Poetry of perception: Song of Myself

3 minutes

A brief history of melancholy

5 minutes

The Sutton Hoo helmet

19 minutes

Gut hack

12 minutes

Sabine Hossenfelder: searching for beauty in mathematics

9 minutes

‘Now I will do nothing but listen’ – Walt Whitman on how sound shapes the self

I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,
Ah this indeed is music – this suits me.

‘Song of Myself’ was first published as an untitled selection in Walt Whitman’s landmark poetry collection Leaves of Grass (1855), and was revised by Whitman until his death in 1892. The 52-section free-verse work is a vivid and sprawling exploration of selfhood narrated by an observer, who at times seems to transcend the constraints of the human mind. Part of a poetry series created for a Harvard University online neuroscience course, this video features words from the 26th section of ‘Song of Myself’ – a meditation on the ceaseless stream of sounds, mundane and sublime, that the narrator experiences. The video skilfully conjures Whitman’s prose, with a fluid, dreamlike animation style that captures the vivid sensuousness of his words, combined with Civil War imagery that alludes to the context in which they were written.

Animator: Daniela Sherer

Producer: Nadja Oertelt

From imbalanced humours to brain chemistry – on the evolution of melancholy

The Ancient Greeks blamed sadness on bodily humours called ‘melaina kole’ (black bile). Today, clinical depression is often understood as an imbalance of brain chemicals – although this is a paradigm that many experts believe is overdue for an update. This animation from TED-Ed offers a brief examination of the history of melancholy, scoping how philosophers, poets, writers and scientists have envisioned and altered our understanding of the experience across the ages.

Video by TED-Ed

Director: Sharon Colman

Writer: Courtney Stephens

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

‘Now I will do nothing but listen’ – Walt Whitman on how sound shapes the self

I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,
Ah this indeed is music – this suits me.

‘Song of Myself’ was first published as an untitled selection in Walt Whitman’s landmark poetry collection Leaves of Grass (1855), and was revised by Whitman until his death in 1892. The 52-section free-verse work is a vivid and sprawling exploration of selfhood narrated by an observer, who at times seems to transcend the constraints of the human mind. Part of a poetry series created for a Harvard University online neuroscience course, this video features words from the 26th section of ‘Song of Myself’ – a meditation on the ceaseless stream of sounds, mundane and sublime, that the narrator experiences. The video skilfully conjures Whitman’s prose, with a fluid, dreamlike animation style that captures the vivid sensuousness of his words, combined with Civil War imagery that alludes to the context in which they were written.

Animator: Daniela Sherer

Producer: Nadja Oertelt

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At the Maison Blanche psychiatric hospital in Paris, 1954. Photo by Jean-Philippe Charbonnier/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

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