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Between 1890 and 1891, a wealthy New Yorker named Eugene Schieffelin released dozens of starlings into Central Park as part of his campaign to introduce animals that were ‘aesthetically and practically valuable’ to the US. It was a romantic and well-intentioned undertaking – an endeavour to bring all of the birds mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare to the country. Only the European starlings survived, but the results were spectacular beyond Schieffelin’s wildest imagination – and utterly disastrous. Within 100 years, the starling population was more than 100 million, with the migratory birds wreaking havoc on farms and native species across the country, and forever reshaping the continent’s sky. A meditation on the starling’s strange North American story, the directors Jessica Bardsley and Penny Lane’s lyrical short documentary The Commoners traces an idiosyncratic history of ecology, linguistics and urbanism, one in which the birds pursue their own form of manifest destiny.
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
What is it like to clean the world for tomorrow while the rest of a city sleeps?
Philosophy of mind
Caring for the vulnerable opens gateways to our richest, deepest brain states