Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

28 MAY, 2012

I Am Science: Short Film Traces Unconventional Paths to Life in Science

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The road to science is paved with failed intentions.

To celebrate their second birthday, my friends at The Story Collider, the finest science storytelling show around, teamed up with American Museum of Natural History media writer and producer Mindy Weisberger to bring to life the recent #IAmScience meme — real-life stories about the unconventional, unexpected ways in which people ended up in science — in a lovely short film. Starring a wide range of science jockeys, from physicists to forensic scientists to journalists, it bespeaks the oft-overlooked truth that, much like the path of science, the path to science is a journey of discovery, of questions rather than answers, and of embracing serendipity.

Featuring:

  • Erin Barker, producer / editor, The Story Collider
  • Shelly Ben David, psychologist
  • Deborah Berebichez, physicist and science popularizer
  • Cat Bohannon, PhD student, narrative and cognition
  • Samuel Crane, PhD student, entomology
  • Matt Danzico, journalist
  • Jeanne Garbarino, biochemist
  • Meghan Groome, science educator
  • Amy Harmon, journalist
  • Smriti Keshari, documentary filmmaker
  • Lance Langstrom, geneticist
  • Ben Lillie, writer / co-founder, The Story Collider
  • Eric LoPresti, painter
  • Luis Quevedo, radio producer
  • Theanne Schiros, physicist
  • Lou Serico, forensic scientist
  • Julian Taub, science writer
  • Kelly Vaughn, science teacher
  • Mindy Weisberger, media writer / producer

You can support Story Collider with a tax-deductible donation, treat yourself to their podcast, and come to the next live show.

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17 MAY, 2012

1 + 1 = 3: Ken Burns on What Makes a Great Story

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How stories keep the wolf from the door and why math has no place in storytelling.

What makes a great story? Kurt Vonnegut had 8 rules, Jack Kerouac had 30 beliefs and techniques, evolutionary biology has some theories, and famous writers have some tips. In this short film by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason, PBS’s Ken Burns, who for the past quarter-century has been relaying history’s most fascinating stories in his unparalleled films and has even earned himself some loving parody, shares his formula for spellbinding storytelling: 1 + 1 = 3, or a story where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Beneath it all is his beautiful blend of personal truth and astute insight into the universal onuses of being human.

I don’t know why I tell stories about history… There’s a kind of classic dime-store Ken Burns wolf-at-the-door things… My mother had cancer all of my life, she died when I was 11, there wasn’t a moment from when I wasn’t aware — two-and-a-half, three — that there was something dreadfully wrong in my life. It might be that what I’m engaged in in a historical pursuit is a thin layer, perhaps thickly disguised, waking of the dead, that I try to make Abraham Lincoln and Jackie Robinson and Louis Armstrong come alive, and it may be very obvious and very close to home who I’m actually trying to wake up.

We have to keep the wolf from the door… We tell stories to continue ourselves. We all think an exception is going to be made in our case, and we’re going to live forever. And being a human is actually arriving at the understanding that that’s not going to be. Story is there to just remind us that it’s just okay.

The Atlantic

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20 APRIL, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond: BBC Untangles the Most Exponential Mystery

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‘There are infinitely many infinities, each one infinitely bigger than the last.’

From BBC’s fantastic Horizon series — which previously explored such intriguing topics as the nature of reality, the age-old tension between science and religion, how music works, the volatile history of chemistry, Richard Feynman’s legacy, quantum mechanics, and the nature of time — comes To Infinity and Beyond, which teases apart the seemingly benign idea of infinity to pull you into a world of perplexing paradoxes.

What is the biggest number? Is the universe infinite? How did the universe begin? Might every event repeat again and again and again and again… Is the Earth just one of uncountable copies, tumbling through an unending void? Your intuition is no use here. Faith alone can’t save you.

Mathematicians have discovered there are infinitely many infinities, each one infinitely bigger than the last. And if the universe goes on forever, the consequences are even more bizarre. In an infinite universe, there are infinitely many copies of the Earth and infinitely many copies of you. Older than time, bigger than the universe and stranger than fiction. This is the story of infinity.

For complementary mind-bending reading, treat yourself to physicist Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing and David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity, one of the 11 best science books of 2011.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0375869832/ref=as_li_ss_til?tag=braipick-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0375869832&adid=02YXM5MD2VFTBCC5WMM6&Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.