Powers of Ten
Full Blog Experience: 15 minutes (reading, watching, listening)
Lite Blog Experience: 5 minutes (reading and poking around)
I first watched the short film, Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero, at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry in the 1970s. Employing pre-CGI (computer-generated imagery) effects to imagine the infinite and the infinitesimal, this film shaped, and continues to shape, my perception of one’s place in the universe.
While difficult to really grasp, Powers of Ten provides an entryway to some basic pedestrian understanding of the “relative size of things”.
I’m going to suggest two ways to experience it:
The first (and less preferred) way is to just watch the film. The 1977 version (there was an earlier version filmed in 1968), sets off from a blanket on the lakefront of Chicago:
The second (and much preferred way) is to watch the film with closed captions – cc – with this track, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, composed by Vaughn Williams:
Charles and Ray Eames made the film. Their contributions to 20th century design and photography are worth a rabbit hole trip in their Wikipedia page.
Interesting that the Eames’s 1970s short subject film can take us beyond a narrow, particularistic 21st century world-view, to realize the remarkable design of the universe and ourselves.