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From an anthropocentric point of view, big cities are one of humanity’s most majestic achievements: massive, self-contained ecosystems built by, catering to, and inhabited by huge numbers of people. But you could forgive microorganisms for claiming that cities are actually theirs. After all, they outnumber humans in urban environments by the trillions. They also affect cityscapes in a far more tangible way: city planners and epidemiologists shape urban environments with pathogenic threats in mind.
For his experimental short film The Big City, the Canadian filmmaker Evan Luchkow put the hidden lifeforms of downtown Vancouver’s main roads under the literal microscope, documenting the various microbes he found to reveal, in his words, ‘the blurry boundary between human society and the natural world’. The result is an extraordinary and enlightening glimpse of the vast biodiversity with which we share our cities.
Director: Evan Luchkow
Water, salt and music form a mesmerising visualisation of sound waves
Film and visual culture
A Palme d’Or-winning animation toys with the way our eyes perceive light
Witness the majesty of moths taking flight at 6,000 frames per second
Jocelyn Bell discovered pulsars. The Nobel Prize went to her supervisor
Animals and humans
A bluesy ballad tells the story of Old Bet, the first circus elephant in the US
In this 1975 lecture, the maglev train’s inventor deconstructs his ingenious design
Meaning and the good life
To know or not to know? Lillian weighs the costs of a life-changing genetic test
Information and communication
There are many ways to make a flat map of the world – each of them a unique distortion
Liquid experiments show how beautiful things can happen when chemicals meet