Nikola Tesla’s Predictions for the 21st Century: The Rise of Smart Phones & Wireless, The Demise of Coffee & More (1926/35)

The fate of the visionary is to be forever outside of his or her time. Such was the life of Nikola Tesla, who dreamed the future while his opportunistic rival Thomas Edison seized the moment. Even now the name Tesla conjures seemingly wildly impractical ventures, too advanced, too expensive, or far too elegant in design for mass production and consumption. No one better than David Bowie, the pop artist of possibility, could embody Tesla’s air of magisterial high seriousness on the screen. And few were better suited than Tesla himself, perhaps, to extrapolate from his time to ours and see the technological future clearly.

Of course, this image of Tesla as a lone, heroic, and even somewhat tragic figure who fell victim to Edison’s designs is a bit of a romantic exaggeration. As even the editor of a 1935 feature interview piece in the now-defunct Liberty magazine wrote, Tesla and Edison may have been rivals in the “battle between alternating and direct current…. Otherwise the two men were merely opposites. Edison had a genius for practical inventions immediately applicable. Tesla, whose inventions were far ahead of the time, aroused antagonisms which delayed the fruition of his ideas for years.” One can in some respects see why Tesla “aroused antagonisms.” He may have been a genius, but he was not a people person, and some of his views, though maybe characteristic of the times, are downright unsettling.

libertymagazine9february1935page5

In the lengthy Liberty essay, “as told to George Sylvester Viereck” (a poet and Nazi sympathizer who also interviewed Hitler), Tesla himself makes the pronouncement, “It seems that I have always been ahead of my time.” He then goes on to enumerate some of the ways he has been proven right, and confidently lists the characteristics of the future as he sees it. No one likes a know-it-all, but Tesla refused to compromise or ingratiate himself, though he suffered for it professionally. And he was, in many cases, right. Many of his 1935 predictions in Liberty are still too far off to measure, and some of them will seem outlandish, or criminal, to us today. But some still seem plausible, and a few advisable if we are to make it another 100 years as a species. Tesla’s predictions include the following, which he introduces with the disclaimer that “forecasting is perilous. No man can look very far into the future.”

  • “Buddhism and Christianity… will be the religion of the human race in the twenty-first century.”
  • “The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established.” Tesla went on to comment, “no one who is not a desirable parent should be permitted to produce progeny. A century from now it will no more occur to a normal person to mate with a person eugenically unfit than to marry a habitual criminal.”
  • “Hygiene, physical culture will be recognized branches of education and government. The Secretary of Hygiene or Physical Culture will be far more important in the cabinet of the President of the United States who holds office in the year 2025 than the Secretary of War.” Along with personal hygiene, Tesla included “pollution” as a social ill in need of regulation.
  • “I am convinced that within a century coffee, tea, and tobacco will be no longer in vogue. Alcohol, however, will still be used. It is not a stimulant but a veritable elixir of life.”
  • “There will be enough wheat and wheat products to feed the entire world, including the teeming millions of China and India.” (Tesla did not foresee the anti-gluten mania of the 21st century.)
  • “Long before the next century dawns, systematic reforestation and the scientific management of natural resources will have made an end of all devastating droughts, forest fires, and floods. The universal utilization of water power and its long-distance transmission will supply every household with cheap power.” Along with this optimistic prediction, Tesla foresaw that “the struggle for existence being lessened, there should be development along ideal rather than material lines.”

Tesla goes on to predict the elimination of war, “by making every nation, weak or strong, able to defend itself,” after which war chests would be diverted to funding education and research. He then describes—in rather fantastical-sounding terms—an apparatus that “projects particles” and transmits energy, enabling not only a revolution in defense technology, but “undreamed of results in television.” Tesla diagnoses his time as one in which “we suffer from the derangement of our civilization because we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age.” The solution, he asserts—along with most futurists, then and now—“does not lie in destroying but in mastering the machine.” As an example of such mastery, Tesla describes the future of “automatons” taking over human labor and the creation of “a thinking machine.”

