Powers of Ten

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 1977 film has a number of changes from the prototype, including being entirely in color, moving the starting location from Miami to Chicago, 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”.

The website http://www.powersof10.com/ is based on the film and contains information about it and the Eames who made it.

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