A SCALE MODEL OF THE HIS­TORY OF TIME

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Products - By Kevin DUPZYK

YOU’VE PROB­A­BLY seen a few scale mod­els be­fore – toy trucks, bat­tle­field dio­ra­mas, Eli­jah Wood – but you’ve prob­a­bly never seen them at the scale that film­mak­ers Wylie Over­street and Alex Gorosh work in. Their first project, To Scale: The So­lar Sys­tem, spanned 11.2 kilo­me­tres in a dry lake bed in the Ne­vada desert in 2015. It ac­cu­rately re­pro­duced the Sun and its sur­round­ing plan­ets if Earth were the size of a mar­ble. The 225 mil­lion km be­tween Earth and Mars be­came 92 m be­tween a small blue mar­ble and a red one about two-thirds the size. The 4.5 bil­lion km be­tween the sun and Nep­tune be­came 5.6 km. Then they strapped lights to their ve­hi­cles, drove the scaled or­bits, and cap­tured the whole thing on time-lapse video. For their lat­est project, To Scale: Time, Over­street and Gorosh de­cided to build a scale model of time. Yes, all 13.8 bil­lion years of it.

The chal­lenge of vi­su­al­is­ing things such as light-years and eons, which our brains strug­gle to com­pre­hend, is that they weren’t re­ally meant to ex­ist on Earth. Over­street and Gorosh wanted the length of a hu­man life to be rep­re­sented as more than merely a mi­cro­scopic speck on their time­line. In or­der for a life­time to be the thick­ness of just one sheet of pa­per, how­ever, the time­line would have to be eight miles long – which is far­ther than the drone they were film­ing with could f ly on one charge. They cut that dis­tance in half by down­siz­ing a life­span to the width of a sin­gle hair.

And so, Over­street found him­self walk­ing his trusty click wheel through 6.4 km of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia desert. Ev­ery 10 me­tres, pre­cisely, he stopped and planted a stake: a tick mark of 20 mil­lion years.

To make the time­line vis­i­ble from above, they planned to top all those stakes with LED lights. That caused a new prob­lem: They had only a brief win­dow of time around sun­set to film, when there was enough light to show off the land­scape but not enough to over­power the LEDS. Since the teeny bat­ter­ies wouldn’t last long enough to turn ev­ery­thing on be­fore film­ing, Over­street and Gorosh set up a slow­mov­ing as­sem­bly line. Four peo­ple in an SUV made and lit lights as the truck inched for­ward, while run­ners went back and forth af­fix­ing them to the rel­e­vant stakes.

Af­ter wait­ing as long as he could, Gorosh launched the drone. From start to fin­ish, the Big Bang to to­day, took twelve min­utes to film – not a sec­ond longer than the light team needed. In the fi­nal shot, where the drone shoots straight up in the air to cap­ture all 13.8 bil­lion years of our uni­verse’s his­tory in one frame, you’ll see one thing that isn’t ac­cord­ing to scale: an SUV sur­rounded by tiny, cheer­ing, hu­man-shaped dots.

'Our per­cep­tion of time is neb­u­lous and weird. Time flies. Time drags. So we wanted to use phys­i­cal space to ex­press it. It's a con­text that's very tan­gi­ble.'

Ev­ery 10 me­tres, a stake was planted, sig­ni­fy­ing 20 mil­lion years. Three LED bulbs at the top of each helped the stakes show up in the drone footage.

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