Culture Magazine

Powers of Ten

By Bbenzon @bbenzon

Some years ago I was rummaging through stacks in a used-book store in Troy, New York, when I came upon Powers of Ten: About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe. I smiled from ear to ear and bought it. I’d heard about he film for years, but never seen it, and I don’t recall whether I’d even known there was a book. But here it was in my hands, a book called Powers of Ten and it clearly was based on the movie.
What, you ask, is this marvelous movie/book about?
It’s about the whole universe. Let the Wikipedia explain:
Powers of Ten is a 1968 American documentary short film written and directed by Ray Eames and her husband, Charles Eames, rereleased 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, and more recently is the basis of a new book version. Both adaptations, film and book, follow the form of the Boeke original, adding color and photography to the black and white drawings employed by Boeke in his seminal work.
So, two days ago I googled “powers of ten”, figuring that I’d come up with an online version of the movie somewhere. Well, I did better than that. The Eames Office has a website about the project. The website includes the film, but also photos and illustrations (including the originals from the book) and a blog. Lots of stuff there. Have fun.

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