How to Develop a Sense of Scale

A sense of scale helps us better understand the world, and convey ideas more effectively. What’s more impressive?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

[…] Putting things into perspective: […]

Great article! The scaling down of prices to reflect huge incomes does bring them home in a new way.

(BTW, working on a High-Availability application, I am painfully familiar with the time implications of 5-nines )

[…] How to Develop a Sense of Scale - In an article on his website BetterExplained, Kalid uses metaphors to help us put things in perspective. Here are his tips for understanding big numbers using smaller numbers that are more familiar: Instead of looking up at the “big numbers”, we can shrink them to our level. Imagine the average person makes 50k/year, and a rich guy makes 500k/year. What’s the difference? […]

Thanks, glad you liked it! Yeah, fortunately I haven’t had to be on the business end of a 99.999% application :).

wow, it makes it much easier to relate to wealth when we reduce how much things cost to them! a porshe for 6000! a A macbook air for 179.99!!!

Thanks jp, glad you found it useful.

i loved the quote that 5 seconds spend to pick up a 100$ bill is not an effective use of his time

Appreciate the comment Ankur – yeah, it’s a fun way to look at it. Although in reality, I’m sure Bill could pick up money & strategize at the same time :).

[…] Visualizing numbers (read more) […]

Great article, as usual, though would like to point out that in finance a trillion is 1,000 million (not a million million as it logically should be), so the US deficit is not quite as large as you suggest.

Sorry I got it all wrong in my previous post. Please ignore. :slight_smile:

Great work. My two favorite links on sense of scale are this site that is developing powers of 10 for length, power and force and this movie take off of your classic powers of ten movie from The Simpson’s.

Thanks again.

@Alex: No worries, in the UK they often have different terms for billion.

@Simpsons: Thanks for the info, glad you liked the article. I love the simpsons :).

[…] Scaling leads to new insights. Yes, $500k/year is a lot; but it really comes alive when you imagine things costing 10x less (A new laptop? $150. A new porsche? $6000). […]

That makes my brain hurt a little bit thinking about all of those things and sizes and how they compare but it all really makes sense. All of my thanks go out to bob, the ingenious creator of this fantastic site as well as partly the author of this amazingly brain hurting article. Bob, i love you!!!
and by the way i really learned a lot from this article and i will now think of the world in a totally different way than i thought of it ten minutes ago when i was mindlessly playing action games on and not caring about size and humans compared to dinosaurs and the earth compared to some extremely huge random star thing way out in the universe. GO BOB!!!

amazing… i mean its cool man.
keep posting this kind a articles.

@Hayley: Thanks for the comment – a lot of these ideas hurt my brain too :).

@Techdudes: Thanks, glad you liked it.

This was an amazing journey into the realm of scale and dimension! Thanks for leading me into such a fascinating new realm of perception.

This sort of thing really broadens my perspective and expands my view by a tenfold, if not by a magnitude of one trillion.

What I find even more synchronistic about encountering your post here is that a family member just mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago that she could not intuitively grasp the reality of Bill Gates’ net worth. I’m going to suggest this article to her, haha.

Hi Jeffrey, glad you enjoyed the post! I was similar – it’s hard to wrap our heads around how an extremely wealthy person sees the world. Having expensive things cost pennies helps bring it to life, I think.