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Movies That Should Be Made

By Shimmer in Culture
Sun May 08, 2005 at 04:18:59 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

Charles and Ray Eames' Powers of Ten is one of the best, and most important, films ever made. This short documentary uses base 10 logarithms to drive a whirlwind exploration of the universe at every scale, from the human out past the galactic and then down to the subatomic. Powers of 10 was an important factor in the inculcation of the scientific sense of wonder for an entire generation (anyone born in the 1960's, say).

What other movies like this could be made?

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Some people who think they have seen this movie may have only seen the original "rough sketch" made in 1968. Both the rough sketch and the final version (1977) are triumphs of visual communication, conveying more information in nine minutes than most science courses convey in an entire year. The movie stands up to the test of time admirably, and it's unfortunate that is not better known now. Although it is commercially available, it seems to be considered an educational, rather than mainstream, movie. It does not appear to be available from either Blockbuster or Netflix.

With the advent of modern computer graphics, making movies like Powers of Ten that explore the universe at unfamiliar scales of size and time should be easier than ever. What follows is a short list of "pitches" for such movies.

History. While Powers of Ten uses logarithms to emphasize spatial scales, much could be accomplished by applying them to chronological scales as well. Imagine a movie that is rooted to a single area on Earth, showing how it has changed over time. Using powers of ten, we have the following rough epochs:

  • Present - 1 year ago: "Now."
  • 1 - 10 years ago: Current events.
  • 10 - 100 years ago: Modern history.
  • 100 - 1000 years ago: History since the Dark Ages.
  • 1000 - 10,000 years ago: Early history of man.
  • 10,000 - 100,000 years ago: Prehistory of man.
  • 100,000 - 1,000,000 years ago: Emergence of homo sapiens.
  • 1,000,000 - 10,000,000 years ago: Descent of man from the apes.
  • 10,000,000 - 100,000,000 years ago: Emergence of mammals.
  • 100,000,000 - 1,000,000,000 years ago: Flourishing of multi-cellular life.
  • 1,000,000,000 - 10,000,000,000 years ago: Creation of the Sun, then of Earth, and life on Earth

One could use the same idea across different ranges to cover different types of histories. For example, one might apply the powers of ten to seconds rather than years to cover the history of the last 100,000,000,000 seconds (3170 years).

Heading in the opposite direction, one could use logarithms to describe events that occur in less than a year. 0.1 of a year is about a month, while 0.01 of a year is a few days. Before long (no pun intended), one is in the realm of events photographed by Harold Edgerton, such as a bullet passing through an apple. Beyond that, one enters the time scale of a single chemical reaction, the decay of an unstable atomic particle, a computer clock cycle.[1]

One could also use a different starting point to de-emphasize recent events. Imagine starting from the emergence of multi-cellular life about 600,000,000 years ago. Traveling forward, the entire history of man would fit into the last logarithmic "frame". Then, as in the original Powers of Ten, the movie would reverse direction and move backward from the emergence of multi-cellular life to the beginning of the solar system (or to the universe itself). This might provide a more "realistic" sense of mankind's place in history.

Evolution of life. Mixed time scales could also be used to illustrate more abstract concepts, such as the evolution of life on Earth. Consider that all life on Earth today shares a single common ancestor that lived about 3,600,000,000 years ago. Imagine a movie that animated the "family tree" of life starting from that single creature. After 3,000,000,000 years, the tree would be a large bush consisting solely of single-celled bacteria. Then a multi-cellular creature would "sprout" from the bush and burst into flower. 100,000,000 years later, the bush would still consist mostly of bacteria, but would also sport a trunk containing a branch of shelled organisms and one of jawed fish. After another 100,000,000 years, the bush would contain branches for land plants, insects, amphibians, and reptiles. Dinosaurs, mammals, and birds would appear in the tree, which would then suffer a major trauma 65,000,000 years ago as the dinosaurs and many other species go extinct.

Rendering the tree of life in three dimensions as it changes shape and structure over time could be an extremely powerful way of communicating the history of life on this planet. The camera could dart in and out of various areas of the tree to show important details as the time scale slowed down or sped up as needed. Like Powers of Ten, the resulting film would summarize a great deal of information in a very brief presentation.

Cellular mechanics. Powerful movies can also be made by adopting time and distance scales that are constant, although unfamiliar. For example, imagine a movie that animates the inner workings of a eukaryotic cell in three dimensions. The movie might start by showing the transcription of mRNA from nuclear DNA. The RNA would travel through the nuclear membrane to a ribosome where it is used to assemble a protein from a series of amino acids. Energy production from nearby mitochondria would be illustrated. Then the cell might start to divide, showing the process of DNA replication.

