Nanoplastics, Microplastics, Basketballs, Rice and Whales

Nanoplastics, Microplastics, Basketballs, Rice and Whales

Vice has a horrifying article on nanoplastics. I'll have to worry about them later though because Mirjam Guesgen trots out this amazing comparison:

"Microplastics are on the scale of micrometers, while nanoplastics are mere nanometers. To get a sense of just how small that is, imagine the difference between the size of a WNBA basketball (which is slightly smaller than the NBA equivalent) and a grain of rice."

If we're getting a rough sense of the difference from rice and basketballs what on earth could be the motivation to make it a WNBA basketball? How slightly smaller is it? Stack says:

"A standard NBA basketball has a diameter between 9.43 and 9.51 inches. In the WNBA, the basketball has a diameter of between 9.07 and 9.23 inches. Basketballs used in the NCAA are between 9.39 and 9.55 inches for men and 9.07 and 9.23 inches for women."

Around 5% smaller by diameter at most.

Also, is the WNBA / NBA distinction meaningful when we're not defining the type of rice? Basmati is 6-8 mm, so way more variability than basketballs. I don't even need to bust out the short grained varieties. This is so crazy I had to check out the plastics as well.

Guesgen says microplastics are on the scale of micrometers which is kind of what I had assumed too. But then I'm not a science journalist. Some light googling reveals that microplastics are fragments under 5mm. Some rice would be a microplastic, if it was plastic rice. I guess everything can be measured in micrometers but 5mm is 5000 micrometers. So what are nanoplastics? Maybe 5 micrometers and smaller?

"For particles smaller than 1 μm, they are defined as nanoplastics"


"The term “nano” in nanoplastics tends to be contentious as many researchers follow the convention for nanoparticles that are defined as particles having a size approximately between 1 and 100nm."

Both from ScienceDirect.

So at the extremes that's five million times smaller, or to get a sense of just how much smaller imagine the difference between a grain of rice and around 1,300 blue whales, nose to tail. For the largest plausible nanoparticles, still about a whale. I'm not going to get into the gender.

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(Published to the Fediverse as: Nanoplastics, Microplastics, Basketballs, Rice and Whales #etc #nanoplastic #microplastic #rice #whales #basketballs How much smaller is a nanoplastic than a microplastic? A lot more than I expected, and a lot more than claimed in a recent Vice article. )

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