A fistful of stars

6 minutes

Mars habitat

5 minutes

Hoplites! Greeks at war

8 minutes

Street photography, 1838-2019: a photo for every year

20 minutes

Are you sure? Truth, certainty and politics

6 minutes

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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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How 3D-printing robots will get Mars home-ready for our arrival

NASA has tentative plans for a manned mission to Mars sometime in the 2030s. Between now and then, there’s still much that needs to be sorted. To start, massive dust storms, high levels of radiation, low temperatures and a lack of water make the Martian surface an unfriendly place for long-term visits. Taming it for human life will likely prove one of the most demanding and complex engineering puzzles in human history. With those extraordinary obstacles in mind, in 2015 NASA announced the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge: an open call asking designers and architects outside the traditional aerospace industry to create plans for Martian living centred around 3D printing. One of 10 finalists announced in 2019, this plan from the design practices HASSELL and Eckersley O’Callaghan envisions teams of 3D-printing robots building a protective shield on the Martian surface several months in advance of a human landing. Upon arrival, astronauts would then work alongside the autonomous robots to piece together an inflatable, modular habitat.

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Frozen for millennia, an ancient Greek soldier is freed to charge into battle once again

The artifacts that underlie so much of our understanding of the ancient world can often feel like brittle remnants of a dim and dusty past that’s hard to access without context and extensive knowledge. But sometimes just a little kineticism can transform a bit of pottery into a living story. Such is the effect of this animation produced for an exhibition at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at the University of Reading in the UK, which breathes life into war scenes from a vase found on the island of Euboea and thought to date to roughly 550 BCE. The story follows a spear-wielding hoplite (citizen-soldier in the infantry) as he moves through several stages of the wartime experience. After witnessing a ceremonial animal sacrifice performed by a priest, he departs for battle alongside his fellow soldiers, fights the enemy and creates a trophy from their discarded equipment to mark his side’s victory. Learn more about the video at the Panoply Vase Animation Project website.

Art director: Sonya Nevin

Animator: Steve K Simons

Website: Panoply Vase Animation Project

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Historic street view: an image for each of the 181 years since the dawn of photography

Just a decade after the first surviving photograph was taken, photography became widespread enough that, today, the Canadian film archivist and YouTuber Guy Jones could assemble this parade of streets worldwide – one photograph for each year from 1838 to 2019. The resulting montage offers a scattershot urban history of modernity, chronicling seismic shifts in transportation methods and fashions, as well as the more subtle evolutions of storefront signage and roadway surfaces. The video also provides a meaningful window into the history of the medium itself. At the dawn of photography, the black-and-white images are deliberately framed, with the camera often drawing the attention of its subjects. In recent photos, as the camera has become more ubiquitous, it’s often less artfully employed, and its presence goes mostly unnoticed by the people whose lives it freezes in discrete moments. 

Editor: Guy Jones

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What wrapping a rope around the Earth reveals about the limits of human intuition

If you tied a rope tight around the Earth’s equator and then added a single yard of slack, would the extra material make any noticeable difference to someone standing on the ground? Yes, actually. The answer comes as a surprise to most people, but the additional bit of rope raises it high enough off the ground for our eyes to easily discern it, and our feet to easily trip over. That fact might seem trivial, but the early 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein believed that this chasm between human intuition and physical reality revealed something important about the fallibility of our thinking. After all, if something that seems obvious to almost everyone can be totally false, what else might we be wrong about? This video from the Center for Public Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz breaks down the mathematics behind Wittgenstein’s knotty example, and asks whether it should make us all feel a bit less certain about even our most deeply held beliefs.

Producers: Gregor Clark, Jon Ellis

Animator: Adam Ansorge

Aeon for Friends

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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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