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The foot is a most easily accessible tool and it had a lengthy history as a means of measuring before the introduction of national and international standards. So how were earlier standards created? In this short video from 1981, the British physicist Reginald Victor Jones demonstrates a clever methodology for finding the length of an average foot illustrated in a 16th-century German geometry book. The video is excerpted from Jones’s 1981 Royal Institution Christmas Lecture series ‘From Magna Carta to Microchip’, a marvellously dated and humorously English account of the history and principles of measurement.
Website: The Royal Institution
Water, salt and music form a mesmerising visualisation of sound waves
Film and visual culture
A Palme d’Or-winning animation toys with the way our eyes perceive light
Witness the majesty of moths taking flight at 6,000 frames per second
Jocelyn Bell discovered pulsars. The Nobel Prize went to her supervisor
Animals and humans
A bluesy ballad tells the story of Old Bet, the first circus elephant in the US
In this 1975 lecture, the maglev train’s inventor deconstructs his ingenious design
Meaning and the good life
To know or not to know? Lillian weighs the costs of a life-changing genetic test
Information and communication
There are many ways to make a flat map of the world – each of them a unique distortion
Liquid experiments show how beautiful things can happen when chemicals meet