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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.
Building ‘bigger and better’ has pushed cosmology forward. Can it take it any further?
How Hokusai’s Great Wave emerged from Japan’s isolation to become a global icon
Watch the elegant flow of a sheep herd, seen from the sky above Israel
How would a piano sound on Mars? Embark on an interplanetary sonic journey
Emergency first responders meet chaos with dissonant calm in this gripping short
The ancient world
Not a lost kingdom but a parable – how to read Athens in Plato’s story of Atlantis
When two punk bands came to a psychiatric hospital, beautiful chaos ensued
Design and fashion
Gear up for a stylish celebration of vintage motorcycle design
The ancient world
A balanced account of Nero’s life reveals the ‘editing and destruction’ of history-making