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Frostbite Theater

Let's Make a Scale Model of the Solar System!

Do you have a comically long receipt that you'd like to repurpose? Have you always wanted a model of the solar system that you could fold up and carry in your pocket? If so, this video is for you!

Announcer: Frostbite Theater presents... Cold Cuts! No baloney!

Joanna and Steve: Just science!

Joanna: Hi! I'm Joanna!

Steve: And I'm Steve!

Joanna: Have you ever gone to the store, bought one item, and the receipt was as long as your arm? The next time that happens, don't throw the receipt away! Instead, use it to make a scale model of the solar system!

Steve: Because, why not?

There's a worksheet available on our website you can download that'll help with this. The link can be found down in the description, or you can follow this QR code.

Joanna: Make sure the receipt is at least as long as your arm and that the ends are nice and even.

Steve: The exact length of the paper doesn't matter because we're going to be dividing this into fractions of itself. Right? This is 'one'. It's one unit of paper. And, kind of like on a ruler, we're going to put some marking on this. For starters, one end we're going to call zero, and the other end we're going to call one. Like this.

Joanna: Now, we're going to divide the paper into quarters. We'll do this by folding the paper in half, and then folding it in half again. Then we'll open the paper and we'll label the three new creases one-quarter, one-half, three-quarters. Like this.

Steve: Now, we're going to divide the first quarter of the paper in half. We'll do that by taking the end of the paper, bringing it to the one-quarter crease, and folding. Since this new crease is half of a quarter, we're going to label it one eighth. Like this.

Joanna: We're going to do the same thing with the first eighth of the paper. We're going to fold it in half and then we're going to label it, that new crease, one sixteenth.

Steve: Guess what? We're going to fold the first sixteenth of the paper in half... and that new crease, since it's half of a sixteenth, we're going to label that one thirty-second.

Joanna: We're not done yet. We're going to take the first thirty-second of the paper and fold it in half and label that new crease one sixty-fourth.

Steve: Okay, last time. We're going to take the first sixty-fourth of the paper. We're going to fold it in half. And since that new crease is now half of a sixty-fourth, we're going to label it one one-hundred-twenty-eighth.

Joanna: And if all went well, the end of your paper should look like this.

Steve: We can now use this chart to place the planets, and Pluto, on our model. Keep in mind that not every crease gets a planet, and not every planet falls on a crease.

The trickiest ones are probably Earth and Mars. Earth is suppose to be at three one-hundred-twenty-eighths and Mars at five one-hundred-twenty-eighths. And, we don't have those on our paper, but we can figure out where they should be.

First, we know where one one-hundred-twenty-eighth is. We also know where two one-hundred-twenty-eighths is, because that's the same thing as one sixty-fourth. And, we also know where four one-hundred-twenty-eighths is, because that's the same thing as one thirty-second.

So, we know where one, two and four are. Three must be exactly between two and four. And five is the same size step past four, like this.

Joanna: If you want to take your model to the next level, and if you have access to a 3D printer, you can download a STL file for this stencil. You can find the link in the description below, or you can use this QR code.

The planets, and Pluto, are ordered by size and are scaled properly relative to each other. Odds are, though, they won't be scaled properly for the distances between the planets in your model. For example, Jupiter is not really this big when compared to its distance to the sun.

Steve: Because that would be one huge receipt if it were.

Joanna: Thanks for watching! I hope you'll join us again soon for another video!

Download the worksheet -

Download the stencil's STL file -

Citation and linking information

For questions about this page, please contact Carol McKisson.