Brain Pickings

Whale Fall: Poetic Cut-Paper Animation about the Afterlife of a Whale, Inspired by Radiolab

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75 years of existential generosity, or what the ocean floor can teach us about existence, ego and impermanence.

If you aren’t listening to WNYC’s fantastic Radiolab, you’re missing out on some of the finest science journalism and curiosity-curation of our time. (The folks at the MacArthur Foundation seem to concur, having just awarded Radiolab producer Jad Abumrad () the wildly prestigious “genius” grant.) In an homage to a fascinating recent Radiolab episode about loops, which features an almost-aside about how when a whale dies, its body can sustain an entire microcosm of an ecosystem for up to seven years in a poetic death-life loop, director-animator duo Sharon Shattuk and Flora Lichtman, better known as Sweet Fern Productions, collaborated with Radiolab’s own Lynn Levy on Whale Fall — an equally poetic and absolutely stunning paper-cutout stop-motion animation about the afterlife of a whale.

More than a mere feat of visual storytelling or a nod to nature’s meticulously orchestrated interdependences, the film is also a lyrical reflection on impermanence and our existence as nodes in something larger, richer, and more complex than our individual lives and egos.

Join me in supporting Radiolab’s wonderful work, which continues to inspire and illuminate with equal parts passion and rigor.

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