Matt Novak at the Smithsonian has analyzed many of Tesla’s claims, interpreting his predictions about “hygiene and physical culture” as a foreshadowing of the EPA and discussing Tesla’s work in robotics (“Today,” Tesla proclaimed, “the robot is an accepted fact”). The Liberty article was not the first time Tesla had made large-scale, public predictions about the century to come and beyond. In 1926, Tesla gave an interview to Collier’s magazine in which he more or less accurately foresaw smartphones and wireless telephony and computing:

When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is…. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket. 

Telsa also made some odd predictions about fuel-less passenger flying machines “free from any limitations of the present airplanes and dirigibles” and spouted more of the scary stuff about eugenics that had come to obsess him late in life. Additionally, Tesla saw changing gender relations as the precursor of a coming matriarchy. This was not a development he characterized in positive terms. For Tesla, feminism would “end in a new sex order, with the female as superior.” (As Novak notes, Tesla’s misgivings about feminism have made him a hero to the so-called “men’s rights” movement.) While he fully granted that women could and would match and surpass men in every field, he warned that “the acquisition of new fields of endeavor by women, their gradual usurpation of leadership, will dull and finally dissipate feminine sensibilities, will choke the maternal instinct, so that marriage and motherhood may become abhorrent and human civilization draw closer and closer to the perfect civilization of the bee.”

It seems to me that a “bee civilization” would appeal to a eugenicist, except, I suppose, Tesla feared becoming a drone. Although he saw the development as inevitable, he still sounds to me like any number of current politicians who argue that society should continue to suppress and discriminate against women for their own good and the good of “civilization.” Tesla may be an outsider hero for geek culture everywhere, but his social attitudes give me the creeps. While I’ve personally always liked the vision of a world in which robots do most the work and we spend most of our money on education, when it comes to the elimination of war, I’m less sanguine about particle rays and more sympathetic to the words of Ivor Cutler.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

via Smithsonian/Paleofuture

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Space Sex is Serious Business: A Hilarious Short Animation Addresses Serious Questions About Human Reproduction in Space

Back in the late 80s, there was a rumor floating around that Earth Girls Are Easy.

40 some years of scientific and social advancement have shifted the conversational focus.

We’re just now beginning to understand that Space Sex is Serious Business.

Particularly if SpaceX CEO Elon Musk achieves his goal of establishing a permanent human presence on Mars.

Surely at some point in their long travels to and residence on Mars, those pioneers would get down to business in much the same way that rats, fruit flies, parasitic wasps, and Japanese rice fish have while under observation on prior space expeditions.


Meanwhile, we’re seriously lacking in human data.

A pair of human astronauts, Jan Davis and Mark Lee, made history in 1992 as the first married couple to enter space together, but NASA insisted their relations remained strictly professional for the duration, and that a shuttle’s crew compartment is too small for the sort of antics a nasty-minded public kept asking about.

In an interview with Mens Health, Colonel Mike Mullane, a veteran of three space missions, confirmed that a spacecraft’s layout doesn’t favor romance:

The only privacy would have been in the air lock, but everybody would know what you were doing. You’re not out there doing a spacewalk. There’s no reason to be in there.

Shortly after Davis and Lee returned to earth, NASA formalized an unspoken rule prohibiting husbands and wives from venturing into space together. It did little to squelch public interest in space sex.

One wonders if NASA’s rule has been rewritten in accordance with the times. Air lock aside, might same sex couples remain free to swing what hetero-normative marrieds (arguably) cannot?

This is but one of hundreds of space sex questions begging further consideration.

Some of the most serious are raised in Tom McCarten’s witty collage animation for FiveThirtyEight, above.

Namely how damaging will cosmic radiation and microgravity prove to human reproduction? As more humans toy with the possibility of leaving Earth, this question feels less and less hypothetical.

Maggie KoerthBaker, who researched and narrates the animated short, notes that Musk portrayed the risks of radiation as minor during a presentation at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, and breathed not a peep as to the effects of microgravity.

Yet scientific studies of non-human space travelers document a host of reproductive issues including lowered libido, atypical hormone levels, ovulatory dysfunction, miscarriages, and fetal mutations.

On its webpage, NASA provides some information about the Reproduction, Development, and Sex Differences Laboratory of its Space Biosciences Research Branch, but remains mum on topics of pressing concern to, say, students in a typical middle school sex ed class.

Like achieving and maintaining erections in microgravity.

