Riding light

45 minutes

The plodding photon, or how the speed of light looks sluggish on a galactic scale

According to Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity, the speed of light (approximately 299,792 kilometres – or roughly 7.5 rotations around the Earth – per second in a vacuum) is the Universe’s speed limit, and therefore the fastest we could ever hope to travel through space. Swift as it might seem, when it comes to traversing the vast expanses between solar systems and galaxies, it’s still very slow-going. Indeed, the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way, Canis Major, is 25,000 light years away. Set to a mesmerising score by the US composer Steve Reich, Riding Light is an illuminating look at light speed, simulating the journey of a photon from the Sun’s surface to just beyond Jupiter’s orbit. For a brisker take, see a condensed, three-minute version of the same video here.

Director: Alphonse Swinehart

Video/Life Stages

Ageing to the beat of their own drums – from one to 100 years old

3 minutes

ORIGINAL
Video/Neuroscience

Aristotle was wrong and so are we: there are far more than five senses

6 minutes

Video/Art

James Turrell’s singular quest to transform a crater into a natural-light observatory

8 minutes

Video/Earth Science

How an Earth science outsider finally put the Pangea puzzle together

8 minutes

volume_up
play_arrow
pause
Idea/Automation & Robotics

Science has outgrown the human mind and its limited capacities

Ahmed Alkhateeb

volume_up
play_arrow
pause
Essay/Cosmology

Echoes of a black hole

Ripples in space-time could herald the demise of general relativity and its replacement by a quantum theory of gravity

Sabine Hossenfelder

Video/Ecology & Environmental Sciences

The eerie otherworldliness of slow undersea life sped up to a human pace

5 minutes

Idea/Personality

Pigs, parrots and people: the problem of animal personality

Antone Martinho

Essay/Physics

Minding matter

The closer you look, the more the materialist position in physics appears to rest on shaky metaphysical ground

Adam Frank