Such a movie might be particularly exciting if it illustrated a viral attack on the cell. A single viral phage could be shown attaching itself to the cell's outer membrane and injecting its payload into the cell. The payload would move to the nucleus and commandeer the transcription process. Before long, the cell's ribosomes are producing proteins which assemble copies of the original virus. Thousands of virus particles are produced, crowding the cell until it bursts open.

[1] Thanks to khallow for this idea.


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Movies That Should Be Made | 61 comments (60 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
-1, evilution. (1.09 / 11) (#2)
by the ghost of rmg on Fri May 06, 2005 at 12:02:55 PM EST

go back to talk.origins.

rmg: comments better than yours.
Are you serious? (n/t) (none / 0) (#6)
by Shimmer on Fri May 06, 2005 at 01:20:00 PM EST

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
completely. (none / 1) (#7)
by the ghost of rmg on Fri May 06, 2005 at 01:37:51 PM EST

read your bible.

rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]
Why? (none / 0) (#8)
by Shimmer on Fri May 06, 2005 at 01:58:09 PM EST

Even the frickin' Pope accepts the basic truth of evolution these days.

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
don't mess with texas. (2.25 / 4) (#9)
by the ghost of rmg on Fri May 06, 2005 at 04:01:22 PM EST

rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]
You're better than this. (none / 0) (#18)
by Torka on Fri May 06, 2005 at 11:55:14 PM EST

[ Parent ]
a man is never too good (none / 0) (#20)
by the ghost of rmg on Sat May 07, 2005 at 12:31:00 AM EST

for science.

rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]
Dearest rmg, (none / 1) (#10)
by 6502 on Fri May 06, 2005 at 04:19:27 PM EST

Please FOAD. :)

[ Parent ]
don't forget the other direction (3.00 / 5) (#3)
by khallow on Fri May 06, 2005 at 12:18:51 PM EST

And you can talk about time scales under a year too. For example, 10^-1 years is about the time that Moon takes to travel around Earth. 10^-2 years is three to four days. You get really small, then you're talking about the time scales for single reactions, decay of weird atomic particles, and computer clock cycles.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Great idea (none / 0) (#5)
by Shimmer on Fri May 06, 2005 at 01:19:08 PM EST

I'll try to add something about this.

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
Cool (3.00 / 4) (#4)
by jobi on Fri May 06, 2005 at 12:35:32 PM EST

In Sweden, on public-service channel SVT1, we get a program called "Vetenskapens Värld" ("World of Science") and it used to end with a minute-long or so zoom-in on everyday objects, down to its molecules and atoms and then out again.

I always loved those :)

Any other Swedes out there know who did those and if they are available anywhere?

"[Y]ou can lecture me on bad language when you learn to use a fucking apostrophe."
zeno's paradox (2.75 / 4) (#11)
by circletimessquare on Fri May 06, 2005 at 05:43:29 PM EST

zeno's paradox of achilles and the turtle should get a treatment in your smaller and smaller orders of magnitude time scales in your hypothetical movie, as it's a nice segue

come to think of it, you could apply zeno's paradox in reverse: larger and larger orders of magnitude

wait... creationist's could use zeno's paradox in their arguments!

a pre-chimpanzee ancestor and a pre-human ancestor are evolving 1,000,000 years ago

in 100,000 years, the pre-human evolves a certain amount versus the pre-chimpanzee

in 10,000 more years, they evolve a bit more

the point being: the pre-human ancestor can get very close to, but never actually become a human according to zeno's paradox!

i'm a fucking genius!

hallelajuh, holy math saves us from evil science


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

that post (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by forgotten on Fri May 06, 2005 at 05:50:21 PM EST

is not your best work.


[ Parent ]

Interesting comparison... (none / 1) (#30)
by mold on Sun May 08, 2005 at 05:29:24 AM EST

Because in reality, Achilles would eventually catch the tortoise.

Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
[ Parent ]
Other movies that should be made (2.85 / 14) (#13)
by BottleRocket on Fri May 06, 2005 at 05:54:41 PM EST

  • Goreli Ben Affleck and J-Lo star in a movie about throwing sharp objects at one another.
  • Dawn of the Dead 2 Zombies walk around, doing zombie stuff.
  • Smoke 'em if you Got 'em ShiftyStoner goes to a university campus to make fun of people with ambition. Hilarity ensues.
  • Chesty Cheerleaders 8
  • Orlando Bloom and Jar-jar Binks go to Hell Eternal anguish deathmatch in a lake of fire!
  • Conan the Barbarian at the Nazi Vixen Sauna And there will be explosions. Oh yes.
  • Tux A penguin suit infiltrates the Microsoft citadel in Redmond, utilizing security holes and doing battle with bosses.
  • Kuro5hin: The Movie On second thought...

$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $
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Yes I do download [child pornography], but I don't keep it any longer than I need to, so it can yield insight as to how to find more. --MDC
$ . . . . .
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. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $

Do you work in Hollywood ? <nt> (none / 0) (#14)
by GenerationY on Fri May 06, 2005 at 06:50:07 PM EST

[ Parent ]
No but (none / 1) (#45)
by monkeymind on Mon May 09, 2005 at 12:34:56 AM EST

Sadly they have read this and are pitching as we speak...

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
[ Parent ]

Oh yeah! (none / 0) (#15)
by CodeWright on Fri May 06, 2005 at 07:50:32 PM EST

Please make these movies!

k. thx.

A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
I'll make them all (2.40 / 5) (#17)
by BottleRocket on Fri May 06, 2005 at 11:43:31 PM EST

...Into one epic supermovie. It'll be called Smoke of the Undead Ben, Binks, and Bloom Versus Tux and Conans Chesty Cheerleading Nazi Vixen Explosion Squad in the Boiling Pit of Redmond-based Kuro5hin Hell 8. I predict ticket sales of over 100 million in the first weekend.

$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $
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$ . . . . .
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Yes I do download [child pornography], but I don't keep it any longer than I need to, so it can yield insight as to how to find more. --MDC
$ . . . . .
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. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $

[ Parent ]

I'd watch that movie every weekend (3.00 / 4) (#19)
by CodeWright on Sat May 07, 2005 at 12:01:11 AM EST

A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Someone needs to make (none / 0) (#16)
by Resonant on Fri May 06, 2005 at 10:26:41 PM EST

the one with Tux invading the Redmond citadel. Oh, and who can resist chesty cheerleaders.

"I answer, 'This is _quantitative_ religious studies.'" - glor
[ Parent ]
Not the Texas legislature, apparently<nt> (none / 1) (#23)
by davidduncanscott on Sat May 07, 2005 at 09:36:03 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Damn Texas legislature (none / 0) (#24)
by BottleRocket on Sat May 07, 2005 at 01:17:59 PM EST

Just what do they have against chesty cheerleaders anyway?

$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $
. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . *
$ . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $
Yes I do download [child pornography], but I don't keep it any longer than I need to, so it can yield insight as to how to find more. --MDC
$ . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $
. . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . *
. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $

[ Parent ]

They've been (none / 1) (#47)
by davidduncanscott on Mon May 09, 2005 at 10:35:56 AM EST

legislating against "sexually suggestive" cheerleading.

Actually, I suppose that means that they like chesty cheerleaders a liitle too much for their own comfort level. Me, when I find myself lusting after high school girls I just remind myself that my thoughts are my own, but maybe dirty old men in Texas have a harder time restraining themselves from actually acting out their fantasies.

[ Parent ]

Darwin of the Dead (none / 0) (#36)
by yet another coward on Sun May 08, 2005 at 01:55:30 PM EST

I read "Darwin of the Dead." It could be a cool movie. Successful zombies would pass on traits to the new zombies they create, leading to zombies more fit for mayhem over time.

[ Parent ]
However, ... (none / 1) (#40)
by OpAmp on Sun May 08, 2005 at 05:39:56 PM EST

...a prequel would be soon made, explaining that the first zombie was a product of the intelligent design.

[ Parent ]
Donald Duck in Mathmagicland II (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by Lode Runner on Sat May 07, 2005 at 04:39:05 AM EST

and make it include demonstrations of sets (godel) and maybe cellular automata.

I agree (none / 1) (#22)
by Shimmer on Sat May 07, 2005 at 09:03:38 AM EST

I have DD in Mathmagicland and always enjoy the golden ratio stuff. I never really learned how to shoot pool, though.

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
Yes, because we all know... (none / 0) (#25)
by morewhine on Sat May 07, 2005 at 08:31:43 PM EST

...that more than the top 1% of 8 year old children could easily understand an explanation of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.  Riiight...

