Brain Pickings

Why Man Creates: A Saul Bass Gem from 1968

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I love iconic graphic designer Saul Bass and have a soft spot for luminaries’ musings on the nature of creativity.

Naturally, I’m head over heels with Why Man Creates — a remarkable short documentary from 1968, animated by Bass and alluringly subtitled “a series of explorations, episodes & comments on creativity.”

Playful yet profound, the film is a series of sequences that at first appear unconnected but eventually converge into a compelling exploration of (wo)man’s most fundamental impetus to create, featuring such delightful tongue-in-cheek vehicles as this exchange between Michelangelo and da Vinci:

Whaddaya doin?” ‘I’m painting the ceiling! Whadda you doin?” “I’m painting the floor!”

For more on Bass’s design legacy, and its place in the context of other seminal design work, see the magnificent monograph Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design.

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They Were There: Errol Morris Spotlights Computer Pioneers

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We tend to think of the evolution of technology as this disembodied force that changes, for better or for worse, the way we live. But, in fact, it’s the product of individual innovators and the companies who unite them. Among the most monumental tech innovators of our time is International Business Machines, known today simply as IBM. Founded in 1911, IBM is responsible for inventions such as the first school time control system, the first electronic keypunch and the first large-scale electro-mechanical calculator. For its centennial this year, the company has released a duo of documentaries exploring its legacy and the history of seminal technologies that shaped the course of contemporary computing.

They Were There by legendary documentary director Errol Morris spotlights the pioneers who “changed the way the world works,” quite literally, with music by none other than Philip Glass.

100 X 100 chronicles a century of technological achievements, presented by 100 people, each recounting the IBM achievement recorded in the year he or she was born, moving from the oldest to the youngest — a refreshingly innovative storytelling device, layered on top of some fascinating historical trivia.

For more on the history of IBM, one of the most wide-reaching innovators of our time, we highly recommend The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM — the remarkable story of America’s first celebrity CEO told through rare, never-before-explored documents and riveting tales of optimism amidst chaos.

HT Coudal

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What Is Reality? A BBC Horizon Documentary

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What walking through walls has to do with tropical fruit and the search for the God particle.

We’re big fans of Horizon, BBC’s iconic popular science documentary series, whose claims to fame include pitting science against God and illuminating how music works. Their latest installment deals with one of the most fundamental questions of human existence: What Is Reality? — an inquiry so deep and complex it has occupied the seemingly insufficient minds of brilliant scientists and philosophers for eons.

It’s one of the simplest yet most profound questions in science: The search to understand the nature of reality. But on this quest, common sense is no guide.”

The series is available on YouTube in its entirety, and covers a number of fascinating scientific theories about the nature of reality, from theoretical physics to mathematics to quantum mechanics.

From the discovery of quarks, the fundamental building blocks of matter, to the story of the Large Hadron Collider, to the elusive Higgs boson, better-known as the God particle, the series takes an ambitious peer into the depths of intellectual inquiry and the outermost frontiers of human understanding.

Perhaps most fascinatingly, the documentary bridges concepts familiar from science fiction — parallel universes, time travel, teleportation — with areas of rigorous scientific research, brimming with concepts and discoveries so mind-bending yet grounded in present scientific investigation that they leave you questioning the very nature of everything you’ve come to know and accept as real.

For more on this enormous question, on par with our grand inquiry into what makes us human, you won’t go wrong with Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality — an elegant and eloquent read about the most important clash in theoretical physics, which shaped the course of quantum research. And of course — we’re almost embarrassed to mention this, that’s how fundamental a read it is — Stephen Hawking’s seminal A Brief History of Time should be required reading on any academic curriculum and a linchpin on every lifelong learner’s syllabus.

via MetaFilter

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