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Science, Space

That’s How Big? Dr Stu Rediscovers the Classic Film: ‘Powers of Ten’

Oh no, not another boring science video! That was my first thought when, at 12 years of age, the science teacher wheeled out the TV trolley. Videos seemed such a cheap excuse for teaching…

What is Our Place in The Universe?

But by the time the ten minute short ‘Powers of Ten‘ had finished, there was an unusual calm in the classroom. Some might have been in awe of the ground-breaking Star-Wars style special effects. For me, those few minutes had opened my eyes to the awesomeness of the Universe in a way no arm-waving teacher could.

The premise is magnificently simple and beautifully put together. From a starting point at a picnic in a Chicago park the camera slowly starts to zoom out. Every ten seconds the view becomes ten times further away, until the earth, and then finally our galaxy becomes a tiny speck in the distance. The film then reverses – and after returning to the picnic scene, starts to zoom in closer and closer

I was delighted to rediscover this video on Youtube – and I hope you enjoy it too. Even though it was made in 1968, it has aged better than a single malt. A modern remake narrated by Morgan Freeman was put together in 1996.

Which is better? You decide – just kick back and enjoy:

The Original ‘Powers of Ten’ vs ‘Cosmic Journey’ Remake

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N.B. iF you’re using an iPad, then you may need to switch to normal web view (link at bottom).

Distributed by IBM, this documentary short film was written and directed by husband and wife duo Charles and Ray Eames; also famous for making beautiful iconic 1950s furniture.

The modern remake, ‘Cosmic Voyage‘ was made in 1996 and shown in IMAX theatres. It corrects some minor factual errors of the original and takes into account advances in astronomy and particle physics. It went on to earn an academy award nomination for it’s efforts:
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Like them? Do you have a preference?

Feel free to comment and leave feedback! (I know which I prefer)…


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Links:

The Official IBM ‘Powers of Ten’ Website

A similar 1968 film ‘Cosmic Zoom’ produced by the National Film Board of Canada is also available to view online

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

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