[ Parent ]
Who says these movies need to be aimed at kids? (2.75 / 4) (#26)
by Shimmer on Sat May 07, 2005 at 08:56:26 PM EST

I say we make the movies for ourselves and then share them with whoever's interested.

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
that's still a lot of kids (none / 1) (#34)
by Lode Runner on Sun May 08, 2005 at 01:18:52 PM EST

though I think your 1% figure is far too low

[ Parent ]
You're right (none / 0) (#48)
by morewhine on Mon May 09, 2005 at 03:03:04 PM EST

It's probably about one out of every 500,000-1 million children that age

[ Parent ]
Well... (2.00 / 3) (#41)
by OpAmp on Sun May 08, 2005 at 05:51:30 PM EST

I have a book here, written for older kids (say ca. 10-13 years old) dealing with math things like set theory, Hilbert's Hotel and similar stuff in a fun way.

But then, in the Eastern Bloc we used to (do we still?) throw basic set theory at 7-8 year old kids (ex: "what is the intersection of the set of red toys and and the set of the toy cars?") since 1970s (IIRC).

[ Parent ]

lol what (1.00 / 6) (#27)
by Friedrich Dionysus on Sat May 07, 2005 at 11:33:48 PM EST

What "what"? (n/t) (none / 0) (#33)
by Shimmer on Sun May 08, 2005 at 10:08:28 AM EST

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
*lol* what, that's what. /nt (none / 0) (#43)
by EMHMark3 on Sun May 08, 2005 at 10:34:52 PM EST

T H E   M A C H I N E   S T O P S
[ Parent ]

-1, contradicts prevailing crusading religion (2.77 / 9) (#28)
by Peahippo on Sun May 08, 2005 at 12:16:26 AM EST

There's NO POINT in making a movie about the orders of magnitude of the passage of time, if millions of people fervently believe that the Earth-centered universe is about 6000 years old.

Your movie is going to be about 90 minutes of atheist eggheads -- enemies! traitors! liberals! democrats! -- saying "purple monkey toaster" over and over, as far as these millions of retards are concerned. (And they vote. Be afraid. BE VERY AFRAID.)

You'd be far better off making a movie about Powers of Ten: Piles of Islamic Bodies in History if you want to capture some interest in the Empire (i.e. America). The movie could compare the piles of dead towelheads from Christian military actions over the centuries. That'll bring in some box office proceeds, and you'll be worshipped more than Mel Gibson.

People interested in a science viewpoint should go to Europe or Japan. America's intellectual days are OVER.

You give up way too easily (n/t) (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by Shimmer on Sun May 08, 2005 at 02:58:43 AM EST

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
Nay, 'tisn't "giving up" ... (2.50 / 4) (#31)
by Peahippo on Sun May 08, 2005 at 05:36:03 AM EST

... it's seeing that casting pearls before swine is not as worthwhile anymore than it is instead waiting behind the woodshed with a baseball bat for the magic moment when one of these fucking animals comes round the bend. Then it's blessed PAYBACK TIME for putting up with all the fucking squealing (which I have to listen to daily in my co-worker's constant worship of America's Tokyo Rose, Rush Limbaugh).

[ Parent ]
Sounds like you've got some repressed anger there (none / 1) (#32)
by Shimmer on Sun May 08, 2005 at 10:07:27 AM EST

Fortunately, this is still a (mostly) free country and you can do whatever you want, including: get a different job, make science-themed movies.

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
Ironically (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by OpAmp on Sun May 08, 2005 at 05:28:38 PM EST

Back when I was a kid taking religion classes, I remember in one of them the priest showing a photo of some star cluster and commenting: "Looking at that you are looking back in time 100,000 years. Now think about the glory of the Lord."

And for the record, the creationism as you know it is dead in my country as well (Actually I remember meeting one guy saying that the world is 6000 years old. And nobody was taking him seriously).

[ Parent ]

American Museum of Natural History (none / 0) (#35)
by yet another coward on Sun May 08, 2005 at 01:52:44 PM EST

Scales of the Universe a walkway at the American Museum of Natural History is a nice logorithmic exhibit in the same spirit as the Eames film. Consider visiting it if you are in New York. If you are very interested in science, though, the museum can be a disappointment because it is not always detailed enough.

Cellular Mechanics (none / 1) (#37)
by Plastic Jeebus on Sun May 08, 2005 at 04:09:56 PM EST

A movie very similar to what you have descibed has already been made. It basically illustrates the assembly of a protein by a ribosome. It can be seen this summer at Siggraph. It's showing in the animation theater.


