Full Stop on Canada Day

Synchthonius crenulatus (Jacot) on a Times-Roman 12 pt Period

Synchthonius crenulatus (Jacot) on a Times-Roman 12 pt Period

Samples have been pouring in to work for the last month, so the time, and more importantly, the extra energy for blogging have been in short supply.  Sorry to any readers who need new posts on a more regular basis, but today I offer you Synchthonius crenulatus (Jacot).

Presenting a mite in a way that makes sense from the perspective of a viewer is always difficult.  Most people do not grasp just how small mites are and this is especially true for children.  Supposedly, those of us with average eyesight can resolve down to about 0.1 mm.  So, in theory, you could actually see many of the mites around you as tiny flecks.  But once one has gotten past the stage of watching ants and eating dirt, why would you?  Mites are only really interesting when you can see them up close and personal.

The best way to make a mite personal would be to associate it with a familiar object.  A friend suggested the obverse of a Canadian penny might set off the golden coppery colours of this mite and the Maple Leaf would be a good image for Canada Day.  Unfortunately, if scaled to their true relative sizes, this mite would essentially disappear.   According to my quick back-of-the-envelope calculations, you could squeeze about 9,467 of these mites on to a Canadian penny (19 mm diameter), give or take a few thousand legs.

I know I could do this in Photoshop, but I just don’t have the energy (see above) and I would have to do it on my own nickle, so to speak, because if my employers asked me to do it, I would quit.  So, what would be an object of appropriate size?

I chose a Times Roman 12 point font period in the assumption that everyone who can read would be familiar with full stops (as we call the period in Australia).  I know from too much experience with marking student essays that commas, semicolons, and colons are on their way to extinction (or strictly random insertion), but most students still come up with a full stop every sentence or four.  As well as often seen, the 12 pt period has a nice 0.5 mm diameter (5x what the average eye can resolve).

Times Roman or another similar serif font should be familiar to most readers because the little feet on the letters help the eye move along a row of print, increase comprehension, and (with the exception of people with macular degeneration and some other eye problems) reduce eye strain during reading.  As a result, almost everything printed (at least by a competent printer) is in a Roman serif font.  [NB – on the computer screen and on the web, serif fonts are not so easy on the eye and san serif fonts along the lines of Ariel or Helvitica are more commonly used.]

Alas, tests with 2nd Graders are tending to falsify my hypothesis that even children can relate to a period.  Good news is that they really like the pictures of mites; bad news is that they don’t seem to understand the perspective of the period.  Ah well, why be pessimistic?  Perhaps an understanding will grow with them and mites will have done their small bit to save the period from extinction.


3 Responses to “Full Stop on Canada Day”

  1. Adrian Thysse Says:

    Enjoy. your. day. off, Dave. and. Heather.

    Happy Canada Day!

  2. Marvin Says:

    A period seems a good frame of reference. I’m glad you stayed well away from asking how many mites can dance on the head of a pin.

    • macromite Says:

      Hi Marvin,

      I’d like to claim the good taste, but unfortunately I already used the pin dancing in a paper title – long ago and in an obscure museum records paper, but still there to haunt me.



      PS – pin heads, bye the way, are too bloody big for brachychthoniids

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