Powers of Ten
How different does the universe look on small, medium, and large scales?
The most famous short science film of its generation gives breathtaking comparisons.
Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only a s a speck of light among many others. Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward- into the hand of the sleeping picnicker- with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell.
That film, Powers of Ten, originally created in the 1960s, has now been officially posted to YouTube and embedded above.
From a picnic blanket near Chicago out past the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies, every ten seconds the film pans out to show a square a factor of ten times larger on each side. The video then reverses, panning back in a factor of ten every two seconds and ends up inside a single proton. The Powers of Ten sequence is actually based on the book Cosmic View by Kees Boeke in 1957, as is a similar but mostly animated film Cosmic Zoom that was also created in the late 1960s. The changing perspectives are so enthralling and educational that sections have been recreated using more modern computerized techniques, including the first few minutes of the movie Contact, and in a short digital video called The Known Universe created last year for the American Museum of Natural History. Ray and husband Charles, the film’s creators, were known as quite visionary spirits and even invented their own popular chair.
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