The problem of free will

8 minutes

Vive le tour: refuelling

3 minutes

Guaxuma

14 minutes

Collage before Cubism

4 minutes

Home (Dom)

27 minutes

If you knew everything, could you predict anything? A thought experiment

Of all the age-old questions of philosophy, the problem of free will might be most likely to result in existential angst. In this video from Wi-Phi or Wireless Philosophy, the English philosopher Richard Holton, formerly of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and now at the University of Cambridge, outlines the two problems often used to argue that free will doesn’t exist. The first says that, if the laws of physics are fixed, all our choices must be predetermined. The second holds that, with enough computing power and knowledge about how the Universe works, someone could theoretically peer into the future to see the predestined outcomes of our lives – which would also mean we’re not free. However, using a clever thought experiment, Holton demonstrates how the second conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow from the first. That is, our ‘books of life’ can never truly be foreknown, except by a thinker who exists entirely outside physics itself.

Grab bags, café raids and booze – how Tour de France cyclists refuelled in the 1960s

The 3,500-kilometre, 23-day cycling competition known as the Tour de France has long been considered one of the most prestigious and gruelling athletic events in the world. But, as this excerpt from the celebrated French director Louis Malle’s documentary Vive La Tour (1962) demonstrates, even the most intense competitions have their more comical and lighthearted moments. The entertaining clip traces the clumsy yet pivotal practicalities of grabbing meals and refreshments amid the heat of competition. First, slowing as little as possible, the cyclists nab musettes, personalised bags full of food. Later, they drop into cafés on the route, demanding refreshments – the more calories the better, even if that means some wine, champagne or beer. While the musette tradition continues today, the booze raids have been replaced by sugary energy drinks.

Director: Louis Malle

‘Maybe it’s a memory that I’ve made up’ – when grief washes over childhood memories

The Brazilian filmmaker Nara Normande grew up on the breezy, sandswept beaches of Guaxuma in northeast Brazil, in something of a hippie commune, co-established by her parents and their friends. As she recalls in her animated short Guaxuma, she enjoyed an idyllic childhood, with an extraordinary freedom to play and explore alongside her best friend Tayra. But as adolescence and adulthood brought its inevitable complexities, Nara began a new life beyond the beach, while Guaxuma and Tayra lived on in fading Polaroids and hazy memories. With its evocative stop-motion animation, including remarkable creations in sand, Normande’s poignant autobiographical short won dozens of honours on the film-festival circuit, including Best Animated Short at the 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival and Best International Short at the 2019 Palm Springs Film Festival.

Director: Nara Normande

Producers: Livia de Melo, Damien Megherbi, Justin Pechberty

Cut, paste and remix your way through this century-spanning history of collage

The term collage – the artistic technique of gluing different elements together – has its origins in the early modernist movement, especially in Cubist works by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. But before such combining of disparate source materials became a mode of the artistic avant garde, collage had eclectic manifestations through history and across cultures – as a method of decorating, a tool for enriching scientific texts, and a means for women to engage with areas of enquiry typically reserved for men. Created to accompany the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s exhibition Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage in 2019, this video traces the rich roots of the technique, from the invention of paper in China in 105 CE, to its rebirth as an elevated style of modern art in the 20th century.

When home is two sisters, a houseful of vulnerable men, and a lot of tough love

After she was widowed at age 32, Grażyna Sochacka founded the Panakeja Foundation – a social-assistance centre for homeless men on Sobieszewo Island in Gdańsk, Poland. Alongside her sister Wioletta Sienkiewicz, Sochacka has dedicated her life to caring for men living on the fringes of society, and often in need of intensive care due to alcoholism and other health problems. The Polish filmmaker Filip Jacobson’s observational short Home (Dom) traces the unending daily pressures the sisters face running the centre. These include changing bed sheets, providing medical assistance, keeping up with bills, and the ever-important business of doling out cigarettes. Imbued with a deep humanity and inflections of humour, the film explores the human need for a balance between structure, freedom and respect – as well as, from time to time, heavy doses of tough love.

Director: Filip Jacobson

Producers: Leszek Kopeć, Jerzy Rados

Website: Gdynia Film School

If you knew everything, could you predict anything? A thought experiment

Of all the age-old questions of philosophy, the problem of free will might be most likely to result in existential angst. In this video from Wi-Phi or Wireless Philosophy, the English philosopher Richard Holton, formerly of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and now at the University of Cambridge, outlines the two problems often used to argue that free will doesn’t exist. The first says that, if the laws of physics are fixed, all our choices must be predetermined. The second holds that, with enough computing power and knowledge about how the Universe works, someone could theoretically peer into the future to see the predestined outcomes of our lives – which would also mean we’re not free. However, using a clever thought experiment, Holton demonstrates how the second conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow from the first. That is, our ‘books of life’ can never truly be foreknown, except by a thinker who exists entirely outside physics itself.

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