Powers of Ten, A Film To Rediscover

You may already know of this famous 9-minute documentary film by husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames. Or you may never have heard of it. Either way, it’s time to watch Powers of Ten. Click here.

I was first introduced to this film when it was re-released in 1977. I was in college at the time and my Humanities professor showed it in class. I remember how fascinated I was by the science and the art of the film. The science in understanding the relative size of the universe and the art in the film’s presentation of information to the viewer. Keep in mind that this film was produced decades before GPS and Google Maps made viewing points on the Earth commonplace and discoveries at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern  challenge our understanding of the building blocks of the universe.

What is Powers of Ten? To quote the official website:

 “(The film) 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 as 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.

Powers of Ten is a 1968 American documentary short film written and directed by Ray Eames and her husband, Charles Eames, re-released in 1977. The film depicts the relative scale of the Universe in factors of ten (see also logarithmic scale and order of magnitude). The film is an adaptation of the 1957 book Cosmic View by Kees Boeke,

In 1998, “Powers of Ten” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

It is difficult to overstate the contribution Charles and Ray Eames have made to modern design. From architecture to film to furniture, their visionary, cross-disciplinary approach to design is still an inspiration. Click here to watch Powers of Ten.

Left: Ray and Charles Eames

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