The Sunday Video: Powers of Ten
While in London this week my wife, our two children, and I visited the Science Museum in South Kensington and filed in amongst the droves to the popular IMAX® theater to see Hubble, the seventh awe-inspiring film from the award-winning IMAX® Space Team. Apart from the impressive illusion of 3D afforded by the technological elves at IMAX® the film described in stunning, apparently real – derived from actual photographs taken by Hubble – detail all manner of mind blowing, awe inspiring, humbling, and down right beautiful happenings ‘out there’ that we would otherwise never be privy to. Despite all color being added post-production, Leonardo DiCaprio’s at times distracting narration, and my own pensive regret that I had not followed through with a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, I was struck by a near uninterrupted sense of wonder, a powerful ache for knowledge, and a revived, impatient lust for the enlightenment of our species beyond the confines defined by a society bent over backwards by distractions. In many ways the film went further and was both more expansive in content and exhaustive in scope than any nature documentary ever made, but in many ways the effect for me was much the same as watching Charles and Ray Eames’ “Powers of Ten”. With this film, made in 1977 on behalf of the IBM corporation, we explored the visualization of an applied mathematical idea from a single point perspective through zoomed, still and comparatively grainy photographs. Today, by contrast, we navigate the depths of a vast star nursery inside the Orion nebula and hear in great detail of events that Galileo, even in is his most fervent wet dreams, could not have conjured. But despite the chasmic technological gap between the production of these two cosmic interpretations, the responses, at least from this viewer, are oddly similar. What is durable about Powers of Ten is that it addresses terra incognita in terms of outer and inner space. For all its brilliance, Hubble, although it makes constant references to ‘unlocking the secrets of the universe’ only broaches the idea of interconnectedness with mention of webs of galaxies at the very end of the film. That said, Hubble does provide stirring insight into the human condition through the portrayal of astronauts, which Powers of Ten of course does not!
This post was contributed by Thomas Hollingworth.