Powers of Ten to the Tenth Power

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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As a pre-teen, I was enthralled by Charles and Ray Eames’ “Powers of Ten,” a (1968) documentary film which transports the viewer from a picnic in Chicago to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds the point of view increases ten times farther until our galaxy is only visible as a tiny speck; then the return trip brings the view down to a DNA molecule.

As a younger child (around seven years old), I was enthralled by Kees Boeke’s Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps, “a graphic book” (1957) that takes the viewer on a journey through the universe, “to the edge of infinity in one direction and to the nucleus of the atom in the other.”

While the Eames’ film is designed for an older audience, Boeke’s book has older children in mind. Arthur H. Compton, who wrote the introduction titled “Suggestions to Teachers” stated: “This book can be used in various ways to stimulate student’s initiative.” I know that’s what it did for me. When I poured over it, my mind was expanded to the outer reaches of space and the inner mysteries of our organism. Now that’s the power of ten plus. (Pages below from my childhood copy.)

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Additional ResourceDon’t miss the April issue of Print, which features this year’s 20 New Visual Artists. Plus, read Steven Heller’s Evolution column that looks at rabbits use in design and his interview with Timothy Goodman. Get your copy today.

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →