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Scale

2 February, 2008

We humans seem to be able to cope best with things that are more or less on the same scale as ourselves.

We can understand other creatures, like animals, that we can see; but viruses, which we know exist but cannot see with the naked eye, seem hard to take seriously, until we catch a nasty one.

We can we can just about imagine what it might have been like to live in (say) medieval or Biblical times, but we just can’t begin to grasp what it means when we read that our ancestors coming along a few million years ago, or our planet having existed for billions of years before we were ever even around.

Is it the same for other sentient beings? Is this a function of being reflexive creatures with awareness?

It’s like, the further away something is from our of scale of things (in time, distance…) , the more difficulty we have in grasping it.

Wikipedia explains this by observing that:

Humans interact with their environments based on their physical dimensions, capabilities and limits.

For example:

A number of characteristic physical quantities can be associated with the human body, the human mind, and the preservation of human life.

Humans also interact with their environments based on their sensory capabilities. The fields of human perception systems, like perceptual psychology and cognitive psychology, are not exact sciences, because human information processing is not a purely physical act, and because perception is affected by cultural factors, personal preferences, experiences, and expectations.  

Many of the objects of scientific interest in the universe are much larger than human scale (stars, galaxies) or much smaller than human scale (molecules, atoms, subatomic particles).

Similarly, many time periods studied in science involve time scales much greater than human timescales (geological and cosmological time scales) or much shorter than human timescales (atomic and subatomic events).

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