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Powers of Ten

by Dani Johnson

March 8, 2013

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Donate I believe my co-workers and I have been passing an awful cold around lately. It's my turn, now, so please pardon my brevity.

If there is one thing in the entire internet that absolutely every single person should see, it's Powers of Ten, a video made in 1977 by Charles and Ray Eames.
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. POWERS OF TEN © 1977 EAMES OFFICE LLC (Available at
Watching the video will make you feel incredibly small. It's easy to imagine distances that are small enough to relate to something on the Earth. For instance, I understand how far 10 miles is because I drive that distance every single day to work. However, when dealing with cosmic distances such as light-years or parsecs it's difficult for humans to truly envision the distance because no human has ever experienced traveling that far. It's easy to say that the sun is 149,600,000 km from Earth but it's much more difficult to imagine it. If a person were to travel to the sun in a spaceship it would take 7 months to get there. The stars beyond our Sun are even farther out, it would take 70,000 years to get to the nearest one. Our Milky Way galaxy has an estimated 200-400 billion stars in it and, even at light speed, it would take 100,000 years to cross it. Now, that's a lot of distance to wrap one's brain around!

by Dani Johnson

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