Powers of Ten illustrates the universe as an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mystery. It begins with a close-up shot of a man sleeping near the lakeside in Chicago, viewed from one meter away. The landscape steadily moves out until it reveals the edge of the known universe. Then, at a rate of 10-to-the-tenth meters per second, the film takes us towards Earth again, continuing back to the sleeping man’s hand and eventually down to the level of a carbon atom.
In 1998, Powers of Ten was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”