Getting a Sense of Perspective

About Spectrums

How can we understand the vast range of size (from the incomprehensibly large to the mind-bogglingly small), time (from the trillionth of a second to the billions of years), or energy (from absolute zero to supernova hot) that surround us? Spectrums is all about exploring the universe from the perspective of our “middle world” (as biologist Richard Dawkins likes to call it) — that place of human scale in which we live.

By the way, we use the plural “spectrums” instead of “spectra” for a reason: The latter has unfortunately gained the supernatural connotation of ghosts and spirits. Although spectrum, spectra, spectral, and spectre all derive from the Latin word for “apparition” or “vision,” we often apply them to experiences that have nothing to do with what we can see. This is similar to how, over the last century, a number of words with roots in science—such as dimension, evolution, and even energy—have expanded their meanings far beyond their original intention. Today, the word spectrum indicates virtually any broad range of characteristics or ideas.


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