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A day in Pompeii

9 minutes

How ISPs violate the laws of mathematics

6 minutes

How hairworms highjack a cricket

5 minutes

Outside in Beijing

16 minutes

Rediscovering Ancient Greek music

16 minutes

Aeon for Friends

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From eruption to obliteration – the sights and sounds of 48 fateful hours in Pompeii

Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 CE, Pompeii was a thriving Roman port city and commercial hub near modern-day Naples, and home to an estimated 15,000 people. Closer to the mountain’s base and on the other side, the nearby town of Herculaneum, estimated population 5,000, was smaller, wealthier and a popular resort for elite Romans. After the eruption, both remained buried, their memories lost to time, until they were excavated and identified in the 18th century. In the years since, the continuing excavation of their eerily preserved buildings, artifacts and human remains have given archeologists and researchers an invaluable window into ancient Roman life.

The only firsthand account of the eruption comes from the author and lawyer Pliny the Younger. In his correspondence with the historian Tacitus, Pliny describes helplessly watching from nearby Misenum as the tragedy unfolds: 

Some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world. 

This animation, produced in 2009 for an exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, brings his harrowing words to stark and vivid life. Transporting viewers back to the morning of the eruption, the video recreates sights and sounds from that fateful day through to the following night, at which point both Pompeii and Herculaneum already lay buried deep in volcanic ash and debris.

Video by Zero One Studio

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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

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Human capital: art, exercise and industry in the streets of Beijing

As preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympics were transforming swathes of Beijing, the Portuguese filmmaker Sérgio Cruz was exploring the city’s streets and public spaces with his camera. Taking an observational approach, Cruz found a metropolis undergoing rapid development, while in pockets its distinctive traditions and pastimes continued unabated. Amid cacophonous construction and air pollution heavy on the skyline, there’s a rich and unceasing pulse of communal life – what Cruz calls ‘a 24-hour live show full of music, dance and sports’. A choir gathers to sing in an underground tunnel; a group practises synchronised tai chi under a basketball hoop in a park; couples dance in a public square at dusk. While deliberately paced, Cruz’s short film is not unlike the curious tourist who breaks away from the planned itinerary to seek out excitement and small surprises around every new corner.

Director: Sérgio Cruz

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Music was ubiquitous in Ancient Greece. Now we can hear how it actually sounded

Much of what we think of as Ancient Greek poetry, including Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, was composed to be sung, frequently with the accompaniment of musical instruments. And while the Greeks left modern classicists many indications that music was omnipresent in society – from vases decorated with lyres, to melodic notation preserved on stone – the precise character and contours of the music has long been considered irreproducible. However, the UK classicist and classical musician Armand D’Angour has spent years endeavouring to stitch the mysterious sounds of Ancient Greek music back together from large and small hints left behind. In 2017, his work culminated in a unique performance at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, intended to recreate the sounds of Greek music dating as far back as Homer’s era – roughly 700 BCE. This short documentary details the extraordinary research and musical expertise that made the concert possible, revealing remarkable sounds once thought lost to time. To learn more about what music sounded like in Ancient Greece, read D’Angour’s Aeon idea.

Via Open Culture

Director: Mike Tomlinson

Producer: Hannah Veale, James Tomalin

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From eruption to obliteration – the sights and sounds of 48 fateful hours in Pompeii

Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 CE, Pompeii was a thriving Roman port city and commercial hub near modern-day Naples, and home to an estimated 15,000 people. Closer to the mountain’s base and on the other side, the nearby town of Herculaneum, estimated population 5,000, was smaller, wealthier and a popular resort for elite Romans. After the eruption, both remained buried, their memories lost to time, until they were excavated and identified in the 18th century. In the years since, the continuing excavation of their eerily preserved buildings, artifacts and human remains have given archeologists and researchers an invaluable window into ancient Roman life.

The only firsthand account of the eruption comes from the author and lawyer Pliny the Younger. In his correspondence with the historian Tacitus, Pliny describes helplessly watching from nearby Misenum as the tragedy unfolds: 

Some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world. 

This animation, produced in 2009 for an exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, brings his harrowing words to stark and vivid life. Transporting viewers back to the morning of the eruption, the video recreates sights and sounds from that fateful day through to the following night, at which point both Pompeii and Herculaneum already lay buried deep in volcanic ash and debris.

Video by Zero One Studio

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Essay/
History
How the poor became blessed

Greco-Roman gods had no interest in the poor nor was organised charity a religious duty. How was Christianity different?

Pieter van der Horst

Essay/
Human rights and justice
A survivor speaks

Victims of sexual assault are commonly judged by the consistency of their story. But consistency is not a high road to truth

Linda Martín Alcoff