powers of ten.
posted by waxpancake at 4:36 PM on April 26, 2001

I recall that Asimov did a book comparing the various orders of magnitude with real-world examples.
posted by kindall at 4:47 PM on April 26, 2001

Aw shucks, thanks all. It's funny, MegaPenny Project has been covered by dozens of "cool site" pages, but being covered on MeFi is really the cat's pajamas.

This project really has a life of its own - I've been thinking of cataloging it, sort of a "diary of a cool site". Between link-hungry cool site lists & mailing lists the traffic to MegaPenny continues to astound me. I figured its 15 minutes of fame would have been up a month ago or more.
posted by kokogiak at 4:48 PM on April 26, 2001

I dunno if they've made a more accurate version of the book or not, but I know I've seen a video version on the same "powers of ten" motif. It's a staple of high school classrooms' "introductions to science!" everywhere.
posted by youhas at 4:50 PM on April 26, 2001

I've seen an Imax sized version of the Powers of 10 film at at a science museum in New York Cit, as well as in high school science classes. I first saw mention of the penny project in this week's Newsweek magazine...
posted by MarkBakalor at 4:56 PM on April 26, 2001

MegaPenny is in Newsweek? Hrm. Now on my way to a newsstand. Thanks MarkB. It's no cover of Brill's Content (wink to matt), but what the Hey?
posted by kokogiak at 4:59 PM on April 26, 2001

Yep. April 30, 2001 issue. Page 19 under the headline "What If the Sears Tower Were Made of Pennies." It's a listing of about 7 "cool" sites among which are www.breakthechain.com (which leads to a register.com page - what's up with that?), corporateanthems.raettig.org, tolerance.org, and MegaPenny! :)
posted by MarkBakalor at 5:10 PM on April 26, 2001

Looks like ol' Newsweek made the isn't-everything-a-dot-com mistake: breakthechain.org.
posted by dhartung at 5:43 PM on April 26, 2001

kokogiac: I'm curious, how did you create these pictures? I can't think of an efficient way to make giant cubes of realistically-textured pennies, off the top of my head =)
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:02 PM on April 26, 2001

And if one of the pennies fell off the top of the all-penny Sears Tower...?

Anyone know if there's a new book like this which uses our more recent scientific knowledge to paint a more accurate picture?

Not quite the same, but along similar lines, is Hendrik Hertzberg's One Million. The book consists of one million dots, with various dots along the line annotated with bits of statistics about the ever-increasing numbers. The book's out-of-print, but The Strand has had a couple dozen copies collecting dust in the basement for the last eight years or so, if you're interested.
posted by aaron at 8:34 PM on April 26, 2001

CrayDrygu - I used Rhino3D (found here) to render most of these images. The larger ones were mostly just cubes with fairly detailed image maps made in photoshop, some of the medium sized ones were cylinders with penny-edge image maps wrapped around them. now, making the cube of one million cows - that was a tough one. had to make walls of cows, a square at a time and stitch together 27 different renderings in photoshop. You can get a better look at the cows when there's only 72 stacked. (And don't ask 'why cows?')
posted by kokogiak at 10:25 PM on April 26, 2001

Heh, I like this tidbit: "For rthe record, the Empire State folks claim no one has ever dropped anything off their building. Yeah, right." (On the Straight Dope page aaron linked to.)
posted by Potsy at 12:18 AM on April 27, 2001

I threw a paper airplane off it in 1969.
posted by rodii at 5:38 AM on April 27, 2001

"(And don't ask 'why cows?')"

Actually, I was going to ask, "What's wrong with you?" =)
posted by CrayDrygu at 10:41 AM on April 27, 2001

"What's wrong with you?"

Things too numerous to relate. And I can count pretty high as you may have surmised...
posted by kokogiak at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2001

This reminded me of an old Saturday Night Live commercial where Phil Hartman is introduced to the cereal "Colon Blow" - anyone remember that?
posted by GrooveJedi at 9:37 AM on April 28, 2001

Yes! I loved the "Colon Blow" commercial. Hard to forget seeing Phil Hartman sitting on top of the huge mountain of "regular" cereal bowls that it takes to equal one bowl of "Colon Blow".

Remember at the end when they talked about new "Super Colon Blow"? The picture on the box was of this small black blob sitting in the middle of a cereal bowl. Scary.
posted by Potsy at 12:28 AM on May 2, 2001

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