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Travel deep inside a leaf

3 minutes

Hoplites! Greeks at war

8 minutes

Street photography, 1838-2019: a photo for every year

20 minutes

Are you sure? Truth, certainty and politics

6 minutes

Do spoilers actually ruin stories?

4 minutes

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To really get to know the tallest trees in the world, start with their leaves

Redwoods typically provoke wonder at the macro scale. They are, after all, the largest and tallest trees in the world. But in this visualisation from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, viewers are invited on a remarkable tour through several levels of organisation in a redwood tree leaf, from scales measured in centimetres down to nanometres. Starting at the stomata, where carbon dioxide enters the plant, before finally landing at the thylakoid membrane, where light-based photosynthetic reactions occur, the animation reveals just some of the extraordinarily complex systems underpinning what we might easily overlook as a mere leaf. For more details and data, watch the annotated version of the video here.

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Frozen for millennia, an ancient Greek soldier is freed to charge into battle once again

The artifacts that underlie so much of our understanding of the ancient world can often feel like brittle remnants of a dim and dusty past that’s hard to access without context and extensive knowledge. But sometimes just a little kineticism can transform a bit of pottery into a living story. Such is the effect of this animation produced for an exhibition at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at the University of Reading in the UK, which breathes life into war scenes from a vase found on the island of Euboea and thought to date to roughly 550 BCE. The story follows a spear-wielding hoplite (citizen-soldier in the infantry) as he moves through several stages of the wartime experience. After witnessing a ceremonial animal sacrifice performed by a priest, he departs for battle alongside his fellow soldiers, fights the enemy and creates a trophy from their discarded equipment to mark his side’s victory. Learn more about the video at the Panoply Vase Animation Project website.

Art director: Sonya Nevin

Animator: Steve K Simons

Website: Panoply Vase Animation Project

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Historic street view: an image for each of the 181 years since the dawn of photography

Just a decade after the first surviving photograph was taken, photography became widespread enough that, today, the Canadian film archivist and YouTuber Guy Jones could assemble this parade of streets worldwide – one photograph for each year from 1838 to 2019. The resulting montage offers a scattershot urban history of modernity, chronicling seismic shifts in transportation methods and fashions, as well as the more subtle evolutions of storefront signage and roadway surfaces. The video also provides a meaningful window into the history of the medium itself. At the dawn of photography, the black-and-white images are deliberately framed, with the camera often drawing the attention of its subjects. In recent photos, as the camera has become more ubiquitous, it’s often less artfully employed, and its presence goes mostly unnoticed by the people whose lives it freezes in discrete moments. 

Editor: Guy Jones

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What wrapping a rope around the Earth reveals about the limits of human intuition

If you tied a rope tight around the Earth’s equator and then added a single yard of slack, would the extra material make any noticeable difference to someone standing on the ground? Yes, actually. The answer comes as a surprise to most people, but the additional bit of rope raises it high enough off the ground for our eyes to easily discern it, and our feet to easily trip over. That fact might seem trivial, but the early 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein believed that this chasm between human intuition and physical reality revealed something important about the fallibility of our thinking. After all, if something that seems obvious to almost everyone can be totally false, what else might we be wrong about? This video from the Center for Public Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz breaks down the mathematics behind Wittgenstein’s knotty example, and asks whether it should make us all feel a bit less certain about even our most deeply held beliefs.

Producers: Gregor Clark, Jon Ellis

Animator: Adam Ansorge

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Spoiler alert: does knowing how it ends make fiction more fun?

‘It’s not the journey, it’s the destination’ might seem like trite advice, but when it comes to storytelling, the worn adage actually seems to hold up to scrutiny. Just ask Nicholas Christenfeld, professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego: in a 2013 study, he put our cultural obsession with so-called ‘spoilers’ to the test. After sneakily revealing the end of short stories when describing them to test subjects, he found that their enjoyment of the fictional narratives actually increased – a conclusion that perhaps isn’t so surprising if you think about how many times you’ve watched your favourite movie or read your favourite book. However, Christenfeld still found that there was a forceful knee-jerk aversion to the idea of having a story spoiled, so you might still want to restrain yourself before blurting out the latest Game of Thrones twist to friends and insisting it’s for their own good.

Video by Fig. 1

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To really get to know the tallest trees in the world, start with their leaves

Redwoods typically provoke wonder at the macro scale. They are, after all, the largest and tallest trees in the world. But in this visualisation from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, viewers are invited on a remarkable tour through several levels of organisation in a redwood tree leaf, from scales measured in centimetres down to nanometres. Starting at the stomata, where carbon dioxide enters the plant, before finally landing at the thylakoid membrane, where light-based photosynthetic reactions occur, the animation reveals just some of the extraordinarily complex systems underpinning what we might easily overlook as a mere leaf. For more details and data, watch the annotated version of the video here.

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Essay/
History of science
Curving the Universe

A century ago, a team of scientists chased the arc of starlight across a total eclipse to prove Einstein right on relativity

Matthew Stanley

Essay/
Mental health
The red thread of obsession

Evolved human capacities for vigilance and worry are both exacerbated and rewarded by the intense pressure of modern life

Elizabeth Svoboda