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Zooming Out

One of the coolest videos I have ever seen is the Powers of Ten video. In 1977 Charles and Ray Eames—the inventors of the Eames Office, a famous furniture company—in collaboration with IBM, created a video beginning in Chicago and gradually zooming out, transporting the viewer to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds the video zooms out by a new power of ten. There are two main takeaways I got from this video. One is that the Earth, and myself, are extremely small. Practically nothing in comparison to the rest of the universe. The second is that as we zoom out there is a pattern rotating between a relative density of stuff to vast expanses of nothing.

The Digital Universe, made by the American Natural History Museum. The first time I watched this video I cried.

The Powers of Ten video reminded me of another video I first saw just over a year ago, which represents the The Digital Universe, developed by the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. It uses “data from dozens of organizations worldwide to create the most complete and accurate 3-D atlas of the Universe from the local solar neighborhood out to the edge of the observable Universe.” This video begins on Earth and continually zooms out until reaching the edge of the observable universe, 13.7 billion light-years away, before zooming back into Earth. This video had a profound effect on me. Like the Powers of Ten film, it emphasizes just how tiny and insignificant Earth is. However, as the video zooms back in, hurtling towards Earth, the placement of our beautiful planet seems perfect. All of the things that have led to life on this one speck are anything but insignificant. It helps that it is accompanied by the musical masterpiece “Time” by Hans Zimmer. The Digital Universe tool can be found on the AMNH website and is free to explore.


2 thoughts on “Zooming Out

  1. I enjoyed your content! This post gave me a much greater sense of context of our place in the universe. It is one thing to read about how small we are in the textbook but it is another experience entirely to visual the cosmos this way. Thank you for helping me learn more about space!


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