My previous post, A tour of the universe, waxed lyrical about The Scale of the Universe 2, an online interactive tour of the length scales of the universe which had originally been passed on to me by friend and design professional Ashley Youett. When I told him of the post I had made on my blog, he came back in a few days with a brilliant example of how science was already cool in the 1970s (and also perhaps saying something about the nature of original thought).
Powers of Ten is a video from 1977 depicting the very same concept as The Scale of the Universe 2, that is, a journey through the dizzying length scales over which our Universe is structured. The video, complete with eerie futuristic synth soundtrack, starts with a couple picnicking on a lakeside in Chicago, before zooming out to the dusty reaches of galactic clusters, and sweeping back down to the quantum world of subatomic particles.
Our understanding of the Universe has changed since 1977, but in a subtle rather than a wholesale way. A big shout out to PLUTO for example (2:50), with its "odd orbit", which is no longer classed as a planet. Things are also notiecably less certain than today when the scene rests on a single proton; when this video was made the idea of Quarks was little more than a decade old.
The video captures something of the sci-fi wonderment at science that I sense was present in the 1960s and 1970s. This really must have been a very optimistic time. Perhaps science is too much of a fact these days, or maybe we are just all too caught up in technology.
"A line extends at the true speed of light; in one second it half crosses the tilted orbit of the moon"