Powers of Ten is a classic short film made by the famous Californian design team, husband and wife, Charles and Ray Eames.
Narrated by Philip Morrison, the film starts with a camera hovering over a man enjoying a picnic on the lakefront in Chicago. What follows is an amazing visualisation of the relative scale of the universe, and the quite incredible power of exponential expansion, where numbers get very big very quickly.
The camera begins to zooms out, showing an area 10 times greater every 10 seconds. At first we see the park the man is lying in, then part of the lakefront, then the city of Chicago, and so on. In just one minute the entire Earth is in view. After 5 minutes, with a panorama of 100 million light years across we can no longer discern even the galactic superclusters against the blackness of space.
At this point we pause before zooming quickly back to the man on the lakefront. When we reach him the camera slows again, this time zooming in x10 every 10 seconds. First on to his hand, then to a pore on his skin, then into his bloodstream revealing cells, dna and on into individual atoms, the building blocks of matter. The film was made in 1968 and re-released in 1977.
In 1998, “Powers of Ten” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. We think you’ll agree.
Official site: powersof10.com
Powers of Ten