Transgenic spidergoats

6 minutes

The evolution of cynicism

5 minutes

Unreal city

6 minutes

Kidnapper ants

5 minutes

A concerto is a conversation

14 minutes

Spidergoats to the rescue! How to make silk from milk with genetic engineering

Silk from orb-weaving spiders is versatile and valuable. But, unfortunately for us, spiders are territorial and cannibalistic, so farming them is out. However, the US molecular biologist Randy Lewis has spun a clever solution: genetically engineering goats to deliver the silky goods. First developing the idea at the University of Wyoming before moving his herd to Utah State University, Lewis manipulated goat eggs to include a spider silk-production gene. His resulting ‘spidergoats’ look entirely normal, but produce milk that contains spider-silk protein, which can be extracted for use in countless applications, from repairing human ligaments and tendons to producing parachutes and airbags. While this short documentary from 2010 uses humour to detail the ingenious transgenic process, it also prompts questions such as: are spidergoats a mutation too far? Or is this simply the next logical step in humanity’s millennia-long history of genetic manipulation?

Directors: Sam Gaty, George Costakis

Cynicism was born when Diogenes rejected materialism and manners

Plato once described the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope as ‘a Socrates gone mad!’ It’s a good comparison. Like Socrates, Diogenes gave the bird to respectable society. He undermined status and manners in the 4th century BCE with his bottomless reserve of shamelessness and irreverence, opting to live on the streets like a stray dog. But, of course, there was a method to his madness. In this short video by TED-Ed, the Irish philosopher William D Desmond explains how Diogenes lived an authentic and ascetic life in accordance with nature, and how in doing so he founded the philosophy of cynicism – an iconoclastic tradition that continues to illuminate and infuriate today.

Video by TED-Ed

Director: Avi Ofer

Writer: William D Desmond

How an augmented reality app transformed London into an immersive art gallery

If you ever hopped on the Pokémon GO craze, you’ll have an inkling of how digital technology is increasingly capable of adding rich new slices to everyday life. The public exhibition ‘Unreal City’, which ran from 8 December 2020 to 5 January 2021 on the River Thames in London – and is, until 9 February 2021, available for at-home viewing – similarly superimposed digital layers on to reality, but with an aim to transform the city into an immersive augmented reality (AR) art gallery. An initiative from the AR app Acute Art and Dazed Media, the exhibition featured 36 digital sculptures from artists around the globe, and was arranged as a riverside walking tour at a time when indoor museums had become mostly inaccessible due to COVID-19. Featuring images of some of the sculptures and words from artists including Olafur Eliasson, Tomás Saraceno, Cao Fei and KAWS, this trailer for the ‘Unreal City’ exhibition is an exciting glimpse into the potential for AR as it continues to transform cities in strange and surprising ways.

Director: Kate Villevoye

Website: Dazed

Incredible footage captures the ants that transform other species into loyal servants

You might assume that a creature incapable of feeding itself would have a one-way ticket off the food chain and into the dustbin of extinction. But some ant species with mandibles that are ill-equipped for eating have developed a clever – if not quite mutual – means of finding sustenance and perpetuating. Known as ‘kidnapper’ or ‘slave-making’ ants, these parasitic creatures raid the nests of other ant species, capture their young and carry them to their home nest. Using scents to keep the new arrivals oblivious to the fact that they’re far from home, the kidnappers deploy their captors to tend to their young, forage for their food, and even chew and feed it to them in a process known as trophallaxis. Captured in stunning high definition by the science documentary series Deep Look, this short video tracks red kidnapper ants in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California as they raid, kidnap and brainwash the young from a nearby black ant species’ nest. You can learn more about this video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Josh Cassidy

Narrator and Writer: Lauren Sommer

A piano virtuoso traces and scores the contours of his grandfather’s inspiring life story

The award-winning pianist Kris Bowers and his grandfather Horace Bowers, Sr were born on opposite sides of the United States, and some 60 years apart. Growing up in Los Angeles, Kris aspired to be a musician and composer from a young age – and had the natural talent to match. Raised in Florida amid Jim Crow, Horace wanted, above all else, to get out of the South, hitchhiking West as a teenager, where he would later start a successful small business in California. But, as the short documentary A Concerto Is a Conversation explores, what they share – including personal struggles with race and discrimination, ambitions to rise above the circumstances of their birth, and indistinguishable spirits – transcends the years between them. Featuring intimate cinematography from the Canadian director Ben Proudfoot and a stirring score provided by Kris Bowers himself, the film tracks the musical rhythms of a conversation between loved ones, and across the generations, with grace and heart.

Directors: Ben Proudfoot, Kris Bowers

Producer: Jeremy Lambert

Website: Breakwater Studios

Spidergoats to the rescue! How to make silk from milk with genetic engineering

Silk from orb-weaving spiders is versatile and valuable. But, unfortunately for us, spiders are territorial and cannibalistic, so farming them is out. However, the US molecular biologist Randy Lewis has spun a clever solution: genetically engineering goats to deliver the silky goods. First developing the idea at the University of Wyoming before moving his herd to Utah State University, Lewis manipulated goat eggs to include a spider silk-production gene. His resulting ‘spidergoats’ look entirely normal, but produce milk that contains spider-silk protein, which can be extracted for use in countless applications, from repairing human ligaments and tendons to producing parachutes and airbags. While this short documentary from 2010 uses humour to detail the ingenious transgenic process, it also prompts questions such as: are spidergoats a mutation too far? Or is this simply the next logical step in humanity’s millennia-long history of genetic manipulation?

Directors: Sam Gaty, George Costakis

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