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Powers of ten

9 minutes

Earthrise

30 minutes

The power of expectations

3 minutes

Primitive technology: round hut

11 minutes

Baby brother

14 minutes

The classic 1977 film that put the vastness of the universe into perspective

Opening at the scene of a picnic in a Chicago park, then gradually zooming out to encompass a view 100 million light years away before magnifying down again to a single proton, this classic 1977 short documentary by the legendary husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames uses exponential powers of ten to contextualise the scale of the known universe and chart the limits of human understanding. An ‘adventure in magnitudes’, Powers of Ten has been used to teach millions and millions about the cosmos and the microcosmic, and remains an extraordinary journey nearly 40 years later.

Director: Charles Eames, Ray Eames

How an unplanned picture from Apollo 8 altered humanity’s perspective of Earth

‘What they should have sent was poets…’

Launched in December 1968, Apollo 8 was the first manned flight to reach the Moon, orbit it and return to Earth. The primary goal of the mission was to prepare for an eventual lunar landing, however, the flight is now best remembered for the unparalleled glimpses of Earth it provided and, in particular, the iconic photograph taken from lunar orbit that became known as ‘Earthrise’. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, this documentary from the US director Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee features interviews with the crew members Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders, who took the famed picture. While reflecting on the life-changing experience of being the first people to view the Earth from outside of its orbit in the ‘inky black void’ of space, they detail how the unplanned photograph became their mission’s most lasting legacy, and gave them a newfound appreciation of their home planet.

Director: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

Producer: Adam Loften

Websites: Earthrise, Go Project Films

Want to make a lab rat smarter? Treat it like a smarter lab rat

It’s perhaps not startling to learn that the expectations of others have a significant impact on us. Over the past century, however, scientists have been surprised to observe just how forcefully expectations can nudge the abilities of people – and rats – in one direction or another. Featuring audio excerpts from NPR’s Invisibilia podcast, this animation draws on the work of the US psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Carol Dweck to briefly delve into how expectations can raise or lower student performance, speed up or slow down soldiers, and make maze-solving lab rats smarter or dumber.

Director and Animator: Francesca Cattaneo

Website: Invisibilia

Learn to build your own rainproof hut – or, at least, marvel at the man who knows how

The popular Primitive Technology YouTube channel features an anonymous man in Far North Queensland in Australia fashioning tools and structures using only naturally occurring, found materials. In this installment, following the deterioration of his A-frame hut, he builds what he hopes will be a more durable round hut from the ground up. Starting with wood posts tied together with cane, the man makes the structure water-resistant by adding a palm roof, a drainage trench, and walls built from a combination of mud and cane. In the process, he also almost manages to make his remarkable ingenuity look easy. To learn more about the step-by-step process while watching, turn on closed captions in the video player. 

‘I thought I was gonna be a teenager forever’: moving back in with the parents at 23

In his short documentary Baby Brother, the US filmmaker Kamau Bilal offers a bit of vérité filmmaking at its most refreshing, transforming the mundanity of his younger brother’s return to their parents’ Missouri home into a funny and poignant exploration of the weirdness of young adulthood. Ismaeel is 23 and affable, if somewhat hapless, but the intimacy of his brother’s filmmaking – and presumably his affection for Ismaeel – makes the treatment of the young man’s charms, flaws and idiosyncrasies gently revelatory. His stifled ambitions and uneasiness about the trappings and responsibilities of adulthood echo a distinctly millennial malaise, at the same time as being deeply rooted in his personal experience. This heartfelt and charming short was a favourite on the 2018 film festival circuit, screening at the Sundance Film Festival, True/False and Sheffield Doc/Fest, among many others. 

Director: Kamau Bilal

The classic 1977 film that put the vastness of the universe into perspective

Opening at the scene of a picnic in a Chicago park, then gradually zooming out to encompass a view 100 million light years away before magnifying down again to a single proton, this classic 1977 short documentary by the legendary husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames uses exponential powers of ten to contextualise the scale of the known universe and chart the limits of human understanding. An ‘adventure in magnitudes’, Powers of Ten has been used to teach millions and millions about the cosmos and the microcosmic, and remains an extraordinary journey nearly 40 years later.

Director: Charles Eames, Ray Eames

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Essay/
Philosophy of Science
The blind spot

It’s tempting to think science gives a God’s-eye view of reality. But we forget the place of human experience at our peril

Adam Frank, Marcelo Gleiser & Evan Thompson

Essay/
Ecology & Environmental Sciences
Time-bombing the future

Synthetics created in the 20th century have become an evolutionary force, altering human biology and the web of life

Rebecca Altman