To Scale: The Solar System

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

An evening pause: What this attempt achieves more than anything else is to demonstrate that the scale of the universe is almost impossible to simulate or to conceive. There is a lot of emptiness out there.

Hat tip Rocco.


Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


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  • danae

    And we are…what…the size of quarks? We should be reminded of this from time to time. Thanks, Rocco!

  • Steve Golson


    Another great way to appreciate the size of our solar system is The Thousand Yard Model invented by Guy Ottewell

    I’ve done this multiple times for small groups and it never ceases to amaze. The sun is a soccer ball, and the earth is a peppercorn. At the end of the walk, when we are way out at Pluto, I produce a second soccer ball and say “Here’s the nearest star to our sun. In our model, how far away should it be?” Take a guess… figure it out… be astonished.

  • Steve

    Great video. I was waiting at the end for the inevitable lecture on saving our world from Global Warming, but I was pleasantly surprised! :-)

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