Keeper of our collective consciousness: I need to understand myself

2 minutes

The Sutton Hoo helmet

19 minutes

Gut hack

12 minutes

Sabine Hossenfelder: searching for beauty in mathematics

9 minutes

A small antelope horn

2 minutes

God used to know our deepest fears, darkest thoughts and greatest hopes. Now Google does

The vagaries of autocomplete are well-known, but this work by the always inventive London-based, Turkish-born visual artist Memo Akten might be the first poem co-composed with Google Search. To make Keeper of Our Collective Consciousness: I Need to Understand Myself (2014), Akten summoned Google Autocomplete suggestions by typing phrases such as ‘I want’, ‘I need’ and ‘I feel’ into the search bar, set to the pleasing thrashing of Marilyn Manson’s cover of the Depeche Mode song Personal Jesus (1990). Google’s best-guesses at what might come next, including ‘I feel like a failure’, ‘I want a hippopotamus for Christmas’ and ‘I need to update my browser’, oscillate between the bleak, the droll and the utterly mundane. Akten describes his interest in the interplay between people and these rapidly developing predictive technologies in relation to ideas of god, calling his poem ‘a collection of prayers … [to a] man-made deity. Living up in The Cloud, of all places. Watching over us, listening to our thoughts and dreams in ones and zeros.’ Read the full poem at Akten’s website.

Video by Memo Akten

The meanings and mysteries of the iconic Sutton Hoo helmet brought vividly to life

The early Anglo-Saxon artefact known as the Sutton Hoo helmet has, since its origins in the 7th century, passed through many incarnations, including: exquisite armour, long-dormant burial object, astounding archeological discovery and high-stakes puzzle. Today, the Sutton Hoo helmet – so named for the site in the English county of Suffolk at which it was discovered in 1939 – lives on as one of the British Museum’s most famous pieces. In this video, Sue Brunning, curator of the museum’s European Early Medieval Insular Collection, examines the iconic object, revealing the multitude of meanings and mysteries it holds. Through her investigation, Brunning brilliantly captures how history is an ever-fluid work in progress, being made and remade as new discoveries are brought – often quite literally – to light.

Video by the British Museum

When medicine offers no relief, a biohacker begins a radical self-experiment

In 2015, the US scientist, artist and self-described ‘biohacker’ Josiah Zayner undertook a controversial project to help resolve his lifelong gastrointestinal issues. The plan was to replace the vast colonies of microbiota on and inside his body via transplants from a healthy donor – and then document the proceedings. Although an accomplished biologist with a PhD in biophysics and two years as a NASA researcher under his belt, Zayner’s endeavour was frowned upon by much of the scientific community, with critics condemning the project for operating outside the normal boundaries of bioethics. Especially controversial was Zayner’s plan to self-administer a faecal transplant – a risky procedure usually reserved for potentially fatal conditions. In their documentary Gut Hack, the filmmakers Mario Furloni and Kate McLean follow Zayner’s fascinating, radical and not-for-the-squeamish quest for relief. In so doing, they also confront deeper issues of ethics and autonomy at the core of contemporary science.

Directors: Mario Furloni, Kate McLean

Producer: Laura Heberton

Against ‘beauty’ in science – how striving for elegance stifles progress

That there is an inherent ‘beauty’ and ‘elegance’ to the laws of nature is a view that permeates the field of physics. But, according to the German theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, the notion that the further you peer into reality, the easier the equation gets, has no basis in reality. Indeed, since the mid-20th-century, the maths of physics has become increasingly knotty, even as many physicists have continued to search for a path back to simplicity. In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the PBS series Closer to Truth, Hossenfelder makes the case that this fixation on beauty isn’t just misguided – it’s stifling scientific progress.

Video by Closer to Truth

Sitting by the fire with a nomadic tribe, a physicist ponders the many shapes of wisdom

The Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli is a pioneer in the field of quantum gravity, and often thought of as one of the world’s foremost scientific thinkers. In this brief animation by James Siewert, which features narration from the Swazi-English actor Richard E Grant, Rovelli recalls communing with members of the Hadza tribe of northern Tanzania – one of the last hunter-gatherer societies on Earth. Sitting by the fire, thoughts of the peculiar trajectory of Homo sapiens and the many shapes of human wisdom flicker in his head, as he ponders the gaps, large and small, between his world and theirs.

Video by rubberband.

Animator: James Siewert

Website: Alexander

God used to know our deepest fears, darkest thoughts and greatest hopes. Now Google does

The vagaries of autocomplete are well-known, but this work by the always inventive London-based, Turkish-born visual artist Memo Akten might be the first poem co-composed with Google Search. To make Keeper of Our Collective Consciousness: I Need to Understand Myself (2014), Akten summoned Google Autocomplete suggestions by typing phrases such as ‘I want’, ‘I need’ and ‘I feel’ into the search bar, set to the pleasing thrashing of Marilyn Manson’s cover of the Depeche Mode song Personal Jesus (1990). Google’s best-guesses at what might come next, including ‘I feel like a failure’, ‘I want a hippopotamus for Christmas’ and ‘I need to update my browser’, oscillate between the bleak, the droll and the utterly mundane. Akten describes his interest in the interplay between people and these rapidly developing predictive technologies in relation to ideas of god, calling his poem ‘a collection of prayers … [to a] man-made deity. Living up in The Cloud, of all places. Watching over us, listening to our thoughts and dreams in ones and zeros.’ Read the full poem at Akten’s website.

Video by Memo Akten

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Hexensabbat in Trier (‘witches’ sabbath’, 1593), by Pastor H H Lauen, Germany. Courtesy the Witchcraft Collection, Cornell University.

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