As a sometimes-communicator of sciencey ideas through moving pictures, I have an unabashed obsession with Charles and Ray Eames’s masterpiece Powers of Ten. (You know, the film that does a long zoom from quarks all the way out to the edge of the visible universe?) So it’s partly with delight and partly (OK, mostly) with jealousy that I offer you Micro-Macro, an animated short film that visualizes the nested scales of the physical universe using stop-motion-animated food. Why didn’t I think of that!?
The film was made by Encyclopedia Pictura, a three-dude filmmaking collective touted by Esquire magazine as “directors of the future.” They state their choice of media as “film, game design, art, architecture, and agriculture.” Perhaps that means they also grew their own ingredients for Micro-Macro, which visualizes “strings” (as in string theory) as spaghetti, atoms as brussels sprouts, and the multiverse as a many-layered red onion.
What makes Micro-Macro so great as a piece of pop-science communication is its willingness to go outside the obvious in its design. The “food as everything” metaphor could get predictable fast, but pairing each visualization with a soundtrack of bizarre-but-somehow-appropriate sound effects (like dolphin squeaks for quarks, which is a stroke of genius) keeps things lively. Another highlight: illustrating “organs” (the scale between “cells” and “bodies”) with two undulating beet leaves, which look exactly like wheezing lungs. It’s beautiful, clever, anatomically correct, and kind of gross at the same time. In a word: engaging–which is the highest praise a science video can aim for. The Eameses would approve.