Powers of Ten

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 www.eamesoffice.com)

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!

About Dani Johnson

I am 26 years old and I live in a college town with my boyfriend, our 2 dogs and chinchilla, 4 additional room mates and the house cat. Since I share financial responsibilities with my boyfriend I am waiting on him to finish college before I go back (he's almost done!). I will then focus my studies on Science Writing. I want to write particularly about Astrophysics, Cosmology and Planetary Science. Until then, I spend my free time listening to various podcasts about science and skepticism to inspire deeper research on potential writing topics. I also enjoy sewing, drawing, writing fiction, spending time with the boyfriend and pets, amateur astronomy and some girly things like nails, hair and makeup.
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4 Responses to Powers of Ten

  1. Chad Jones says:

    I can begin to imagine the large scale, but the small scale is what blows my mind. It’s amazing to me that we know the things we know about things so small we can’t even see them.

  2. Josh DeWald says:

    The vast emptiness of the atom is truly stunning.

    • Dani Johnson says:

      I agree. It’s similar to the vast emptiness of space. It seems like the vast majority of our universe is empty space. It’s actually kind of staggering because all around us all we see is stuff, so we get used to the idea of having things around us all the time.

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