Alison Gopnik: Why philosophy of science?

10 minutes

Last acre

12 minutes

The wolf dividing Norway

29 minutes

The evolution of cynicism

5 minutes

Unreal city

6 minutes

What toddlers can teach us about how the human brain does science

Science as we’ve come to understand it today – that is, conducting experiments using a hypothesis-testing method – has existed only since about the 17th century. But the Homo sapiens brain has been around since the Pleistocene, so how is it that we’ve gotten so good at the kind of science we do in such a short amount of time? In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn from the PBS series Closer to Truth, the US psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik argues that scientific skills, including making statistical inferences and testing our environments through trial and error, are implicit in children, even those as young as 20 months. Drawing on research conducted at her laboratory at the University of California, Berkley, Gopnik believes that the fundamentals of scientific thinking appear in humans just about as soon as we start to speak. In other words, as she puts it: ‘It’s not that children are little scientists, it’s actually that scientists are big children.’

Video by Closer to Truth

A world of shacks and shanties is a place of makeshift beauty on England’s margins

At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of impoverished Britons set out in search of their own Arcadia. They found it, for a time, in poorly developed strips of land that had been neglected or abandoned by others. This cheap or sometimes even free land gave these pioneers a place to build their own humble shacks out of old bits of wood and boat, creating utopias that came to be called ‘Plotlands’. Life in the Plotlands continues still, and is precarious, improvised and marginal – yet full of rugged beauty. The UK filmmakers Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan capture that makeshift, unconventional beauty in this short documentary, set to Peter Warlock’s inimitable composition The Curlew (1920-22) and filmed on the salt marshes of Lowsy Point near Barrow-in-Furness in northwest England.

Directors: Jacob Cartwright, Nick Jordan

Narrator: Judy May

The divisive debate over hunting Norway’s endangered wolves

During the 1960s, wolves nearly vanished from Norway’s landscape due to overhunting; now, there are no more than 70 wolves left in the country. Although the wild predators – known to prey on farmers’ livestock – received protection under law in 1971, the debate between hunters and conservationists over the fate of the remaining endangered population has been heated and divisive ever since. The Wolf Dividing Norway shows how this debate culminates in December 2019, as groups on both sides of the conflict wait to hear whether the government will authorise the annual winter wolf hunt. With unprecedented access to remote communities at the heart of the debate, the Norwegian documentary filmmaker Kyrre Lien humanises the frustration coming from both sides, providing a sensitive look at one of Norway’s most polarising topics.

Director: Kyrre Lien

Cynicism was born when Diogenes rejected materialism and manners

Plato once described the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope as ‘a Socrates gone mad!’ It’s a good comparison. Like Socrates, Diogenes gave the bird to respectable society. He undermined status and manners in the 4th century BCE with his bottomless reserve of shamelessness and irreverence, opting to live on the streets like a stray dog. But, of course, there was a method to his madness. In this short video by TED-Ed, the Irish philosopher William D Desmond explains how Diogenes lived an authentic and ascetic life in accordance with nature, and how in doing so he founded the philosophy of cynicism – an iconoclastic tradition that continues to illuminate and infuriate today.

Video by TED-Ed

Director: Avi Ofer

Writer: William D Desmond

How an augmented reality app transformed London into an immersive art gallery

If you ever hopped on the Pokémon GO craze, you’ll have an inkling of how digital technology is increasingly capable of adding rich new slices to everyday life. The public exhibition ‘Unreal City’, which ran from 8 December 2020 to 5 January 2021 on the River Thames in London – and is, until 9 February 2021, available for at-home viewing – similarly superimposed digital layers on to reality, but with an aim to transform the city into an immersive augmented reality (AR) art gallery. An initiative from the AR app Acute Art and Dazed Media, the exhibition featured 36 digital sculptures from artists around the globe, and was arranged as a riverside walking tour at a time when indoor museums had become mostly inaccessible due to COVID-19. Featuring images of some of the sculptures and words from artists including Olafur Eliasson, Tomás Saraceno, Cao Fei and KAWS, this trailer for the ‘Unreal City’ exhibition is an exciting glimpse into the potential for AR as it continues to transform cities in strange and surprising ways.

Director: Kate Villevoye

Website: Dazed

What toddlers can teach us about how the human brain does science

Science as we’ve come to understand it today – that is, conducting experiments using a hypothesis-testing method – has existed only since about the 17th century. But the Homo sapiens brain has been around since the Pleistocene, so how is it that we’ve gotten so good at the kind of science we do in such a short amount of time? In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn from the PBS series Closer to Truth, the US psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik argues that scientific skills, including making statistical inferences and testing our environments through trial and error, are implicit in children, even those as young as 20 months. Drawing on research conducted at her laboratory at the University of California, Berkley, Gopnik believes that the fundamentals of scientific thinking appear in humans just about as soon as we start to speak. In other words, as she puts it: ‘It’s not that children are little scientists, it’s actually that scientists are big children.’

Video by Closer to Truth

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