In Physiology News Magazine, Dr. Adam Watkins, associate professor of Reproductive and Developmental Physiology at the University of Nottingham, suggests that internal and external atmospheric changes would make such things, pardon the pun, hard:

Firstly, just staying in close contact with each other under zero gravity is hard. Secondly, as astronauts experience lower blood pressure while in space, maintaining erections and arousal are more problematic than here on Earth. 

The exceptionally forthright Col Mullane has some contradictory first hand experience that should come as a relief to all humankind:

A couple of times, I would wake up from sleep periods and I had a boner that I could have drilled through kryptonite.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch a Human White Blood Cell Chase Bacteria Through a Field of Red Blood Cells

Watch above a classic movie made by David Rogers at Vanderbilt University in the 1950s. It shows “a neutrophil (a type of white blood cell) chasing a bacterium through a field of red blood cells in a blood smear. After pursuing the bacterium around several red blood cells, the neutrophil finally catches up to and engulfs its prey. In the human body, these cells are an important first line of defense against bacterial infection. The speed of rapid movements such as cell crawling can be most easily measured by the method of direct observation.” This comforting video comes courtesy of the estate of David Rogers, Vanderbilt University.

If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

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New Study Finds That Humans Are 33,000 Years Older Than We Thought

photo by Céline Vidal

“Where’re you from?” one character asks another on the Firesign Theatre’s classic 1969 album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All. “Nairobi, ma’am,” the other replies. “Isn’t everybody?” Like most of the countless multi-layered gags on their albums, this one makes a cultural reference, presumably to the discoveries made by famed paleoanthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey over the previous 20 years. Their discovery of fossils in Kenya and elsewhere did much to advance the thesis that humankind evolved in Africa, and that the process was happening more than 1.75 million years before.

Like all scientific breakthroughs, the Leakeys’ work only prompted more questions — or rather, created more opportunities for refining and adding detail to the relevant body of knowledge. Subsequent digs all over Africa have produced further evidence of how far our species and its predecessors go back, and where exactly the evolutionary progress happened.


Just this month, Nature published a new paper on the “age of the oldest known Homo sapiens from eastern Africa.” These new findings about known fossils, originally discovered in southwestern Ethiopia in 1967, suggest that the time has come for another revision of the long pre-history of humanity.

photo by Céline Vidal

The paper’s authors, writes Reuters’ Will Dunham, “used the geochemical fingerprints of a thick layer of ash found above the sediments containing the fossils to ascertain that it resulted from an eruption that spewed volcanic fallout over a wide swathe of Ethiopia roughly 233,000 years ago.” These fossils “include a rather complete cranial vault and lower jaw, some vertebrae and parts of the arms and legs.” After their initial discovery by the late Richard Leakey, son of Louis and Mary (and a man genuinely from Nairobi, born and raised), the fossils buried by this prehistoric Vesuvius were previously believed to be “no more than about 200,000 years old.”

Dunham quotes the paper‘s lead author, University of Cambridge volcanologist Celine Vidal, as saying this discovery aligns with “the most recent scientific models of human evolution placing the emergence of Homo sapiens sometime between 350,000 to 200,000 years ago.” Though Vidal and her team’s analysis of the ash’s geochemical composition has determined the minimum age of Omo I, as these fossils are known, the maximum age remains an open question. Or at least, it awaits the efforts of researchers to date the “ash layer below the sediment containing the fossils” and render a more precise estimate. And when that’s established, it will then, ideally, become material for the next big absurdist comedy troupe.

via Hyperallergic

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A New Album of Goth-Folk Songs Inspired by the Life of Marie Curie

After several years of writing and performing songs influenced by such sources as authors Edward Gorey and Raymond Chandler, filmmaker Tim Burton, and murder ballads in the American folk tradition, Ellia Bisker and Jeffrey Morris, known collectively as Charming Disaster, began casting around for a single, existing narrative that could sustain an album’s worth of original tunes.

An encounter with Lauren Redniss’s graphic novel Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout spurred them to look more deeply at the Nobel Prize-winning scientist and her pioneering discoveries.

The result is Our Lady of Radium, a nine song exploration of Curie’s life and work.

