My power(s)
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Video: Monty Python's Powers of Ten


You can create:

  • A collage or a slide show with your own sequence of powers
  • A representation of your place in the Universe

How?

Two stunningly beautiful and profound representations of powers of ten in our universe were created by IBM (a video) and Nikon (Universcale, an interactive site). But they aren't about your family, your house, and your town! Also, ten is such a large number. Very few adults can accurately estimate 10, 100, 1000 steps, let alone higher powers of ten.

For this activity, use smaller powers. Two is perfect, because even babies can double, visually. Trace something of yours on paper, probably your hand, and cut it out. This is your starting point, your unit, your 1. Using the cutout, find objects about that unit size, photograph them or draw pictures. Now double the size - this is your 2 - and find objects that big. Keep doubling sizes (4, 8, 16 and so on) and finding objects. If they are movable (toys, chairs, persons), consider arranging them into a neat powers collection. If not, use photographs and pictures.

Here is an example of representing such a collection with pictures - a comic strip from xkcd.com.

Why?
Because working with powers is the most powerful way to get a grip on the relationships between sizes of things in our corner of the Universe.

As you go

  • Observe that working with whole powers (multiplying by the same number again and again) is easier than multiplying different numbers.
  • Contemplate your place in the order of things


Higher and deeper

  • On all continents, in many cultures, people developed very different number systems, but the vast majority of them were based on powers. There is something universally human about working with powers!
  • A multitude of algebra and calculus topics deal with powers.
Created: December 13, 2008, 8:20 am, by MariaD
Last edit: December 13, 2008, 8:20 am, by MariaD ( Edit, History )
Co-author: MariaD