Intellectual life on Earth changed, subtly but definitely, when the Apollo missions returned with photographs of our planet from space.
Pictures from orbit, even if you can see the curvature of the earth, might as well have been taken from some kind of very high-flying airplane – this was different.
Later, when probes like Pioneer and Voyager ventured even further into the Solar System, we were all struck anew by just how much there was out there and how small a part of it we are. This kind of thing gives a person perspective. It helps to be reminded of it every so often, inspiring and humbling us at the same time.
We may even feel compelled to reassess our species’ future along lines like those described in Carl Sagan’s book “Pale Blue Dot“.
If someone you know likes to ponder these kinds of questions from time to time, they’re certain to enjoy this 3D depiction of the wider world we live in. Children, on the other hand, will like it simply because it looks kind of nifty.
Colorful and Educational
This model is obviously not to scale. If the sun were the size of a basketball, the earth would be a BB bullet (i.e. 0.18″ or 4.6 mm) and 86 feet (26 m) away! Unlike a planetarium, the spheres inside are also locked in place instead of each proceeding in its own orbit.
The clear base lights up sequentially in seven colors to illuminate the sphere’s interior and also acts as a crude bearing, so you can spin the globe with your fingers. This particular model is only a little over 3 inches (80 mm) across, making it less than ideal as a skymap but ideal for holding while gazing at it.
One thing that will annoy some people is that Pluto isn’t included – children sent actual hate mail to Neil deGrasse Tyson when it was stripped of its planetary status.
Another is that the level of detail on the planetary surfaces isn’t great; more like what you’d expect to see through an amateur telescope.
The most serious issue, however, is the battery life: these are a pain to replace and last only for about one night. In addition, the switch located on the bottom of the base is a little fiddly – a USB-powered version you could leave on permanently would have been much better.
Still, the idea and execution of this mini-universe are absolutely worth the trouble.