The crowdfunded album, recorded during the pandemic, is so exhaustively researched that the accompanying illustrated booklet includes a bibliography with titles ranging from David I. Harvie’s technically dense Deadly Sunshine: The History and Fatal Legacy of Radium to Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook, described by The New York Observer as “a vicious, page-turning story that reads more like Raymond Chandler than Madame Curie.”

A chapter in the The Poisoner’s Handbook introduced Bisker and Morris to the Radium Girls, young workers whose prolonged exposure to radium-based paint in early 20th-century clock factories had horrific consequences.

In La Porte v. United States Radium Corporation (1935) prosecutors detailed the conditions under which the luminous dials of inexpensive watch faces were produced:

Each girl procured a tray containing twenty-four watch dials and the material to be used to paint the numerals upon them so that they would appear luminous. The material was a powder, of about the consistency of cosmetic powder, and consisted of phosphorescent zinc sulphide mixed with radium sulphate…The powder was poured from the vial into a small porcelain crucible, about the size of a thimble. A quantity of gum arabic, as an adhesive, and a thinner of water were then added, and this was stirred with a small glass rod until a paintlike substance resulted. In the course of a working week each girl painted the dials contained on twenty-two to forty-four such trays, depending upon the speed with which she worked, and used a vial of powder for each tray. When the paint-like substance was produced a girl would employ it in painting the figures on a watch dial. There were fourteen numerals, the figure six being omitted. In the painting each girl used a very fine brush of camel’s hair containing about thirty hairs. In order to obtain the fine lines which the work required, a girl would place the bristles in her mouth, and by the action of her tongue and lips bring the bristles to a fine point. The brush was then dipped into the paint, the figures painted upon the dial until more paint was required or until the paint on the brush dried and hardened, when the brush was dipped into a small crucible of water. This water remained in the crucible without change for a day or perhaps two days. The brush would then be repointed in the mouth and dipped into the paint or even repointed in such manner after being dipped into the paint itself, in a continuous process.

The band found themselves haunted by the Radium Girls’ story:

Partly it’s that it seemed like a really good job — it was clean work, it was less physically taxing and paid better than factory or mill jobs, the working environment was nice — and the workers were all young women. They were excited about this sweet gig, and then it betrayed them, poisoning them and cutting their lives short in a horrible way. 

There were all these details we learned that we couldn’t stop thinking about. Like the fact that radium gets taken up by bone, which then starts to disintegrate because radium isn’t as hard as calcium. The Radium Girls’ jaw bones were crumbling away, because they (were instructed) to use their lips to point the brushes when painting watch faces with radium-based paint. 

The radium they absorbed was irradiating them from inside, from within their own bones. 

Radium decays into radon, and it was eventually discovered that the radium girls were exhaling radon gas. They could expose a photographic plate by breathing on it. Those images—the bones and the breath—stuck with us in particular.

Fellow musician, Omer Gal, of the “theatrical freak folk musical menagerie” Cookie Tongue, heightens the sense of dread in his chilling stop-motion animation for Our Lady of Radium’s first music video, above. There’s no question that a tragic fate awaits the crumbling, uncomprehending little worker.

Before their physical symptoms started to manifest, the Radium Girls believed what they had been told — that the radium-based paint they used on the timepieces’ faces and hands posed no threat to their well being.

Compounding the problem, the paint’s glow-in-the-dark properties proved irresistible to high-spirited teens, as the niece of Margaret “Peg” Looney — 17 when she started work at the Illinois Radium Dial Company (now a Superfund Site) — recounted to NPR:

I can remember my family talking about my aunt bringing home the little vials (of radium paint.) They would go into their bedroom with the lights off and paint their fingernails, their eyelids, their lips and then they’d laugh at each other because they glowed in the dark.

Looney died at 24, having suffered from anemia, debilitating hip pain, and the loss of teeth and bits of her jaw. Although her family harbored suspicions as to the cause of her bewildering decline, no attorney would take their case. They later learned that the Illinois Radium Dial Company had arranged for medical tests to be performed on workers, without truthfully advising them of the results.

Eventually, the mounting death toll made the connection between workers’ health and the workplace impossible to ignore. Lawsuits such as La Porte v. United States Radium Corporation led to improved industrial safety regulations and other labor reforms.

