• 06.10.11

Reimagining The Eames “Powers of Ten” Video As A Universe of Cubes

In Cyriak Harris’s mind-blowing animation, “cubism” takes on a whole new meaning.

Reimagining The Eames “Powers of Ten” Video As A Universe of Cubes

Charles Eames is one of the rare people I can cite as a hero in all three of my careers as a science writer, design blogger, and filmmaker. His classic short film “Powers of Ten: A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and The Relative Size of the Universe” fuses all three disciplines in an animated “long zoom” that goes from a human hand all the way out to the edge of the deep space, and then all the way back in to close-ups of quarks, in one take. Cyriak Harris used the same conceit in his mesmerizing music video for the band Hooray For Earth, except in his version of the universe, everything — from galaxies and dark matter to the planet Earth and the blood cells in your brain — is made up of sharply edged cubes.


“Powers of Ten” was an educational film full of interesting facts, whereas Harris’s video is just a fun romp, but they both share Eames’s central insight about the nature of reality: Regardless of whether you zoom all the way out or all the way in, things kind of look the same at the end of the line — tiny smears of light quivering in a lot of empty space. It’s also about the quest to derive order from chaos — a theme which Harris’s cubist reinterpretation makes much more explicit. Ah, a universe made of nothing but neat edges and right angles: how orderly and beautiful! It’s almost a metaphor for design itself, which is also all about finding the right balance between order and chaos, form and function, predictability and surprise, in order to remake the world around us into something better.



Look at me, getting all heavy and stuff. When’s the last time a music video made that happen? Well played, Mr. Harris.

[Hat tip to Visual News]

About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.