Edvard Munch: what a cigarette means

8 minutes

Home (Dom)

27 minutes

The drill

3 minutes

Mary-Jane Rubenstein: multiverses, pantheism and ecology

27 minutes

Bayes’s theorem, and making probability intuitive

16 minutes

When is art a better tool for understanding mental illness than science?

The Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) – best-known for his painting The Scream (1893) – was a key figure in the expressionist movement, which emphasised subjective experiences over the natural world. Part of a rising bohemian class that rejected conventions in society and art, Munch’s unsettling work often reflected and refracted his personal struggles with mental illness, much to the alarm of Oslo’s prevailing conservative class. In this video essay, Evan Puschak (also known as The Nerdwriter) uses a short cultural history of the cigarette to explore how Munch’s Self-Portrait with Cigarette (1895) signified an impending revolt in both art and society – and how art allows for a ‘probing and nuanced understanding’ of mental illness that often eludes medical science.

Video by The Nerdwriter

When home is two sisters, a houseful of vulnerable men, and a lot of tough love

After she was widowed at age 32, Grażyna Sochacka founded the Panakeja Foundation – a social-assistance centre for homeless men on Sobieszewo Island in Gdańsk, Poland. Alongside her sister Wioletta Sienkiewicz, Sochacka has dedicated her life to caring for men living on the fringes of society, and often in need of intensive care due to alcoholism and other health problems. The Polish filmmaker Filip Jacobson’s observational short Home (Dom) traces the unending daily pressures the sisters face running the centre. These include changing bed sheets, providing medical assistance, keeping up with bills, and the ever-important business of doling out cigarettes. Imbued with a deep humanity and inflections of humour, the film explores the human need for a balance between structure, freedom and respect – as well as, from time to time, heavy doses of tough love.

Director: Filip Jacobson

Producers: Leszek Kopeć, Jerzy Rados

Website: Gdynia Film School

‘I want to take the bullet and save my friends’ – the grim reality of safety drills in US schools

A generation ago, children in classrooms in the United States prepared for natural disasters such as fires and tornadoes. Today, active-shooter drills force them to confront the grim possibility that someone – perhaps a fellow student – might open fire in their school. In this StoryCorps animation, one such drill prompts a mother and her 10-year-old son in Texas to discuss a question no child should ever have to consider – whether he would sacrifice himself to try to save his schoolmates. An affecting and troubling short, The Drill gives an aching human voice to the psychological toll of school shootings and the culture of fear they’ve created for schoolchildren and their parents in the US.

Director: Richard O’Connor

Producer: Shelley Gorelik

Website: StoryCorps

If you think that modern cosmology leaves no room for ‘god’, start using your imagination

‘We’re not so much abandoning the idea of the gods, we’re just trying to pull them all the way into the Universe.’

From the possibility of infinite universes to the prospect of panpsychism, puzzles have arisen in physics that can take science to some very counterintuitive places. According to Mary-Jane Rubenstein, assistant professor of religion and feminist, gender and sexuality studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, new theories and breakthroughs at the forefront of cosmology need not – and moreover, should not – elbow out theology from the conversation about our place in the cosmos. Instead, as she argues in this wide-ranging interview recorded at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival from the Institute of Arts and Ideas in 2019, science should encourage us to build more durable myths and theologies to suit our times.

What is it to be Bayesian? The (pretty simple) math modelling behind a Big Data buzzword

If you’ve ever tripped up over the term ‘Bayesian’ while reading up on data or tech, fear not. Strip away the jargon and notation, and even the mathematics-averse can make sense of the simple yet revolutionary concept at the core of both machine learning and behavioural economics. As this video from the YouTube channel 3Blue1Brown skilfully explains, at its most basic, Bayes’s theorem is a tool for assessing degrees of probability based on prior conditions. And there are ways to make it altogether more intuitive than the statistical formulas might suggest. Although the theorem dates back to its 18th-century namesake, the English statistician and philosopher Thomas Bayes, it has gained increasing relevance in the Big Data revolution.

Video by 3Blue1Brown

When is art a better tool for understanding mental illness than science?

The Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) – best-known for his painting The Scream (1893) – was a key figure in the expressionist movement, which emphasised subjective experiences over the natural world. Part of a rising bohemian class that rejected conventions in society and art, Munch’s unsettling work often reflected and refracted his personal struggles with mental illness, much to the alarm of Oslo’s prevailing conservative class. In this video essay, Evan Puschak (also known as The Nerdwriter) uses a short cultural history of the cigarette to explore how Munch’s Self-Portrait with Cigarette (1895) signified an impending revolt in both art and society – and how art allows for a ‘probing and nuanced understanding’ of mental illness that often eludes medical science.

Video by The Nerdwriter

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Essay/
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