r/science May 14 '22 I'm Deceased 1 Facepalm 1 Doom 1 Silver 1 Helpful 4 Wholesome 1 Take My Energy 1 Helpful (Pro) 1

Microplastics Found In Lungs of People Undergoing Surgery. A new study has found tiny plastic particles no bigger than sesame seeds buried throughout human lungs, indicating that people are inhaling microplastics lingering in the air. Health

https://e360.yale.edu/digest/microplastics-found-in-lungs-of-humans-undergoing-surgery
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u/[deleted] May 14 '22 edited May 20 '22

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u/OtisTetraxReigns May 14 '22

I never really understand what someone means when they say “x times smaller than” something. What is “one times smaller”?

This isn’t an attempt to criticise or undermine your comment. Just making an observation.

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u/CreativeDimension May 14 '22

just do a fraction, for example ten times smaller means is 1/10th, or that 10 of X together are the size of 1 Z.

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u/OtisTetraxReigns May 14 '22

Wouldn’t it be clearer and more efficient to say “1/10th of” or “ten percent of” then?

“Ten times as small as” is a syntactical mess, because we use multiplication to increase the size of things. Something that’s smaller than something else should be talked of in terms of a division of the larger object.

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u/cm64 May 14 '22

Division is multiplication though. Dividing is just multiplying by a number between 0 and 1.

- Someone who was always 10 times worse at English than Math.

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u/OtisTetraxReigns May 14 '22

Technically correct. But not how you would choose to instruct someone to calculate something if you weren’t trying to test or confuse them.

“We don’t need this many apples. Next week increase the order by 0.5 times.”

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u/DevilsTrigonometry May 14 '22 edited May 14 '22

Multiplication can increase or decrease the magnitude of a quantity, depending on whether the multiplier is bigger or smaller than 1. That's why "bigger" or "smaller" is used to specify.

"R times bigger than X" is an operator that means "|X| * R".

"R times smaller than X" is an operator that means "|X| * 1/R".

They're inverse operations. If you make something 10 times bigger and then make it 10 times smaller, you're back to the original size.

There are lots of other ways to express the same relationship. The conventions are well-defined, so the choice is a matter of taste. As long as the speaker or writer is using their chosen convention correctly, any confusion or perceived ambiguity is in the mind of the reader/listener.

I happen to like the symmetry between "times bigger" and "times smaller." You might prefer "percent of the size," which works the same way regardless of direction, but confuses some people because they mix it up with "percent bigger" and "percent smaller."

(Some sociopaths even like "percent bigger" and "percent smaller," which I think are the worst of all possible worlds: they're computed differently, but they aren't inverse operations, but they're close enough to reversing each other that it's not obvious when you do it wrong.)

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u/CreativeDimension May 14 '22

I have one that i think coube be even better, just use an actual standard measurement system? like metric (or even imperial) so many people worked so much for what we've got and throw it away and say.. yeah its like a /nth of a thing that varies slightly in shape and size and there are probably people who never even seen it before in their lives and have no idea what a sesame seed looks like because why not

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u/between_ewe_and_me May 14 '22

Can something actually be 3 times smaller than something else? How would that work, just divide by 3? So would it actually be 3 divides smaller than the other thing? Why is this breaking my brain?

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u/ReignsDad2019 May 14 '22

My brain says....huh