Encore: Powers of Ten – Charles and Ray Eames’ brilliant, before-its-time film

October 10, 2018

Images from

Images from “Powers of Ten,” 1977 edition. From IconEye

Back on October 10, 2010, we celebrated “Powers of Ten Day: 10/10/10.”

We’ve only got two tens in the date today, but the work of Charles and Ray Eames deserves remembering at least every October 10.

It’s a classic film, wonderful in its earliest versions in the 1970s, long before CGI. In 2018, I think it stands up very well.

Earlier I wrote:

AMNH’s “The Known Universe” is a cool film. Putting up that last post on the film, I looked back and noted that when I had previously written about the brilliant predecessor films from Charles and Ray Eames, “Powers of Ten,” the Eames films were not freely available on line.

That’s been fixed.

I like to use films like this as warmups to a year of history, and as a reminder once we get into studying the history of space exploration, of just how far we’ve come in understanding the universe, and how big this place is.

Of course, that means wer are just small parts.

The Eames’s genius showed the scale of things, from a couple picnicking in a park, to the outer reaches of the universe, and then back, zooming into the innermost reaches of a human down to the sub-atomic level.

There’s a series of these films; this one, published on YouTube by the Eames Office, was done in 1977, one of the later versions.

How can you use this in class, teachers? (I recommend buying it on DVD, as I did; better sound and pictures, generally.)

Film information:

Uploaded on Aug 26, 2010

Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only a s a speck of light among many others. Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward- into the hand of the sleeping picnicker- with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell. POWERS OF TEN © 1977 EAMES OFFICE LLC (Available at http://www.eamesoffice.com)

At the Eames Office Youtube site, you may find the film in with Mandarin Chinese, German, and Japanese translations (no Spanish?).  If you’re unfamiliar with the work of this couple — you would recognize much of the stuff they designed, I’m sure — check out a short film on an exhibit on Ray Eames (which has concluded, sadly):

More:

The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching

The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair and Ottoman, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching “Powers of Ten.” Herman Miller image.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

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Powers of Ten – Charles and Ray Eames’ brilliant, before-its-time film

May 23, 2015

Images from

Images from “Powers of Ten,” 1977 edition. From IconEye

AMNH’s “The Known Universe” is a cool film. Putting up that last post on the film, I looked back and noted that when I had previously written about the brilliant predecessor films from Charles and Ray Eames, “Powers of Ten,” the Eames films were not freely available on line.

That’s been fixed.

I like to use films like this as warmups to a year of history, and as a reminder once we get into studying the history of space exploration, of just how far we’ve come in understanding the universe, and how big this place is.

Of course, that means wer are just small parts.

The Eames’s genius showed the scale of things, from a couple picnicking in a park, to the outer reaches of the universe, and then back, zooming into the innermost reaches of a human down to the sub-atomic level.

There’s a series of these films; this one, published on YouTube by the Eames Office, was done in 1977, one of the later versions.

How can you use this in class, teachers? (I recommend buying it on DVD, as I did; better sound and pictures, generally.)

Film information:

Uploaded on Aug 26, 2010

Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only a s a speck of light among many others. Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward- into the hand of the sleeping picnicker- with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell. POWERS OF TEN © 1977 EAMES OFFICE LLC (Available at http://www.eamesoffice.com)

At the Eames Office Youtube site, you may find the film in with Mandarin Chinese, German, and Japanese translations (no Spanish?).  If you’re unfamiliar with the work of this couple — you would recognize much of the stuff they designed, I’m sure — check out a short film on an exhibit on Ray Eames (which has concluded, sadly):

More:

The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching

The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair and Ottoman, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching “Powers of Ten.” Herman Miller image.


Powers of Ten day coming: 10/10/10

August 30, 2010

Press release from the office of the group that manages the estate and work of Charles and Ray Eames:

TENTH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL POWERS OF TEN DAY

Santa Monica, California, August 27, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — The Eames Office announces with pleasure the Tenth Annual International Powers of Ten Day on October 10, 2010 (10/10/10). Powers of Ten Day promotes and encourages Powers of Ten Thinking, a form of rich, cross-disciplinary thought that approaches ideas from multiple interrelated perspectives, ranging from the infinitesimal to the cosmic—and the orders of magnitude in between.

