It’s a secret dollhouse makers have known for ages: From bathrooms to dinosaurs, everything is cuter in miniature. Here are 15 things you didn’t know came pocket-sized.
Compared to a human being, they’re huge. But the dwarf galaxies nestled into pockets of our universe are puny for star formations; some are only 1/100th the size of our Milky Way. Astronomers believe that there are more dwarf galaxies than any other kind, but they’re often hard to spot because of their size.
2. TRAINING FACILITIES
For four decades, the United States Secret Service trained staff using a state-of-the-art strategic program called Tiny Town. Tiny Town was exactly what it sounds like: a miniature model town complete with buildings, cars, and streets. The environment included an airport, stadium, and a hotel, and allowed agents in training to solve simulated security threats in a 3-D environment. Sadly but understandably, Tiny Town was retired in 2011 in favor of a virtual model.
Measuring as long as a school bus and weighing in at nine tons, Tyrannosaurus rex was indeed a whopper. Its ancestors, on the other hand, were pretty teeny. Forty million years before T. rex stomped onto the scene, Raptorex kriegsteini reigned supreme. Paleontologists say the wee dinosaur (which maxed out at 150 pounds) was a near-perfect copy of its famous descendant—just 100 times smaller.
They may look like wrinkly fingers with teeth, but naked mole rats (Heterocephalus glaber) have got things figured out. Each colony lives in its own underground complex, complete with specialized rooms. There’s a pantry for storing food, a nursery for raising pups, and, yes, a little tiny bathroom. With up to 300 mole rats per colony, separating these chambers helps keep the place safe and sanitary for all its ugly-cute residents.
5. COOKING SHOWS
Leave it to the Japanese to create the cutest cooking show in the world. A group of miniature enthusiasts (that’s people who love miniatures, not tiny, happy people) have assembled a sizable collection of dollhouse-scale kitchen supplies. Each mini episode of the show features a pair of anonymous hands using tiny pots, pitchers, spatulas, and stoves to prepare itsy bitsy versions of real meals. The knives are sharp, the fire is real, and the food looks delicious.
Even the herbivores among us can enjoy a good bird this holiday season with tiny turkey cake pops. The latest delight from a creative baker in New York City, the realistic-looking teeny turkeys are made of lemon cake, strawberry frosting, and fondant. To give the “skin” that oven-roasted color, the baker glazes the little desserts with a mixture of vodka and gel food coloring.
Scientists were startled to discover that a common type of parasite is actually a very, very, very small jellyfish. The microscopic organisms called myxozoans are so primitive that, for a long time, biologists thought they were single-celled organisms. But researchers who sequenced the myxozoans’ genome found that the tiny critters are indeed animals. The myxozoans may not have guts or mouths, but they have nematocysts, or stinging cells—a hallmark of the jellyfish family.
When excess is the norm, some see living with less as a revolutionary act. Members of the Tiny House movement advocate living life on a smaller scale. Tiny houses really are tiny, averaging between 100 and 400 square feet. For obvious reasons, the houses are cheaper to build and maintain than the typical American house. They also necessitate a certain amount of casting off of earthly possessions; there’s only so much stuff you can fit in a cubby-sized kitchen.
The smallest park in the world occupies 452 square inches of land in Portland, Oregon. The park was the brainchild of a newspaperman in the 1940s whose office overlooked the traffic median. Sick of looking at a neglected lump of concrete, the journalist took matters into his own hands, pulling weeds and planting flowers. When he was finished, he declared the planter the world’s smallest park. The park would go on to figure prominently in the journalist’s columns, and by the 1950s, he was writing about the leprechaun colony that had taken up residence in his park.
10. & 11. BIKES AND MOTORCYCLES
Many of the tiny things on this list testify to the majesty and mystery of nature. But some things, like tiny bikes and motorcycles, are more of a record of human ingenuity (and silliness). No bigger than a shoe, these mini two-wheelers require their riders to crouch like gorillas while maintaining their balance. One performer even incorporates a tiny bike into his circus act, riding it through a hula-hoop-sized ring of fire.
You won’t see these flowers growing in a field; in fact, you’ll probably never see them at all—at least, not without a powerful magnifying lens. With some careful tinkering, scientists got barium carbonate crystals to grow into microscopic models of marigolds, violets, and more. This may not sound like a big deal unless you know that crystals are generally rigid structures, developing only in straight lines. Convincing them to blossom was quite a feat.
As our population expands and more and more people move into urban areas, space and resources are truly at a premium. Gas is expensive, and finding parking in major cities is a huge pain. Enter the tiny car. These two-seaters can fit into even the smallest parking places, and many models are electric, which reduces or totally eliminates the need for gas. With a cute profile and impressive maneuverability, tiny cars perform best on crowded stop-and-go city streets.
When we say horses, we mean horses, not ponies or foals. The record for the world’s smallest horse was set in 2006. The full-grown brown mare, which lives on a farm outside St. Louis, stands only 17.5 inches tall—barely bigger than a beagle.
This past September, scientists declared that they had found the world’s smallest snail. By November, their record had been broken. The largest specimen of the new champion, Acmella nana, reached only 0.027 inches tall and could not be seen without a microscope. The snail’s scientific name is a reference to its diminutive stature; nanus is Latin for “dwarf.”