Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

23 DECEMBER, 2011

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossoms

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“If you give up, it’s all over.”

A piece of existential poetry for your weekend: Japan’s most beloved flower began blooming a month after the devastating disaster.

Even when the flower falls, we love it. That’s the heart of the Japanese person. Flowers dying is not a sad thing.”

(What a lyrical way to capture the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which has no direct translation in English but connotes a way of living that finds beauty in imperfection and accepts the natural cycle of growth and decay.)

From award-winning British director Lucy Walker of Waste Land fame.

via Doobybrain

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15 DECEMBER, 2011

Sir David Attenborough Narrates Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” to Glorious Glimpses of Nature

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“The colors of a rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by…”

For nearly half a century, Sir David Attenborough has captivated the world as one of our era’s most prominent natural history storytellers. Best known for his Life and Planet Earth series for the BBC, a kind of gold standard for nature documentaries, he is now back with Frozen Planet. The teaser for it bound to put a smile on your day — an adaptation of Louis Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World”, read by Attenborough to scenes of nature at its most breathtaking. Take a breath, and enjoy.

Here is the trailer for Frozen Planet, breathtaking in its own right:

via Open Culture

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14 DECEMBER, 2011

No Ordinary Genius: BBC Captures Richard Feynman’s Legacy

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Explaining the scientific process with chess, or why childlike wonder is key to getting unstuck in science.

As physicists write another inconclusive chapter in the epic hunt for the “God particle” this week, it’s time to revisit one of the scientists whose work shaped modern physics. Richard Feynman, known as the “Great Explainer,” is one of my big intellectual heroes and a Brain Pickings frequenter — from his timeless insights on beauty, honors, and curiosity to his wonderful recent graphic novel biography, among the best science books of 2011 and a fine addition to our favorite masterpieces of graphic nonfiction.

In 1993, five years after Feynman’s death, BBC set out to capture his spirit and his scientific legacy in a fantastic documentary titled Richard Feynman: No Ordinary Genius, part of their excellent Horizon program, which has also brought us such fascinations as the nature of reality, the age-old tension between science and religion, how music works, and what time really is. The film was subsequently adapted into the book No Ordinary Genius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman, and the documentary is now available on YouTube in its entirety — enjoy.

When Feynman faces a problem, he’s unusually good at going back to being like a child, ignoring what everyone else thinks… He was so unstuck — if something didn’t work, he’d look at it another way.” ~ Marvin Minsky, MIT

At around minute 39, Feynman gives a fantastic analogy-turned-explanation that captures what’s essentially the heart of the scientific process:

In the case of the chess game, the rules become more complicated as you go along, but in the physics, when you discover new things, it looks more simple. It appears, on the whole, to be more complicated because we learn about a greater experience — that is, we learn about more particles and new things — and so the laws look more complicated again. But if you realize all the time, what’s kind of wonderful is as we expand our experience into wilder and wilder regions of experience, every once in a while we have these integrations in which everything is pulled together in a unification, which turns out to be simpler than it looked before.”

Tender and intelligent, the film reveals some of Feynman’s defining qualities: his intense cross-disciplinary curiosity and determination (he taught himself to be a skillful artist, studying drawing like he studied science); his thoughtful, caring character (the anecdote Joan, Feynman’s younger sister, recounts at about 9:04 is just about the most poetic expression of nerd-affection I’ve ever encountered); and, perhaps above all, the remarkable blend of humility and genius that made him able to see error and wrongness as an essential piece of intellectual inquiry and truth itself.

HT @matthiasrascher

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Donating = Loving

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