Powers of Ten (film)
|Powers of Ten|
Title card for the 1977 "Final" version
|Directed by||Charles and Ray Eames|
|Based on||Cosmic View (1957) by Kees Boeke (book)|
|Narrated by||Judith Bronowski (1968), Philip Morrison (1977)|
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|1968 ("Sketch" version)
1977 ("Final" version)
|8 min ("Sketch" version)
9 min ("Final" version)
The Powers of Ten films are two short American documentary films written and directed by Charles and Ray Eames. Both works depict the relative scale of the Universe according to an order of magnitude (or logarithmic scale) based on a factor of ten, first expanding out from the Earth until the entire universe is surveyed, then reducing inward until a single atom and its quarks are observed. The first film: A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe — was a prototype and was completed in 1968; the second film: Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero — was completed in 1977.
The Powers of Ten films were adaptations of the book Cosmic View (1957) by Dutch educator Kees Boeke. Both films, and a book based on the second film, follow the form of the Boeke original, adding color and photography to the black and white drawings employed by Boeke in his seminal work.
The 1977 film has a number of changes from the prototype, including being entirely in color, moving the starting location from Miami to Chicago, removing the relativistic (time) dimension, introducing an additional two powers of ten at each extreme, a change in narrator from Judith Bronowski to Philip Morrison, and much improved graphics.
In 1998, Powers of Ten (1977) was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
1968 ("Sketch") version
- Full title: A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe
This version of the film has a time clock in the corner showing that as one goes into space, they are also going back in time. It was installed in the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum's Life in the Universe gallery at the time of the museum's opening in 1976, until the gallery's closure in 1978.
1977 ("Final") version
- Full title: Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero
The film begins with an overhead view of a man and woman picnicking in a park at the Chicago lakefront — a one-meter-square overhead image of the figures on a blanket surrounded by food and books they brought with them, one of them being The Voices of Time by J. T. Fraser. The man then sleeps, while the woman starts to read one of the books. The viewpoint, accompanied by expository voiceover by Philip Morrison, then slowly zooms out to a view ten meters across (or 101 m in scientific notation). The zoom-out continues (at a rate of one power of ten per 10 seconds), to a view of 100 meters (102 m) (where they are shown to be in Burnham Park, near Soldier Field, then 1 kilometer (103 m) (where we see the entirety of Chicago), and so on, increasing the perspective and continuing to zoom out to a field of view of 1024 meters, or the size of the observable universe. The camera then zooms back in at a rate of a power of ten per 2 seconds to the picnic, and then slows back down to its original rate into the man's hand, to views of negative powers of ten—10−1 m (10 centimeters), and so forth—until the camera comes to quarks in a proton of a carbon atom at 10−16 meter.
- Philip and Phylis Morrison (1994) . Powers of Ten: A Book About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding another Zero. Scientific American Library. ISBN 978-0-7167-6008-5.
- Cosmic Zoom (1968), an eight-minute short from Canada.
- Cosmic Voyage (1996), a loose remake of Powers of Ten in IMAX format for the National Air and Space Museum.
- Contact (1997), whose computer-generated opening sequence pulls back from the Earth to the whole of the known universe, is inspired by Powers of Ten.
- Cosmic Eye (2012), complete remake of Powers of Ten based on state-of-the-art data, also available as iPhone/iPad/iPod app Video on YouTube
- Cozmic Zoom (2013), a mobile application available on Android. 
- The music video for the Sara Bareilles song Gravity is an homage to Powers of Ten. 
Other media interpretations
- The Scale of the Universe 2 by Huang Twins
- Repp, Philip (April 2001). "Loop: AIGA Journal of Interaction Design Education - Three Information Design Lessons". Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Overbye, Dennis (April 26, 2005). "Philip Morrison, 89, Builder of First Atom Bomb, Dies". The New York Times (New York ed.) (The New York Times Company). ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Retrieved March 25, 2015.
He helped write the script and narrated the 1977 film "Powers of Ten," also by Charles and Ray Eames, in which a camera zooms from a couple having a picnic in Chicago out to the limits of the cosmos and then back down through the woman's hand to the level of atoms and quarks. In 1992, he and his wife, Phyllis, with the Eameses, turned it into a book. Correction: April 28, 2005, Thursday: An obituary on Tuesday about Dr. Philip Morrison, a Manhattan Project scientist who helped assemble the first atomic bomb and later campaigned against it, misstated the release date of "Powers of Ten," a film narrated and partly written by Dr. Morrison that takes viewers to the outer edge of the cosmos. It was released in 1968. (It was rereleased in 1977.)
- Boeke, Kees. Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps. John Day Co., 1957.
- Morrison, Philip, et al. Powers of Ten: About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe. Scientific American Books, 1990.
- Films Selected to The National Film Registry, 1989-2010.
- "About Powers of Ten". http://www.powersof10.com. Eames Office. 2010. Archived from the original on 23 July 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Eva Szasz (1968). Cosmic Zoom (film). Ottawa River: National Film Board of Canada.
- Bayley Silleck and Morgan Freeman (1996). Cosmic Voyage (IMAX). Venice, Italy: National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
- Tim Dirks. "Milestones in Film History: Greatest Visual and Special Effects and Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) - Part 16". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- Official website: "Powers of Ten". Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences[dead link]
- "Powers of Ten™ (1977)" on YouTube
- Powers of Ten at the Internet Movie Database
- The Scale of the Universe 2 - an interactive web site exploring the same concept