Thursday, December 21, 2006

Powers of Ten



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en.wikipedia.com

A short documentary film written and directed by Charles Eames and his wife, Ray. The film depicts the relative scale of the Universe in factors of ten (see also logarithmic scale and order of magnitude). The film is a modern adaptation of the 1957 book Cosmic View by Kees Boeke---and more recently is the basis of a new book version. Both adaptations, film and book, follow the the form of the Boeke original, adding color and photography to the black and white drawings employed by Boeke in his seminal work. (Boeke's original concept and visual treatment is all too often uncredited or insufficiently credited in contemporary accounts.)

The film begins with an aerial image of a man reclining on a blanket; the view is that of one metre across. The viewpoint, accompanied by expository voiceover by Philip Morrison, then slowly zooms out to a view ten metres across ( or 101 m in standard form), revealing that the man is picnicking in a park with a female companion. The zoom-out continues, to a view of 100 metres (10² m), then 1 kilometre (10³ m), and so on, increasing the perspective—the picnic is revealed to be taking place near Soldier Field on Chicago's lakefront—and continuing to zoom out to a field of view of 1024 metres, or the size of the observable universe. The camera then zooms back in to the picnic, and then to views of negative powers of ten—10-1 m (10 centimetres), and so forth, until we are viewing a carbon nucleus inside the man's hand at a range of 10-18 metre.

The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1998.
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