Powers of Ten

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The “Powers of Ten” was a very well known short film created by Ray and Charles Eames which has been used as a teaching tool for understanding the importance of scale through the system of exponential powers. The film was based on Kees Boeke’s 1957 book, Cosmic View: The Universe in Forty Jumps where the universe is illustrated with both continuity and change. The film’s scale begins with a man on a picnic, taking a nap in a park and zooms out and in ten times every ten seconds to show the scale that surrounds us as people. When it zooms out, we come out to see the Earth before we get a shot of the edge of the universe. And when it zooms in, we come closer to the man’s hand until we get down to see a carbon atom floating around. 

The Eameses lectured about their film and talked about how it was created to serve a wide range of purposes. They wanted it to be taught as an educational tool as well as a means of persuasion. Discussing the realization of a growing environmental concern, Charles Eames introduced this film by establishing Earth’s environmental problem as a collective concern rather than finding someone to blame. He wanted the audience to realize that they needed to take responsibility for their societal obligations and accountability. This kind of introduction that Charles provided the audience at a 1968 conference, reimagined the film from a scientific film to a greater ecological issue that they could connect it to.


Munday, Rob. “Powers of Ten by Charles & Ray Eames: Short Film.” Short of the Week, www.shortoftheweek.com/2016/07/05/powers-of-ten/.
“Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe.” Eames Office, www.eamesoffice.com/the-work/powers-of-ten/.
Schuldenfrei, Eric. “Powers of Ten.” Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/powers_of_ten.pdf.
“Thinking in Powers of Ten.” Eames Office, www.eamesoffice.com/education/powers-of-ten-2/.