Significant Figures



The last few years have had an explosion of interest in space exploration. It seems we learn about new discoveries from the Mars rovers, New Horizons and Rosetta probes, and the International Space Station on a near daily basis.

This piqued my interest as to how design could play a part in the spirit of exploration.

In developing a mind map I was able to identify different topics within the overarching theme of space exploration that resonated with me. I discovered a particular interest in the magnitude and scale of the universe, as well as the physical attributes and characteristics of space.



Which of the following would be brighter, in terms of the amount of energy delivered to your retina:

  1. A supernova, seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth, or

  2. The detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball?

 Munroe, Randall. "Lethal Neutrinos." In What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, 360. Mariner Books, 2014. 



This research directed me to start looking at not only very large scales, but small as well. I began compiling and organizing a list of very large and very small objects.

As this list grew, I began making note of interesting binaries. I was intrigued by things that were as large as something else was small.

There already exist many different methods of illustrating scale, from the Eames' seminal Powers of Ten documentary to dime a dozen infographics.

I wanted to create a physical manifestation of what these other methods try to illustrate. Research suggests that hands-on, tactile learning can be particularly beneficial in helping people, and particularly children, better comprehend the magnitude of the universe we live in.

Tretter, Thomas. "Conceptualizing Nanoscale." The Science Teacher 73, no. 9 (12, 2006):






The concept was to take matching pairs that I found in my research and multiply them together. Multiplying a positive exponent by a negative exponent of the same value cancels out the exponents, leaving a reasonably sized object. 


I wanted to combine these binary pairs as two halves of a nesting doll, each pair fitting within the others. My initial explorations were 3D printed, but I felt that my direction was getting too literal. I found inspiration in a material that I was already quite familiar with, and one that was in great abundance in Iceland – wool felt.