Scale: A Matter of Perspective

Coming to The Special Exhibitions Gallery, Science Center 251, Friday, March 10.

Alice in Wonderland Illustrationbruce telescopeScale: A Matter of Perspective will explore the concept of scale from multiple perspectives, including investigation of the cosmos with telescopes and microscopes, models that scale things up (e.g., molecular models, glass flowers, embryological models) and those that scale things down (e.g., celestial and terrestrial globes, or ethnographic dioramas of village life), scale in literature (such as Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland), and social scale (Just how large was that crowd on the National Mall?). 

The central focus object will be the optics of the 125-year-old Bruce photographic telescope (right), recently discovered and restored. Accompanying the Bruce lenses will be astronomical photographs on glass plates taken in Peru that were annotated by Henrietta Leavitt, a “computer” at Harvard College Observatory, and her logbooks.  Leavitt’s discovery of the period-luminosity relationship of Cepheid variable stars fundamentally altered our view of the scale of the universe.

Scale: A Matter of Perspective examines the concept of scale and its power to transform perceptions of the universe and our place in it, inviting visitors to make connections to the world in surprising new ways. 

The Powers of Ten (1977) is one of two short American documentary films written and directed by Charles and Ray Eames. It depicts the relative scale of the Universe according to an order of magnitude (or logarithmic scale) based on a factor of ten, first expanding out from the Earth until the entire universe is surveyed, then reducing inward until a single atom and its quarks are observed.