The amazing underwater tape of the caddisfly

4 minutes

Jackson Pollock: Blue Poles

17 minutes

This is your brain on Pokémon

7 minutes

Annual musical report

5 minutes

Light is calling

8 minutes

When life is but a stream, insects need something extra-sticky to survive

Caddisflies are popular on the fly-fishing scene, where anglers do their best to emulate the stream-scavenging creatures in their mature form. But like most aquatic insects, caddisflies actually spend the vast majority of their lives underwater in their larval stage, where they cling on for dear life against ceaseless stream currents. Mercifully for these minuscule creatures, they’re hatched into the world with something of a superpower for surviving the tough terrain: a versatile silk, dispensed from glands under their chin. Natural-born builders, the larvae deploy the sticky substance to fashion cases for themselves out of small pebbles that guard them against careening objects, and provide camouflage and protection against predators. This entry in the science-documentary series Deep Look takes a quick dive into the lives of these impressive improvisational engineers, including how their waterproof adhesive has inspired bioengineers hoping to create less-intrusive internal stitches for the human body. Read more about the video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer: Elliott Kennerson

Narrator and Writer: Amy Standen

Cinematographer: Josh Cassidy

Why a Jackson Pollock masterpiece became an Australian tabloid sensation

The American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (1912-56) is a rare artist whose name, style and influence has grown to reach far beyond the art world. But when the National Gallery of Australia in 1973 bought one of Pollock’s most celebrated works, Blue Poles (1952), for a record-breaking sum of US$2 million, it set off a national controversy over the merits of abstract art, as well as about the painting’s place in Australia’s national collection. This short documentary from the New York City-based filmmaker Alison Chernick recalls the unlikely story of how the Australian government’s landmark purchase divided the nation as well as the art world, became an unlikely tabloid sensation, and ultimately found its place in Australian culture.

Director: Alison Chernick

Producer: Alison Wright

Website: National Gallery of Australia

Parents have long suspected Pokémon rewires kids’ brains. Now there’s evidence

Since 1996, the wildly popular Pokémon media franchise has encouraged kids to geek out over its cast of now more than 800 fictional species. For Jesse Gomez, a neuroscientist at Princeton University, the impact of Pokémon video games presents a unique research opportunity. Inspired by his own childhood love of the original Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, which reward the Game Boy player for registering small differences between eight-bit renderings of the characters, Gomez developed an experiment to interrogate how the brain processes visual information.

While pursuing a PhD at Stanford University, Gomez presented images of Pokémon to a group of adults who had played the games as kids and another group that hadn’t, and captured fMRI brain images of the results. Ultimately, Gomez found that, when processed by childhood Pokémon players, the images lit up a small groove in the temporal lobe that remained mostly inactive in the brains of Pokémon newbies. This short documentary from NPR’s show Science Friday tracks how Gomez’s work could potentially lead to a better understanding of learning disorders such as dyslexia and, more broadly, how clever psychological experiments can be sparked by personal experience.

Video by Science Friday

Produced: Luke Groskin

A project to compose music from everyday life is a joyful jolt of pure creativity

The Serbian multimedia artist Miloš Tomić began his Musical Diaries project by seeking out music in everyday life as a form of ‘therapy’ a few years ago. In doing so, he found small sonic surprises everywhere he travelled – objects transformed into improvised instruments and passersby became part of a grand orchestra. Eventually, the idea snowballed into a series of musical video collages – filmed by Tomić and pieced together with the help of some musician friends – that craft audiovisual compositions from his improvisations and discoveries. One such collage, Annual Music Report, mines melodies from sounds found in and around his Belgrade home. The resulting montage, featuring notable contributions from a singer on the Danube river and Tomić’s son Dren, is a singular jolt of joyful creativity, certain to inspire a toe tap and a smile.

Director: Miloš Tomić

When a decomposing, century-old film becomes a haunting meditation on memory

Created using a decomposing 35mm print of the crime drama The Bells (1926), the experimental short Light Is Calling (2004) depicts a dreamy encounter between a soldier and a mysterious woman. With images that reveal themselves only to distort and disappear into the decaying amber-tinted nitrate, the New York-based filmmaker Bill Morrison – known for his use of found materials – invites viewers to meditate on the fleeting nature of all things physical and emotional, while a minimalistic violin score suffuses the century-old images with a wistful, haunting beauty.

Director: Bill Morrison

Composer: Michael Gordon

When life is but a stream, insects need something extra-sticky to survive

Caddisflies are popular on the fly-fishing scene, where anglers do their best to emulate the stream-scavenging creatures in their mature form. But like most aquatic insects, caddisflies actually spend the vast majority of their lives underwater in their larval stage, where they cling on for dear life against ceaseless stream currents. Mercifully for these minuscule creatures, they’re hatched into the world with something of a superpower for surviving the tough terrain: a versatile silk, dispensed from glands under their chin. Natural-born builders, the larvae deploy the sticky substance to fashion cases for themselves out of small pebbles that guard them against careening objects, and provide camouflage and protection against predators. This entry in the science-documentary series Deep Look takes a quick dive into the lives of these impressive improvisational engineers, including how their waterproof adhesive has inspired bioengineers hoping to create less-intrusive internal stitches for the human body. Read more about the video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer: Elliott Kennerson

Narrator and Writer: Amy Standen

Cinematographer: Josh Cassidy

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