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# Powers of Ten™ (1977)

Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitude. Created by Big History Project.

## Want to join the conversation?

• At the end of the trip away from earth, how fast, (as a multiple of light speed) were we traveling?
• Much, much faster than the speed of light. The video zooms out logarithmically, which means that the speed constantly increases as they keep going out, so I can't give a single answer to the question. But to take one example, if you traveled to the Andromeda Galaxy (nearest large spiral galaxy--so the end of the video has zoomed out much further than this) in 10 seconds, you would have gone over 2 million light-years (a distance it takes light 2 million years to cross) in 10 seconds...hence over 6 trillion times the speed of light.
• This video is a classic, but is a bit dated. Has anyone produced a more modern version of Powers of Ten?
• Not that I've seen - sounds like a market opportunity :). The American Museum of Natural History did put out this video, which is at least relevant https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U
• With our growing information of quantum mechanics and quarks, what would we see after 10^-15
• Okay, first off, twins is an awesome site with more than 1 scale of the universe. Now, going back to your question, you can't actually "see" anything on the quantum scale, because seeing would imply using something to see. You can use photons or electrons (as in electron microscopes), but how would you see something small than a quark? It would be impossible. Also, not only can individual quarks not be seen, quarks cannot separate from each other, unless it is at very high energies. The farther apart two quarks are, the more they are attracted to each other, unless they are bound to another quark, as in protons and neutrons. Finally, there would be no color to see it in. We are well beyond the range of visible light at this point. It would be a grayish supercolor, that would probably give you a headache.
However, if somehow, we could see (preon microscope?) what would you see. Probably preons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preon surprisingly readable), the theoretical point-like particles that quarks are composed of. There may be massless particles zooming around or through, like gauge bosons or you might seed some neutrinos, which are essentially massless. Zoom in even further and you start to see the fabric of space-time itself. Quantum black holes pop up out of nowhere and measurements start to make no sense. Beyond the Planck length, we cannot actually measure anything. At about the same size as this, strings and rolled up dimensions may exist, shadows of the theory of M-theory. Beyond floats the dark theories of black strings and branes. Zoom even closer and it may be impossible to even go on. Time suddenly becomes discrete and smaller ideals may be impossible to realize (protection conjectures). Many, many time smaller than this, the literal lattice of the universe may be visible.
While that all of that may have sounded metaphorical, it actually wasn't.
• Great video. Does anybody know who the narrator is?
• Does anyone know how exactly did they do the opening rising shot? This was before cg and all that. It's quite an impressive graphic.
• This is just a guess, but I'm thinking that they filmed separate shots from different altitudes using different methods (a stepladder, helicopter, satellite, etc.) and stitched the film carefully together. The rest must be stock footage, but because every part of the video is around the same low quality (relative to modern video), it blends together as if it were CGI.
• Is there any specific reason we as humans use powers of ten to measure magnitude? I'm asking this because I heard from the YouTube channel Numberphile that base 12 is prevalent in many cultures and in computer coding, hexadecimal (base 16) is used as well. This isn't even mentioning the other miscellaneous ones such as binary (for computers) and base four (as seen in DNA).

Also, is there any reason for stopping at 10^24 meters in the video at ? Was this limit of our astronomical understanding in 1977?
• Powers of ten are used because the dominant number system in our (Western) society (and in scientific research) is base 10. The metric system formally encodes powers of ten into measurement. Why base 10? Good question. The most common guess is that it's because humans have ten fingers, which made a good starting point for counting. It's true that other bases are or have been used in other cultures (base 5, 12, 20, and 60 are most common), but those bases aren't encoded in our numeral system. It's also true that there are some big advantages to base 12 (primarily the fact that 12 is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12, making many calculations easier), but we're pretty well stuck with base 10 now.
• How can they see things smaller than 10^-9(thats the smallest thing a microscope can see)and how can they see earth from 100million light years away?
• Well, first of all, there is another type of microscope that we can use to "see" an object smaller than that, and then second, because we do a lot experiment with quantum object like proton, electron, quark, etc. This experiment gave us a lot of data that we can use to "predict" the shape of an atom, or even an object smaller than that, but of course, with a smaller resolution as well.
• What does he mean with "and our orbit belongs to Pluto". Is it just because now its orbit shows up in the picture or it has some greater meaning?