An M&M-sized traffic jam

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At TEDGlobal this summer, Richard Dawkins outlined the limitations of the human mind. We live, he explained, in a middle-sized world, and have difficulty understanding anything very large — like solar systems — or very small, like atoms.

So when Dartmouth researchers created the world’s smallest mobile robot, which measures a hundredth of an inch by one four-hundredth of an inch, we had a little trouble visualizing it. Fortunately, the New York Times article supplied a brilliant measurement metaphor: “A traffic jam of 200,” they explain, “would stretch the length of an M&M.” Now that’s something we can relate to.