Bertrand Russell: Face to Face

29 minutes

20 Hz

5 minutes

What do your dreams look like?

2 minutes

Disorientation

4 minutes

Erica: man made

14 minutes

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A fanatic against fanaticism, and other pleasures of Bertrand Russell in his own words

After 378 pages of intensely intricate logical proofs, one comes upon a triumphant sentence: ‘From this proposition it will follow, when arithmetical addition has been defined, that 1 + 1 = 2.’ The purpose of Bertrand Russell’s Principia Mathematica (1910-13), co-authored with Alfred North Whitehead, was to find a logical foundation for mathematics, what is known as the logicist programme. In pursuit of this, the book took 10 years to write and launched modern mathematical logic. For the lay reader, it is the height of esoteric philosophy: hundreds and hundreds of pages of dense logical symbolism, much of which the authors created specifically for their purposes. That is why it comes as something of a surprise to learn that Russell’s political activism earned him two bouts of jail time – one in 1918, the other in 1961. There are not many logicists so willing to get their hands dirty in the muck of the real world. But Russell was much more than a mere philosopher.

In this 1959 interview from the BBC programme Face to Face, Russell recounts episodes of his long and spectacular life. Born in 1872 to a powerful family (his grandfather was a prime minister), he involved himself in many of the most significant political issues of the next century, from the First World War to the Six-Day War, always from a liberal or Left perspective. He was a passionate pacifist (the stance that can be partially blamed for his jail sentence in 1918), an atheist, and supremely moral man whose passion for knowledge was matched only by his empathy for his fellow human. ‘It just won’t do to live in an ivory tower,’ Russell says. ‘This world is too bad, and we must notice it.’


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Magnetic and majestic: visualising the powerful storms hidden from human view

Violent plasma explosions from the Sun’s surface – known as coronal mass ejections – reverberate to the farthest reaches of our solar system. However, due to the Earth’s protective magnetosphere, most people don’t take note of these events unless a particularly powerful solar flare disrupts radio signals or produces colourful aurorae near the poles. Created as part of an art installation, this inventive, visceral short uses data collected from the University of Alberta’s CARISMA radio array to sonically and visually interpret a geomagnetic storm high in Earth’s atmosphere. Manifesting the data as a dynamic sculpture, the digital rendering captures the volatility of these usually unseen and unheard phenomena, hinting at their potentially destructive powers.

Directors: Ruth Jarman, Joe Gerhardt

Website: Semiconductor Films

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Chocolate, monsters and mothers – surreal glimpses of our most common dreams

While your dreams might feel strange or random, and unique to you (if you even remember them at all), an ongoing project by the US psychologist Kelly Bulkeley offers some insight into our most common dream experiences. Since 2009, Bulkeley has encouraged people around the world to submit the contents of their dreams to his searchable online Sleep and Dream Database, which has thus far collected accounts of some 30,000 dreams. This appropriately surreal short video imagines a composite dream as it divulges some of the fascinating insights from the database, including the food you’re most likely to encounter while sleeping (chocolate), and the person you’re most likely to come across (mother, of course).

Video by Kolja Haaf

Website: BBC Reel

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‘I want you to live forward, but see backward’: a theoretical astrophysicist’s manifesto

The theoretical astrophysicist Katie Mack at North Carolina State University is known for her work on dark matter, as well as her science-outreach efforts. In this short video essay, Mack weaves together cosmology and poetry as she details her personal mission to make her work enhance and challenge our understanding of the Universe, and by extension, ourselves. She writes: ‘I want to make you wonder what is out there; what dreams may come in waves of radiation across the breadth of an endless expanse; what we may know given time; and what splendors might never, ever reach us.’

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Uncanny! Is this humanoid robot a curiosity, or a preview of a post-human world?

The Japanese engineer Hiroshi Ishiguro has spent much of his life building robots to simulate human behaviours as closely as possible. And with Erica, a female humanoid that Ishiguro created with scientists from the universities of Kyoto University and Osaka, and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute (ATR), he believes he’s built the ‘most human-like, autonomous android in this world’. In Erica: Man Made, the Romanian director Ilinca Calugareanu profiles Ishiguro and his prized creation, which has been built and programmed to simulate a ‘beautiful’ 23-year-old woman from Kyoto – and one that, as Erica mentions, is still patiently awaiting the ability to move its arms and legs. Surreal and thought-provoking, Calugareanu’s film raises many challenging questions about our potentially post-human future: are robot servants really on the near horizon? Is any attempt to simulate humanity bound to hit an uncanny valley? And to what extent will the human attitudes, intentions and desires of engineers shape the AI landscape?

Director: Ilinca Calugareanu

Producer: Mara Adina

Website: Guardian Documentaries

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

A fanatic against fanaticism, and other pleasures of Bertrand Russell in his own words

After 378 pages of intensely intricate logical proofs, one comes upon a triumphant sentence: ‘From this proposition it will follow, when arithmetical addition has been defined, that 1 + 1 = 2.’ The purpose of Bertrand Russell’s Principia Mathematica (1910-13), co-authored with Alfred North Whitehead, was to find a logical foundation for mathematics, what is known as the logicist programme. In pursuit of this, the book took 10 years to write and launched modern mathematical logic. For the lay reader, it is the height of esoteric philosophy: hundreds and hundreds of pages of dense logical symbolism, much of which the authors created specifically for their purposes. That is why it comes as something of a surprise to learn that Russell’s political activism earned him two bouts of jail time – one in 1918, the other in 1961. There are not many logicists so willing to get their hands dirty in the muck of the real world. But Russell was much more than a mere philosopher.

In this 1959 interview from the BBC programme Face to Face, Russell recounts episodes of his long and spectacular life. Born in 1872 to a powerful family (his grandfather was a prime minister), he involved himself in many of the most significant political issues of the next century, from the First World War to the Six-Day War, always from a liberal or Left perspective. He was a passionate pacifist (the stance that can be partially blamed for his jail sentence in 1918), an atheist, and supremely moral man whose passion for knowledge was matched only by his empathy for his fellow human. ‘It just won’t do to live in an ivory tower,’ Russell says. ‘This world is too bad, and we must notice it.’


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