Milky Way, by Charles and Ray Eames, from

The Milky Way Galaxy from the film, Powers of Ten, by Charles and Ray Eames. For use only in conjunction with press about Powers of Ten Day 2010. © 1977 Eames Office, LLC (eamesoffice.com) (caption provided)

Powers of Ten Day is inspired by the classic film Powers of Ten by designers Charles and Ray Eames. The film, a nine-minute visual journey of scale, takes the viewer from a picnic out to the edge of space and then back to a carbon atom in the hand of the man sleeping at the picnic. Every 10 seconds the view is from 10 times further away. In all, more than 40 Powers of Ten are visualized seamlessly. One of the most widely seen short films of all time—at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for decades and still widely used in schools around the world—Powers of Ten has influenced pop culture from The Simpsons to the rock band Coldplay, from Hummer commercials to the movie Men in Black. But Powers of Ten received perhaps the ultimate accolade in 1998 when the Library of Congress selected it, along with Easy Rider, Bride of Frankenstein, and Tootsie, for the National Film Registry—one of the 25 films of great cultural value chosen each year.

And the film’s importance only grows. Scale is not precisely just size, it is the relative size of things. As Eames Demetrios, director of the Eames Office, has said: “Scale is the new geography. So many of our challenges today are ultimately matters of scale. To be a good citizen of the world and have a chance to make it a better place, a person must have a real understanding of scale.”

Powers of Ten Day is for teachers, librarians, architects, designers, store owners, webmasters, business people, scientists, filmmakers, meditation gurus, parents, kids, and anyone wanting to extend the boundaries of their thinking. Participating can be as simple as watching the video (showing online throughout October [the tenth month] at www.powersof10.com), or putting together a screening of the film for friends or co-workers—at home, in a school, or at a library. Our goal is for as many people as possible to watch or share the film on that day. Some will be seeing it for the first time. Some will be revisiting a favorite classic. Everyone can be part of the conversation.

Powers of Ten Day can also be a lot more. Activities are happening worldwide throughout October. With the help of the DVD Scale is the New Geography as well as a Powers of Ten Box Kit, individuals (teachers in the broadest sense) can lead engaging workshops for kids and/or adults that let participants create their own scale journeys. Although those materials may be purchased at www.eamesoffice.com, as Eames Office Education Director Carla Hartman notes, “We’ve set aside some sets to be available at no charge for inquiring schools and teachers.” Those supplies are limited—and some are already being put to use. To inquire about availability of Powers of Ten supplies at no charge, email info@eamesoffice.com.

The Eames Office also encourages you to create and share your contributions. Over the years art has been created, music shared, global pilgrimages performed, and more. But most of all there has been hands-on learning. Events can be registered, and photographs, drawings, and writings uploaded. Sorted by power and by event, these will serve as inspiration and fodder for other events around the world—more than 1,000, possibly 10,000.

Anyone living in or visiting Southern California is welcome to visit the Powers of Ten Exhibition at the Eames Office in Santa Monica from now until the end of the year. There will be an event each day the exhibition is open during the month of October. Many more fun and thought-provoking activities will be available at www.powersof10.com by the end of the summer. The exhibit includes such things as a box that can hold 1 million pennies; as of mid-August, there were already 250,000! All the pennies collected will be given to TreePeople, an environmental nonprofit that unites the power of trees, people and technology to grow a sustainable future for Los Angeles.

Powers of Ten Thinking extends beyond this unique date of 10/10/10. As Demetrios says, “There is a little bit of the numerologist in all of us, so we love celebrating this date, but empowering people to explore and make connections between scales is a year-round goal of ours.” The Eames Office looks forward to tracking and inspiring another decade’s worth of Powers of Ten events. Towards that end, a map of the Earth on the website (and at the Office) will track events around our world.

The Eames Office is dedicated to communicating, preserving, and extending the work of Charles and Ray Eames. Additional information is available online at www.powersof10.com, as well as at www.eamesoffice.com and www.eamesfoundation.org.

The Powers of Ten Exhibition is open from 11 to 6, Wednesday through Saturday at the Eames Office, 850 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405; 310/396-5991.

Powers of Ten Day is generously sponsored by IBM Corporation with additional support from Herman Miller Inc., Vitra, and Penfolds.

Your school should have one of the Eames versions of the film in the school library (they did more than one).  This is truly a classic, and it should be a good discussion starter for several different topics — map reading, map scaling, environmentalism, existentialism, transcendentalism, and more.

So what will you do for Powers of Ten Day?

Update:  A YouTube edition of the film, “Powers of Ten,” is now available. MFB post about the film, with embedded version and links, here.


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