Powers of Ten

More scale candy: an awesome video, made by the designers Ray and Charles Eames in 1968. Starting at our familiar human scale, it zooms way out and then way in, crossing 40 orders of magnitude:

It’s amazing how the patterns change so immensely from one scale to another. Zooming from the entire Earth down to the man’s hand, we go from a round, bluish ball on a dark background, to streaks of clouds, to land and lake, to the pattern of streets, to a white square on a green background. There will be a stretch with uninteresting emptiness, and then a burst of patterns, followed by another homogenous void.

I went camping this past weekend in Umtanum Creek Canyon, near Ellensburg, WA. Before going, I checked it out on Google Earth and a USGS quadrangle, because I hadn’t been there before. When I got out of my car and started hiking, I started thinking about how different the ground-level experience of a landscape is from the map-level experience. On the ground, bushes and trees are the dominant features, but hills and drainage systems are most prominent on the topographic map. An interesting challenge in cross-scale thinking.

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