World’s Strangest

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Powers of Ten

I’ve written about “Power of Ten” before, but the videos have been taken down due to copyright claims by the owners. Finally, the Eames Office has an official YouTube channel (albeit with only one video for now) hosting a version that will not be taken down. If you haven’t seen this classic film from 1977, please take a few minutes to enjoy it. Here’s what I wrote in 2009 about a (now taken-down) YouTube clip of the film:

If you’ve never seen the classic short “Powers of Ten,” I’ve got a treat for you. Created in 1968 for IBM by Charles and Ray Eames (yes, of Eames Chair fame), the film has a very simple premise: start at a static scene, then start zooming out, at one “power of ten” per ten seconds — for example, from 102 meters to 103 meters. As we zoom out, we see the earth, the solar system, the galaxy, and so forth. Once we reach 1024 meters (the size of the observable universe), the camera then begins a faster zoom-in…and goes beyond the original scene, into the microscopic scale and beyond.

For me, “Powers of Ten” is an educational touchstone — it’s a film I was shown several times in science classrooms, and to this day, I find it captivating in its simplicity and power. All you do is zoom way out and zoom way in — the universe is just a matter of perspective.

For more, check out “Powers of Ten” on Wikipedia, and the official “Powers of Ten” website. Also check this competition to create a companion video for Powers of Ten, sponsored by design blog Core77, the Eames Office, and Herman Miller.

(Thanks to for pointing to the original YouTube clip, and again for pointing out the new, official version!)

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October 13th, 2010

Stranger to the World


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