From ants to elephants, from grains of sand to mountains, life and matter present in a spectrum of sizes, each bearing complexity. Each grain of sand contains micro peaks and valleys, variations in form from angular to rounded, and complex mineral composition, including varying combinations and proportions of quartz, feldspar, pyroxene, gypsum, amphibole, garnet, epidote and other minerals. Though on a smaller scale, a grain of sand can reveal the complexity of an entire mountain, much like how to an ant a field of grass is a forest. As the poet Gary Snyder writes:
As the crickets’ soft autumn hum
is to us
so are we to the trees
as are they
to the rocks and the hills
The iconic 1977 science film "Powers of Ten" explores the relative size of things in the universe and the impact of adding or subtracting another zero to their scale. Beginning one meter above a man and woman on a picnic blanket in a park on the Chicago lake front, the film extends out from the park at incremental increasing "powers of ten": 10 meters, 100 meters, 1,000 meters and so on exponentially, one order of magnitude every ten seconds, until it reaches 10 to the 24th, the outer edge of the known universe. The film then reverses course, zooming back to the picnic blanket at decreasing orders of magnitude. From there, it zooms into the man’s hand at negative powers of ten until it reaches 10 to the -16th and subatomic particles.
Conveying the universe as “an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mystery” (as stated on the website of Charles and Ray Eames, the film’s creators), the film is one of my favorites. It reminds us that there are “worlds within worlds” and that with sensitivity to scale and perspective we can embrace these varying dimensions and the sense of wonder that comes with exploring them.
I invite you to take a look at the film, below, and think about what it can teach you about exploring the world on different scales.
About this Blog
Hi! I'm Nancy Kopans, founder of Urban Edge Forest Therapy. Join me on an adventure to discover creative ways to connect with nature in your daily life, ways that are inspired by urban surroundings that can reveal unexpected beauty, with the potential to ignite a sense of wonder.