Monday, June 19, 2006

Long-term thinking rocks

This short Oscar-nominated animation, The Rocks (Das Rad, Germany, 02003, dir. Chris Stenner, Arvid Uibel & Heidi Wittlinger: official website; IMDB listing) recommended by my Long Now colleague Alexander Rose a few days ago, whimsically but ingeniously evokes thinking about the difference between time on a human scale, and a geological perspective.

Another perception-shifting exploration of scale, but with a spatial rather than temporal focus, is the classic film Powers of Ten (official website; interactive Java tutorial; Simpsons couch gag). I think I first saw it at an exhibition at the John Hancock Building in Chicago, in 01998. The bird's eye view of the city afforded by that impressive structure's observation deck -- or indeed any aerial view of almost anything -- has a more or less similar appeal to the systems-oriented mind. What Powers of Ten is uniquely able to do, even if it shows severe signs of age stylistically, is to take you from the microscopic to the macroscopic in a vertiginous, brilliantly simple eight minutes of film. It's also a great insight into the power of logarithmic scale.

There is tremendous beauty and endless intrigue in this, as I rediscovered after downloading Google Earth a few months ago -- couldn't stop exploring, skipping between places I've lived in and visited over the last ten years.

Explore and enjoy.

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