-- The second coming was scheduled for 2000, but the mother aborted.

Evolution (none / 1) (#39)
by OpAmp on Sun May 08, 2005 at 05:35:31 PM EST

Somebody did already beat you (sort of) on the evolution movie -- check out Fatboy Slim's "Right here right now" music video. Quite cool, if maybe not entirely scientifically correct.

Don't forget the 50's and 40's (none / 1) (#42)
by paulvw on Sun May 08, 2005 at 06:41:31 PM EST

>>> (anyone born in the 1960's, say). < I feel so old. But I have to tell ya that within hours after they were introduced to the press and the world, I had memorized the names of the original 7 astronauts. My brother and I followed the space race like kids today follow the weekend movie grosses. And when humans stepped on the moon on that summer night in '69, I watched it from my grandmother's living room while my brother listened to the radio in Vietnam. So my little gripe with your very good article is that you forget the geekiest generation. We were born as late as 1950 and as early as 1947.
"Let people audit their own vote." www.voteword.org
Um (2.00 / 2) (#44)
by trhurler on Mon May 09, 2005 at 12:13:12 AM EST

Wait. One of the most important movies ever made is some 60s pop sci edutainment flick?

You must be kidding.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Yes (none / 0) (#46)
by Shimmer on Mon May 09, 2005 at 01:41:12 AM EST

It's certainly one of the most important movies I've ever seen, for the reason stated in the article.

You care to put up an argument, or are you just flapping your jaw?

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]

What makes a movie important? (none / 0) (#49)
by ghjm on Mon May 09, 2005 at 03:41:12 PM EST

Is it that it touches many lives? Is it that it can significantly alter the course of a generation's popular culture? Did it create a landmark in artistic accomplishment? Is there some sense in which a movie could be important 'in and of itself?'

Apparently you think that this movie opened the eyes of a generation of geeks to the wonder of scale, both big and small. I have to respectfully disagree: I saw this film back in the day, and while it was a solid piece of work, it was no more so than the top 10% of anything on the Discovery Channel this week. If it happened to arrive for you at a time when you were primed to receive its message, that's great for you. But it doesn't make the film particularly important.


[ Parent ]

Back in the day -- I don't think so (none / 0) (#51)
by Shimmer on Tue May 10, 2005 at 12:42:03 AM EST

How old are you, anyway?

I first saw Powers of Ten in the early 1970s. There was no Discovery Channel. There was no cable TV. There were no video recorders. The only other inspiring scientific visuals that I can think of from that time were rocket launches and grainy pictures of astronauts walking on the moon.

AFAIK, Powers of Ten was the first movie to present abstract scientific information in a visually powerful way. It took the director more than a decade to make. In my opinion, it was as innovative in its time as, say, Wizard of Oz.

The frigging Discovery Channel owes its very existence to movies like Powers of Ten.

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]

Back in the day (none / 0) (#60)
by ghjm on Tue May 24, 2005 at 10:13:07 AM EST

I am very likely older than you, given the way you describe "Powers of Ten."

The key to all this is your phrase "in a visually powerful way." This is a conceptual technique that allows you to dismiss anything that came before - after all, it was not "visually powerful." The idea that astronauts were actually walking on the no-shit moon was not "powerful" because it was "grainy."

In the ethos of the 1950s and 1960s, things were powerful because of their conceptual, or in some cases physical, reality. They did not need to be "visually" powerful, because people at that time had not been raised with television and (modern special-effects-laden) movies. I'm guessing that you are from the first TV generation, and that you can't remember a time without TV. Your sensibility has been formed through constant exposure to high production values, and you therefore discredit anything that fails to satisfy your need for what you call "visual power."

People who did not grow up with television got their stimulation in other ways. For example, fro the 1920s through to the 1960s, chemistry sets were near-universal. Mix the wrong reagents, and boom, "scientific visuals" much more "powerful" than anything you're likely to see on a movie screen. Before TV, there was the era of actually doing things.

In the late 1970s, as the first TV generation started to hit the teen years, there was a revolution in special effects. "Powers of Ten" perhaps stands alongside "The Making of Star Wars" as an icon of applying new-era special effects to documentary filmmaking. Perhaps that makes it important, but only from the perspective of a history of special effects. Looking only at its content, it was unremarkable, and not significantly different in tone from the Popular Science film reels of the 1940s.

Also, it's pretty unlikely that you saw Powers of Ten prior to 1977.


