Are you sure? Truth, certainty and politics

6 minutes

Romanticism: poetry and philosophy

20 minutes

Forms (process)

2 minutes

Men

17 minutes

The hairy Nobel

13 minutes

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

Writer and Narrator: Jon Ellis

Animator: Adam Ansorge

Website: Center for Public Philosophy at UC Santa Cruz

What can the Romantics teach us about confronting modern problems?

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
From ‘Lines Written in Early Spring’ (1798) by William Wordsworth

The Romantic thinkers, poets, composers and artists valued emotion over reason. Reacting to the Enlightenment’s emphasis on rationalism, they embraced Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s dim view of modernity, expressed in The Social Contract (1762), that ‘Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.’ This analysis from the UK video essayist Lewis Waller uses three poems to trace Romanticism across three key movements – the writings of Francophone thinkers including Rousseau, the work of English poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, and the ideas of German philosophers, including F W J von Schelling and Friedrich Schlegel. In examining this artistic and intellectual history, Walker draws out several ways in which Romanticism offers a valuable humanistic perspective on urgent contemporary questions, including the climate crisis and poverty. Read more on the need for a new Romanticism in the face of scientism here.

Director: Lewis Waller

Video by Then & Now

Behold the invisible swoosh and swirl of athletic movement in digital art

Forms is a collaboration between the London-based visual artists Memo Akten and Davide Quayolas, and it generates dynamic digital art from the bodies of world-class athletes at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Inspired by modernist and early photographic interrogations of bodies in motion, such as Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2 (1912), the project, in Akten’s words, plays with ‘abstract forms, visualising unseen relationships – power, balance, grace and conflict – between the body and its surroundings’. Forms (Process) demonstrates the relationship between the source video imagery and the project’s resulting animations. Watch an excerpt from the final version of Forms here, and learn more about the inspiration behind the piece in this Twitter thread from Akten.

Video by Memo Akten, Quayola

As a debauched weekend comes to its end, a strange grace settles over these young men

A group of young men head out to the woods. They dance around a fire. They ingest mind-altering substances. They shoot sparks into the night sky. They commune with each other. With his documentary Men, the US filmmaker Dane Mainella drops us into the midst of a ritual that is as ancient as it is banal – 20something-year-old male friends having fun. Mainella traces the hours with a suitably dizzying approach, using loose vérité camerawork and abrupt, time-jumping edits to careen through the revelry – or periodically pause on moments of fumbling towards expressions of friendship. The result is an immersive and unvarnished invitation to a party that is both an awkward American show of immature masculinity as it is a timeless tradition of bonding between men.

Director: Dane Mainella

‘The secrets of exotic matter’ revealed by the winners of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to David J Thouless, F Duncan M Haldane and J Michael Kosterlitz for their ‘theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter’ that ‘revealed the secrets of exotic matter’. If that sounds massively difficult to comprehend – you’re right, it is. But, as this collaboration between the French filmmaker Charlotte Arene and the research team Physics Reimagined (at the University of Paris-Saclay) shows, sometimes complex and seemingly obscure discoveries can have consequences well beyond the walls of a laboratory. With a distinctive, shapeshifting animated style, The Hairy Nobel combs through the surprisingly fascinating history of topological insulators, including how their discovery cascaded into breakthroughs in several fields of research, including electronics, superconductors and quantum computers – and prompted a new one.

Director: Charlotte Arene

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

Writer and Narrator: Jon Ellis

Animator: Adam Ansorge

Website: Center for Public Philosophy at UC Santa Cruz

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Dee, JoJo, Frankie and Lisa after school on Prince Street, Little Italy, New York City, in 1976. Photo from Susan Meiselas’s series Prince Street Girls/Magnum

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