Too late, Charming Disaster notes, for the Radium Girls themselves:

(Our song) Radium Girls is dedicated to the young women who were unwittingly poisoned by their work and who were ignored and maligned in seeking justice. Their plight led to laws and safeguards that eventually became the occupational safety protections we have today. Of course that is still a battle that’s being fought, but it started with them. We wanted to pay tribute to these young women, honor their memory, and give them a voice.  

Preorder Charming Disaster’s Our Lady of Radium here.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How to Decode NASA’s Message to Aliens

When NASA spent close to a billion dollars on the Voyager program, launching a pair of probes from Cape Canaveral in 1977, its primary purpose was not to find intelligent extra-terrestrial life. The program grew out of ambitions for a “Grand Tour”: four robotic probes that would visit all the planets in the outer solar system, taking advantage of a 175-year alignment of Jupiter and Saturn. A downsized version produced Voyager 1 and 2, each craft “a miniature marvel,” writes the Attic. “Weighing less than a Volkswagen, each had 65,000 parts. Six thrusters powered by plutonium. Three gyroscopes. Assorted instruments to measure gravity, radiation, magnetic fields, and more. Design and assembly took years.”

Since reaching Jupiter in 1979, the two probes have sent back astonishing images from the great gas giants and the very edges of the solar system. “By 2030, Voyager 1 and 2 will cease communications for good,” says Cory Zapatka in the Verge Science video above, “and while they won’t be able to beam information back to Earth, they’re going to continue sailing through space at almost 60,000 kilometers per hour,” reaching interstellar unknowns their makers will never see. Voyager 1 was only supposed to last 10 years. In 2012, it left the solar system, to drift, along with its twin, “endlessly among the stars of our galaxy,” Timothy Ferris writes in The New Yorker, “unless someone or something encounters them someday.”


As deep space detritus, the probes will make excellent carriers for an interstellar message in a bottle, the Voyager team reasoned. The idea prompted the creation of the Golden Record, an LP fitted to each probe containing a message from humanity to the cosmos. “Etched in copper, plated with gold, and sealed in aluminum cases, the records are expected to remain intelligible for more than a billion years, making them the longest-lasting objects ever crafted by human hands.” Produced by Ferris and overseen by Carl Sagan and a team including his future wife, Ann Druyan, the Golden Record includes the work of Mozart, Chuck Berry, folk music from around the world, the sounds of waves and whales, and one of the most universal of human sounds, laughter (likely that of Sagan himself).

The Golden Record also includes 115 images, etched into its very surface. No, they are not digital files. “There are no jpegs or tifs included on it,” says Zapatka. After all, “The Voyager’s computer systems were only 69 kilobytes large, barely enough for one image, let alone 115.” These are analog still photographs and diagrams that must be reconstructed with mathematical formulae extracted from electronic tones. The process starts with the diagrams on the record’s cover — simple icons that contain an incredible density of information. We begin with two circles joined by a line. They are hydrogen atoms, the most plentiful gas in the universe, undergoing a change that occurs spontaneously once every 10 million years.

During this rare occurrence, the hydrogen atoms emit energy at wavelengths of 21 centimeters. This measurement is used as “a constant for all the other symbols on the record.” That’s an awful lot of background knowledge required to decipher what look to the scientifically untrained eye like a pair of tiny eyes behind a pair of odd eyeglasses. But for spacefaring aliens, “how hard could that be?” says Bill Nye above in an abridged description of how to decode the Golden Record. We may never, in a billion years, know if any extra-terrestrial species ever finds the record and makes the attempt. But the Golden Record has become as much an object of fascination for humans as it is a greeting from Earth to the galaxy. Learn more from NASA here about the images encoded on the Golden Record and order your own reproduction (on LP or CD) here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How to Ride a Pterosaur, According to Science

From the BBC: “During the Late Cretaceous, winged prehistoric creatures called pterosaurs dominated the air. They were the first vertebrates to master flight. They were not dinosaurs but closely related. Some were tiny, but some were the biggest creatures ever to have flown. We ask a question you’ve all been wondering, could we ride one, and if so, how?” In the animation above, science producer Pierangelo Pirak explores some ideas Dr. Liz Martin-Silverstone, a palaeontologist with a keen interest in biomechanics. She runs the Palaeobiology Laboratories, including the XTM Imaging Facility for microCT scanning and imaging analysis, at the University of Bristol.

