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"Can a Living Creature Be as Big as a Galaxy?"



The classic Charles and Ray Eames short film Powers of Ten was made nearly four decades ago, but its influence has been profound. It can be connected, for example, to the rise to order-of-magnitude estimation as a standard aspect of the scientific curriculum, and it is the direct inspiration for the design of software mapping applications such as Google Earth.

The impact of Powers of Ten is heightened by the startling symmetry between the narrative of the inward sweep (in which the viewer descends inward in scale from a picnic on the Chicago lakefront to the sub-nuclear scale) and the arc of the outward sweep (in which the view pulls increasingly rapidly away to set the Earth and its contents into the grand scale of the Cosmos).

Were we just lucky, as sentient beings, to be able to sweep out in both directions, and examine the scales of the universe both large and small? Probably not.




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