Size Matters—But How?


Have you ever heard the claim that if an ant was the size of a human it could lift an elephant? Actually, it would suffocate under the weight of its own exoskeleton. Similar principles will also prevent The Rock from winning any ultramarathons (although he’d look good trying) . . . (Number Hub, check out the video below!)

Use our resources to size yourself up to a blue whale—and be happy you’re just the right size!

Discussion Ideas

  • Watch the five-minute video above, then take a look at the gallery of ocean animals in our activity “Size Me Up—to a Blue Whale!” In particular, check out the blue whale and the krill. Do you think the blue whale or the krill is “stronger”?
    • It depends on how you measure strength! 
      • A blue whale is the largest animal that has ever lived on Planet Earth. It can manipulate mega-tons of material. (Most of this material is water, its own body, and krill.) In terms of sheer amount of material manipulated, the blue whale is a lot “stronger” than the krill!
      • Krill, tiny creatures related to shrimp, are a blue whale’s primary food source—blue whales eat tons of them every day! Krill can only manipulate ounces of material, not tons. (Most of this material is water and its own body.) However, those ounces of material represent many times the krill’s own body weight. Ounce for ounce, the krill is a lot “stronger” than the whale!
  • Hannah, the mathematician in the video, compares the body sizes of runners Usain Bolt and Mo Farah. (Fast-forward to about 3:45.) Bolt is a sprinter— “the fastest man in the world.” Farah is a middle- and long-distance runner. Both men are spectacular athletes and Olympic gold medalists. (And good sports who can mimic each other’s signature poses!) Check out that last photo for an excellent size-comparison of the two men. How do their different body types suit their running specialties?
    • Hannah explains that “short, quick, fast-and-furious activity” is “far more suited to people who are bigger, broader, and far more muscle-y.” Usain Bolt, weighing in at 94 kilograms (207 pounds) of pure muscle, is ideally suited for short-distance sprints. (Years of rigorous training may also have something to do with it!)
    • Hannah goes on to explain that athletes competing in marathons or other long-distance races “want to be as skinny as [they] possibly can.” Farah weighs in at a lean (but well-muscled) 58 kilograms (128 pounds).

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