If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

via TheKidsShouldSeeThis

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Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten Updated to Reflect Our Modern Understanding of the Universe

We’ve experienced some mindblowing technological advances in the years following designers Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 film Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero.

Cryptocurrency

Segways

E-cigarettes

And y’know, all sorts of innovative strides in the fields of medicinecommunications, and environmental sustainability.

In the above video for the BBC, particle physicist Brian Cox pays tribute to the Eames’ celebrated eight-and-a-half-minute documentary short, and uses the discoveries of the last four-and-a-half decades to kick the can a bit further down the road.


The original film helped ordinary viewers get a handle on the universe’s outer edges by telescoping up and out from a one-meter view of a picnic blanket in a Chicago park at the rate of one power of ten every 10 seconds.

Start with something everybody can understand, right?

At 100 (102) meters — slightly less than the total length of an American football field, the picnickers become part of the urban landscape, sharing their space with cars, boats at anchor in Lake Michigan, and a shocking dearth of fellow picnickers.

One more power of 10 and the picknickers disappear from view, eclipsed by Soldier Field, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and other longstanding downtown Chicago institutions.

At 1024 meters — 100 million light years away from the starting picnic blanket, the Eames butted up against the limits of the observable universe, at least as far as 1977 was concerned.

They reversed direction, hurtling back down to earth by one power of ten every two seconds. Without pausing for so much as handful of fruit or a slice of pie, they dove beneath the skin of a dozing picnicker’s hand, continuing their journey on a cellular, then sub-atomic level, ending inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell.

It still manages to put the mind in a whirl.

Sit tight, though, because, as Professor Cox points out, “Over 40 years later, we can show a bit more.”

2021 relocates the picnic blanket to a picturesque beach in Sicily, and forgoes the trip inside the human body in favor of Deep Space, though the method of travel remains the same — exponential, by powers of ten.

1013 meters finds us heading into interstellar space, on the heels of Voyagers 1 and 2, the twin spacecrafts launched the same year as the Eames’ Powers of Ten — 1977.

Having achieved their initial objective, the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn, these spacecrafts’ mission was expanded to Uranus, Neptune, and now, the outermost edge of the Sun’s domain. The data they, and other exploratory crafts, have sent back allow Cox and others in the  scientific community to take us beyond the Eames’ outermost limits:

At 1026 meters, we switch our view to microwave. We can now see the current limit of our vision. This light forms a wall all around us. The light and dark patches show differences in temperature by fractions of a degree, revealing where matter was beginning to clump together to form the first galaxies shortly after the Big Bang. This light is known as the cosmic microwave background radiation. 

1027 meters…1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Beyond this point, the nature of the Universe is truly uncharted and debated. This light was emitted around 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Before this time, the Universe was so hot that it was not transparent to light. Is there simply more universe out there, yet to be revealed? Or is this region still expanding, generating more universe, or even other universes with different physical properties to our own? How will our understanding of the Universe have changed by 2077? How many more powers of ten are out there?

According to NASA, the Voyager crafts have sufficient power and fuel to keep their “current suite of science instruments on” for another four years, at least. By then, Voyager 1 will be about 13.8 billion miles, and Voyager 2 some 11.4 billion miles from the Sun:

In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will drift within 1.6 light-years (9.3 trillion miles) of AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis which is heading toward the constellation Ophiuchus. In about 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will pass 1.7 light-years (9.7 trillion miles) from the star Ross 248 and in about 296,000 years, it will pass 4.3 light-years (25 trillion miles) from Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. The Voyagers are destined—perhaps eternally—to wander the Milky Way.

If this dizzying information makes you yearn for 1987’s simple pleasures, this Wayback Machine link includes a fun interactive for the original Powers of Ten. Click the “show text” option on an exponential slider tool to consider the scale of each stop in historic and tangible context.

via Aeon

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Watch Powers of Ten and Let Designers Charles & Ray Eames Take You on a Brilliant Tour of the Universe

Watch Oscar-Nominated Documentary Universe, the Film that Inspired the Visual Effects of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Gave the HAL 9000 Computer Its Voice (1960)

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.