Powers of Ten by Charles/Ray Eames: Saturday Night Short Film #3
You ever feel small? You will now. Or huge, I guess. This feels a lot like a penis joke.
Powers of Ten is Saturday Night Short Film #3, a weekly series where we find random short films and talk about them a bit because they are an underappreciated art form.
If you went to school or actually watch intellectual programs then you might be familiar with this one. I was terrible at education and I’m too dumb for smart television so I had never even heard of Powers of Ten.
Highly regarded, this Charles and Ray Eames creation explores just how miniscule we are and how expansive the universe is. It shows us the little particles that make up us and existence, and it does it in a way that is never boring. Every few seconds what we are seeing zooms out by a power of ten (hence the title) and it isn’t long before we have gone so far into space that it’s a little scary.
Then it zooms back in and before we know it we have entered the main subjects’ body, and the film comes to its conclusion “inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell.” I just straight up quoted the description for the Youtube video there because it’s too many big words for this feeble mind.
Renowned physicist Phillip Morrison narrated the entire experience and there’s an excellent synthesizer score added in. I kept seeing people in the comments mention how they saw this in school and I wish I would have seen it in school as well. I literally just heard of it a couple days ago and even though it probably doesn’t need my help, I thought it would be fun to shine a light on it.
In closing I just want to say how astounding the project is. The visuals themselves are mind-blowing. You have to remember that this was released in 1977, many decades before Google Earth so this was an gigantic undertaking and I respect the process just as immensely. The way in which they had to alter images and make them fit just right in each other was not only effective but creative. I heard that there’s been a sequel/remake of sorts but I haven’t seen it, so I’ll just finish up here by saying it would be really neat to see this done today. Just watch Powers of Ten.
Here’s a picture of the only thing that fully understands the universe.