Above all, atoms are tiny—very tiny indeed. Half a million of them lined up shoulder to shoulder could hide behind a human hair. On such a scale an individual atom is essentially impossible to imagine, but we can of course try.
Start with a line the length of a millimeter: Now imagine that line divided into a thousand equal widths. Each of those widths is a micron. This is the scale of microorganisms. A typical paramecium, for instance, is about two microns wide, 0.002 millimeters, which is really very small. If you wanted to see with your naked eye a paramecium swimming in a drop of water, you would have to enlarge the drop until it was some forty feet across. However, if you wanted to see the atoms in the same drop, you would have to make the drop fifteen miles across.
Atoms, in other words, exist on a scale of minuteness of another order altogether. To get down to the scale of atoms, you would need to take each one of those micron slices and shave it into ten thousand finer widths. That's the scale of an atom: one ten-millionth of a millimeter. It is a degree of slenderness way beyond the capacity of our imaginations, but you can get some idea of the proportions if you bear in mind that one atom is to the width of a millimeter line as the thickness of a sheet of paper is to the height of the Empire State Building.