Zachary HortonFeb 2, 2023
Horton's Cosmic Zoom
A Discussion with Zachary Horton
New Books Network 2023
Today Recall this Book welcomes Zachary Horton, Associate Professor of Literature and director of the Vibrant Media Lab at University of Pittsburgh; game designer, filmmaker and camera designer. Out of all these endeavors, he came to talk about his book The Cosmic Zoom Scale, Knowledge, and Mediation (University of Chicago Press, 2021)
This dizzying book begins with a bravura description of a movie we both loved as kids: The Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames. It's a view of two people enjoying a picnic zooms up and away to show their surroundings, all the way up into space then zooms back in for a close-up of the hand of the picnicker, ending top at the atomic level . The book, uses the cosmic zoom as a starting point to develop a cross-disciplinary theory of scale as mediated difference.
Zach shares his worries about scale literacy, and what happens when we diverge from the "meso-scale of the human sensorium." John approaches scale by way of Naturalism and SF in the late 19th century, both of which refuse the meso-scale aesthetic realism of their day in order to anchor it at a different scale. Elizabeth asks about temporal scales and geology's activation of human sense of humans' scalar insignificance.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Italo Calvino The Complete Cosmicomics
- The Holy Bible
- Kees Boeke, Cosmic View: the Universe in 40 Jumps
- PBS, The Bigger Picture
- Voltaire, Micromegas
- Mark Twain, 3000 Years Among the Microbes