[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 0) (#61)
by Shimmer on Thu Jun 02, 2005 at 10:09:29 PM EST

For the record, I was born in 1966.

I agree with you that ideas don't "need" to be visually powerful. Concepts can and do stand on their own, even very abstract ones.

However, I don't understand how this discredits the value of powerful visuals altogether, especially in the context of movies (which is, I believe, the topic at hand). This power is a consequence of the ancient adage that "a picture is worth a thousand words".

So I don't think the impact of Powers of Ten has quite as much to do with one's birthdate as you claim, but even if you are right, it would still represent an important generational shift.

In re-reading your commments, I return to this statement: "While it was a solid piece of work, it was no more so than the top 10% of anything on the Discovery Channel this week". I find this point to be weak because it ignores the heritage of the two. It's like saying that Hitchcock's Psycho isn't important because it's no more scary than the top 10% of the horror movies playing on HBO this week.

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]

Could be (none / 0) (#50)
by davidduncanscott on Mon May 09, 2005 at 04:50:41 PM EST

But then, what makes you think that any movie has been important?

[ Parent ]
The universe in forty steps (none / 0) (#52)
by asetnil on Tue May 10, 2005 at 01:37:59 AM EST

Before the powers of ten there was the universe on forty pages, circa the late fifties. It was something that you could take your time absorbing. An even better way to teach the relative scale of things is to put the frames in sequence on two linear slides that can be used like a slide rule. Compare any two frames and the rest will have the same ratio. At a scale of ten to the seventh an atom would be as big as a pinhead, DNA a one inch rope, transfer RNA and antibodies as big as a hand, a ribosome as big as a pillow, a virus as big as a beachball, a bacteria as big as a boxcar and a hair a mile in diameter. There was a cartoon on 321 contact, a PBS show for kids that ran time at a logrithmic pace, but it is not as effective as it is for scale. Maybe a combination that zooms out as the continents drift, or maybe not. There was a comic book equivalent of "powers" with uncle Scrooge buying 'virtual reality' helmets for Donald and his three nephews. When it got down to the chicken pox viri running around as chickens I got angry, I wanted to know how big an atom would be. I think scale is important in science education, some form of representation along with a more thorough introduction to the things that exist at that scale would make for a good lesson plan.

Oh, yeah I saw that (none / 0) (#53)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Tue May 10, 2005 at 01:21:47 PM EST

It's the end sequence in Men In Black.


Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.

Done (none / 0) (#54)
by Mudlock on Tue May 10, 2005 at 03:22:34 PM EST

The "logarithmic history" one has been done, saw it in the early 90's. I think it was called "4 seconds to midnight", the premise being that if all of time were compressed to a single day, then the first homo sapiens arrived at 4 seconds to midnight. Can't seem to find any reference to it online though, so I'd appreciate someone corroborating that I'm didn't just halucinate it.
But everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around.
I think that's linear, not logarithmic (none / 0) (#55)
by Shimmer on Tue May 10, 2005 at 06:29:33 PM EST

Still sounds cool, though.

Wizard needs food badly.
[ Parent ]
There's always Sagan's (none / 0) (#58)
by rpresser on Fri May 13, 2005 at 03:28:30 PM EST

Cosmic Calendar, from the series Cosmos (and the book Dragons of Eden). It wasn't logarithmic; it may have been linear or it may not have had a very consistent scale.
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Clock = Linear. (none / 0) (#59)
by Kadin2048 on Sun May 15, 2005 at 03:26:22 PM EST

I've heard of this also, and it's definitely a linear time-scale.

In fact it depends upon being linear, in order to show the punyness of recorded human history within the frame of the history of the universe. A log scale could be used to make it seem otherwise, as if recorded history were a much more significant portion of 'all' (geologic and cosmological) history.

[ Parent ]

Megapenny (none / 0) (#56)
by hab136 on Thu May 12, 2005 at 02:42:35 PM EST


Giga-milligram (none / 0) (#57)
by asetnil on Thu May 12, 2005 at 09:45:24 PM EST

Perhaps an easier way to imagine a billion is to subdivide it into cubic millimeters, a milligram of water. A billion cubic millimeters would be a cubic meter. To grasp the size of an atom imagine the estimated number of stars in the universe, a hundred billion per galaxy times a hundred billion galaxies, 10^22, in a tenth of a cubic centimeter of water. In other words, there are about as many stars in the universe as there are atoms of hydrogen and oxygen in a drop of water.

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