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A fistful of stars

6 minutes

Poetry of perception: ‘We Grow Accustomed to the Dark’

2 minutes

Tusalava

9 minutes

How ISPs violate the laws of mathematics

6 minutes

How hairworms highjack a cricket

5 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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‘Then – fit our Vision to the Dark’: exploring sight with Emily Dickinson

Written by Emily Dickinson during the depths of the US Civil War, the untitled poem known as ‘We Grow Accustomed to the Dark’ conjures hope and perseverance amid waves of chaos and uncertainty. In this animation, the UK filmmaker and illustrator Hannah Jacobs visualises the poem in fleeting scenes that oscillate between vibrant colour and darkness, through which human figures careen. Beginning with an epigraph drawing a parallel between artistic and scientific discovery, the video was created for an online neuroscience course at Harvard University as part of a series that explores the human sensory experience through poetry and animation.

Animator: Hannah Jacobs

Producer: Nadja Oertelt

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Life emerges, evolves and fights for supremacy in this 1929 avant-garde classic

The New Zealand-born artist Leonard Charles Huia Lye (1901-80), better known as Len Lye, is renowned for his work in kinetic sculpture and experimental film, and is widely considered one of the most innovative modernists of the 20th century. Lye’s first film, Tusalava (1929), produced over two years following a move to London, was born of the city’s emerging experimental film scene and Lye’s abiding interest in Maori, Aboriginal and Samoan art. Composed of some 7,000 hand-drawn images, the abstract animation synthesises modern and ancient art as it depicts simple life forms emerging, evolving and coming into conflict. As with the influence of African art on Pablo Picasso, Lye’s use of so-called ‘primitivism’ has been both praised for introducing non-Western perspectives to Western art, and criticised for cultural appropriation. The film was originally paired with a now-lost piano score from the UK-born composer Jack Ellitt. This version features the UK composer Eugene Goossens’s composition Rhythmic Dance (1928), which Lye later suggested as an alternative accompaniment.

Director: Len Lye

Score: Eugene Goossens

Websites: The Len Lye Foundation, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

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If simple logic isn’t working with your internet company, try Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory

This tongue-in-cheek animation from the US YouTuber Henry Reich – the mind behind MinutePhysics – is a creative exercise in how not to lose your cool when faced with the abyss of illogic. Recalling the mundane, mindnumbing tribulations of trying to get a straight answer on billing from his internet service provider (ISP), Reich concludes that the company isn’t just guilty of subpar customer service – their policies also break nearly every fundamental law of modern mathematics. Reich’s clever excoriation of telecommunication companies was created for The Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses (BAHFest), an annual ‘celebration of well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect scientific theories’.

Video by MinutePhysics

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Mind control and zombification do exist. Just look at these crickets

Warning: this video is not for the squeamish.

Mayflies make a quick and nutritious snack for crickets. But, rather unfortunately for the cricket population of California, some mayflies are home to hairworms (nematomorphs) – parasitic creatures that will stop at nothing to make their way back to water. Once consumed, hairworms feed off crickets from the inside, absorbing all of their lipids, and eventually putting the cricket in a state of developmental and reproductive limbo. Worse still, once these fast-growing parasites reach their adult length of one to two feet, they zombify their hosts, unleashing brain chemicals that make the infected crickets wander aimlessly until they hit water, where the worms make their final escape and start the whole cycle anew. By studying this process, scientists hope to learn more about how brain parasites might affect human behaviour. The ordeal is captured in microscopic detail in this episode of the often creepy, always fascinating science documentary series Deep Look. Read more about the video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Gabriela Quirós

Narrator and Writer: Lauren Sommer

Cinematographer: Josh Cassidy

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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Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Moral technology

Self-driving cars don’t drink and medical AIs are never overtired. Given our obvious flaws, what can humans still do best?

Paula Boddington

Essay/
Technology and 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