Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

04 JUNE, 2012

Is Pluto a Planet? An Animated Explanation Sets the Record Straight

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A brief history of why the word “planet” isn’t very helpful.

Since the dawn of time, mankind has sought to order the heavens, our models for the universe and the Solar System constantly evolving. The latest celestial body to ride the roller coaster of categorization is Pluto, which seems to fall in and out of planetary favor far too frequently for anyone to understand — or remember — whether or not it is indeed a planet. From the invariably edutaining C. G. P. Gray, whose fast-paced animations have previously set the record straight on everything from why the color pink doesn’t exist to the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England to several historical misconceptions, comes this short illuminator on what to make of Pluto after all:

As we increase our knowledge of the universe, the category of “planet” will probably continue to evolve or, possibly, fall out of favor entirely.

The Dish

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31 MAY, 2012

How a Virus Conquers the World, Animated

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Dynamic animated anatomy of going viral.

Viruses are everywhere — in our bodies, in the news, and, thanks to Hollywood, in some of our worst-case apocalyptic scenarios. But how, exactly, do they get around? This short, dynamic motion graphics piece for Take Part’s pandemic and disease prevention campaign, a fine addition to other excellent educational animated visualizations, shows how a virus makes its way from person to person and into a pandemic, and what we can do as individuals to help prevent these massive outbreaks.

Researchers estimate that if everybody washed their hands regularly, a million deaths could be prevented every year.

For more on the fascinating and frightening world domination scheme of viruses, see A Planet of Viruses by Carl Zimmer, whose quirky Science Ink side project you may already know and love, and who happens to be one of the best science journalists around.

Show Us Your Clips

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25 MAY, 2012

How We Measure the Universe, Animated

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How to determine the distance of stars using standard candles.

Somewhere between Fibonacci’s invention of arithmetic, which changed the world of numbers as we know it, and scientists’ ambitious visualizations of the scale of the universe lies a daunting fundamental question: How do we actually use these numbers to measure the universe? That’s precisely what the Royal Observatory Greenwich answers in this wonderful short animation, a teaser for a new exhibition titled Measuring the Universe: from the transit of Venus to the edge of the cosmos.

In a nod to this morning’s affirmation of the additive nature of scientific discovery, narrator Dr. Olivia Johnson observes:

What’s most incredible to me is how all these measurements build on each other. It’s only by knowing the scale of our Solar System — the distance between the Earth and Sun — that we’re able to measure the distances to nearby stars using parallax.

The charming animation was done by Robert Milne, Ross Phillips, and Kwok Fung Lam.

Laughing Squid

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