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A fistful of stars

6 minutes

Earthrise

30 minutes

The power of expectations

3 minutes

Primitive technology: round hut

11 minutes

Baby brother

14 minutes

Embark on an operatic, interactive journey to a witness the birth of a star

A Fistful of Stars is a 360° video: as it plays, click and drag your cursor to explore the full experience. We recommend watching fullscreen and at the 4K setting if you have a fast internet connection.

The Orion Nebula – 1,344 light-years away – is the closest site to the Earth where large stars form. Its brightness makes it visible to the naked eye. Through the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope, though, it takes on a whole different aspect as its colours and massive clouds of dust and gas come into view, offering a magnificent realm to explore in virtual reality. Guided by the musings of the Israeli-American astrophysicist Mario Livio, the US filmmaker Eliza McNitt’s A Fistful of Stars transports us from the Hubble into the nebula to witness the birth of a star. That humans are born of stardust is a well-worn refrain in modern popular science, but the message has perhaps never been delivered with such operatic flair: a technical and visual delight, the interactive film is elevated by ‘The Hubble Cantata’, a dreamy, dramatic piece from the Italian composer Paola Prestini, performed by a 30-piece ensemble, 100-person choir and an additional two singers from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.

Director: Eliza McNitt

Score: Paola Prestini

How an unplanned picture from Apollo 8 altered humanity’s perspective of Earth

‘What they should have sent was poets…’

Launched in December 1968, Apollo 8 was the first manned flight to reach the Moon, orbit it and return to Earth. The primary goal of the mission was to prepare for an eventual lunar landing, however, the flight is now best remembered for the unparalleled glimpses of Earth it provided and, in particular, the iconic photograph taken from lunar orbit that became known as ‘Earthrise’. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, this documentary from the US director Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee features interviews with the crew members Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders, who took the famed picture. While reflecting on the life-changing experience of being the first people to view the Earth from outside of its orbit in the ‘inky black void’ of space, they detail how the unplanned photograph became their mission’s most lasting legacy, and gave them a newfound appreciation of their home planet.

Director: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

Producer: Adam Loften

Websites: Earthrise, Go Project Films

Want to make a lab rat smarter? Treat it like a smarter lab rat

It’s perhaps not startling to learn that the expectations of others have a significant impact on us. Over the past century, however, scientists have been surprised to observe just how forcefully expectations can nudge the abilities of people – and rats – in one direction or another. Featuring audio excerpts from NPR’s Invisibilia podcast, this animation draws on the work of the US psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Carol Dweck to briefly delve into how expectations can raise or lower student performance, speed up or slow down soldiers, and make maze-solving lab rats smarter or dumber.

Director and Animator: Francesca Cattaneo

Website: Invisibilia

Learn to build your own rainproof hut – or, at least, marvel at the man who knows how

The popular Primitive Technology YouTube channel features an anonymous man in Far North Queensland in Australia fashioning tools and structures using only naturally occurring, found materials. In this installment, following the deterioration of his A-frame hut, he builds what he hopes will be a more durable round hut from the ground up. Starting with wood posts tied together with cane, the man makes the structure water-resistant by adding a palm roof, a drainage trench, and walls built from a combination of mud and cane. In the process, he also almost manages to make his remarkable ingenuity look easy. To learn more about the step-by-step process while watching, turn on closed captions in the video player. 

‘I thought I was gonna be a teenager forever’: moving back in with the parents at 23

In his short documentary Baby Brother, the US filmmaker Kamau Bilal offers a bit of vérité filmmaking at its most refreshing, transforming the mundanity of his younger brother’s return to their parents’ Missouri home into a funny and poignant exploration of the weirdness of young adulthood. Ismaeel is 23 and affable, if somewhat hapless, but the intimacy of his brother’s filmmaking – and presumably his affection for Ismaeel – makes the treatment of the young man’s charms, flaws and idiosyncrasies gently revelatory. His stifled ambitions and uneasiness about the trappings and responsibilities of adulthood echo a distinctly millennial malaise, at the same time as being deeply rooted in his personal experience. This heartfelt and charming short was a favourite on the 2018 film festival circuit, screening at the Sundance Film Festival, True/False and Sheffield Doc/Fest, among many others. 

Director: Kamau Bilal

Embark on an operatic, interactive journey to a witness the birth of a star

A Fistful of Stars is a 360° video: as it plays, click and drag your cursor to explore the full experience. We recommend watching fullscreen and at the 4K setting if you have a fast internet connection.

The Orion Nebula – 1,344 light-years away – is the closest site to the Earth where large stars form. Its brightness makes it visible to the naked eye. Through the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope, though, it takes on a whole different aspect as its colours and massive clouds of dust and gas come into view, offering a magnificent realm to explore in virtual reality. Guided by the musings of the Israeli-American astrophysicist Mario Livio, the US filmmaker Eliza McNitt’s A Fistful of Stars transports us from the Hubble into the nebula to witness the birth of a star. That humans are born of stardust is a well-worn refrain in modern popular science, but the message has perhaps never been delivered with such operatic flair: a technical and visual delight, the interactive film is elevated by ‘The Hubble Cantata’, a dreamy, dramatic piece from the Italian composer Paola Prestini, performed by a 30-piece ensemble, 100-person choir and an additional two singers from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.

Director: Eliza McNitt

Score: Paola Prestini

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Essay/
Technology & the Self
Who pushes the button?

From elevators to iPhones, the rise of pushbuttons has provoked a century of worries about losing the human touch

Rachel Plotnick

Essay/
Making
Material intelligence

The chasm between producers and consumers leaves many of us estranged from beauty and a vital part of an ethical life

Glenn Adamson