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Earthly Powers of 10

When I taught math, one of my favorite treats was showing my students a film called Powers of 10. Well, it was a treat for me, anyway.

The short movie is a mesmerizing illustration of the concept of scale. It begins by focusing on the hand of a man sleeping on a blanket in a park by Lake Michigan.

In steps by degrees of ten, the camera pulls away to reveal larger and larger chunks of the universe (and just how small a piece of it the Earth is). Then the perspective reverses to zoom down through the hand into the sub-atomic level.

With that as his inspiration, Rich Treves of Google Earth Design has created an overlay for Google Earth replicating the film. Or at least as much as could be done considering Earth can’t go to the limits of the universe or into molecules.

Of course, it’s been more than 30 years since the original photography used in the film so Rich had to make some adjustments for changes to the Chicago landscape.

Unfortunately a cycle track runs through the area of the original picnic – blasphemy! IMHO there should have a plaque there to commemorate the site :) (maybe there is?). To deal with the cycle track I put in a couple of screen shots from the film as overlays at the one to ten meter scale.

Regardless of the limitations of both the software and progress, the effect is still fascinating.

Incidentally, the movie itself is available in YouTube as well as from the web site of the same name in case your school blocks YouTube.

powers of 10, math, google earth

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1 Comment

  1. I had forgotten all about the video until you jogged my mind. I do remember seeing it in school. This would not only be appropriate for math but any academic domain especially my beloved social studies! Thanks for the links.

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