Media for Thinking the Unthinkable

Today’s pick is a scannable collection of software demonstration videos, all designed as prototypes of “a new medium for science and engineering” that amplifies/extends intuition and the senses as much as analytical thinking. Demos start with a redesign of the traditional scientific journal article and head down the rabbit hole from there.

Exploring natural systems and communicating discoveries about them (i.e., doing science) is a creative act. What if manipulating differential equations and modeling nonlinear dynamical systems were like using Photoshop or Final Cut Pro? As “citizen science” gains traction, it’s thrilling to imagine what kinds of digital tools might enhance 21st-century “naturalists’” curiosity and analytical power.

This week’s picker is John Pavlus — a designer on the inside and a writer/filmmaker on the outside. He makes things that make things make sense for places like NPR, HHMI, Scientific American, Fast Company, Nautilus, and others. 

6large, website, design, media, illustration, demos,

How Life on Earth Began

Today’s pick is an animated overview of the latest thinking on the biggest mystery in science. With paper cutouts. I love how this video wraps one concrete scientific question around a deeper, simpler, but more philosophical one: What is life, anyway? The notion that life on earth didn’t have a special “start” but probably cross-faded into existence as bags of inanimate reactive chemicals randomly mixed into more “life-like” combinations is deeply strange and fascinating. I’ve never seen it visualized so succinctly. This video isn’t flashy, but it does its job very well: it makes me want to know more.

This week’s picker is John Pavlus — a designer on the inside and a writer/filmmaker on the outside. He makes things that make things make sense for places like NPR, HHMI, Scientific American, Fast Company, Nautilus, and others. 

6large, video, biology, evolution, life,

Storm Chasing on Saturn

This video is a short news video showing/explaining a storm on the north pole of Saturn bigger than four Earths in the shape of a hexagon. A storm on the north pole of Saturn, bigger than four Earths, in the shape of a hexagon. Oh also, it has alien aurorae glowing over it. The word “awesome” should be reserved for sights like this. The video also boasts impeccable sound design, limpid graphics, and a slam-dunk visual proof of how such a strange phenomenon could occur naturally. Take that, intelligent-design advocates.

This week’s picker is John Pavlus — a designer on the inside and a writer/filmmaker on the outside. He makes things that make things make sense for places like NPR, HHMI, Scientific American, Fast Company, Nautilus, and others. 

6large, video, new york times, nyt, space, physics,

The Weight of Mountains

Here’s a short film by a children’s book illustrator about “the processes by which mountains are created and eventually destroyed, based upon the work of British geographer L. Dudley Stamp.” It’s eye-meltingly gorgeous and starkly scientific. The tone is meditative and incantatory, turning geological terms into epic poetry. If you’ve ever wanted to read John McPhee’s “Annals of the Former World” but only have 11 minutes, watch this.

This week’s picker is John Pavlus — a designer on the inside and a writer/filmmaker on the outside. He makes things that make things make sense for places like NPR, HHMI, Scientific American, Fast Company, Nautilus, and others. 

6large, video, mountains, geography, geology,

A Spacecraft for All

This week’s guest picker is John Pavlus, and here is his first pick:

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A Spacecraft for All 

This is a thrillingly well-designed interactive film/visualization about ISEE-3, a probe launched in 1978 to study the Sun, control of which was then lost, and recently regained by a citizen-science crowdfunding campaign, and then lost again. The filmmaking, the design (graphic, sound, interaction, user experience, typography, 3D), the narrative, the technological wizardry (of the project and of the film itself)… This is the acme of everything that modern science multimedia can be.

John Pavlus is a designer on the inside and a writer/filmmaker on the outside. He makes things that make things make sense for places like NPR, HHMI, Scientific American, Fast Company, Nautilus, and others. 

6space, citizen-science, design, graphics, film, video,

And here we have Lily Bui’s last pick. What if the solar system was a musical instrument? Find out here. (This does have auto-playing audio, just as an FYI friends). 

6universe, interactive, music, science, solar system,

Another from our guest picker from last week, Lily Bui. 

To navigate, you must be brave, and you must remember. Learn the ancient Polynesian art of wayfinding. (This does have auto-playing audio, just as an FYI friends). 

Lily Bui is a STEM Story Project associate the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), a citizen science editor at SciStarter & Discover Magazine, and an M.S. candidate in MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. You will likely find her playing the ukulele, tinkering with sensors, or eating burritos. In no particular order.

6multimedia, story telling, polynesia, NASA, sound,

The Molecularium

Our guest picker this week is Lily Bui. First up:

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There is a nanotechnology theme park online, and admission is free. Welcome to the Molecularium.

Lily Bui is a STEM Story Project associate the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), a citizen science editor at SciStarter & Discover Magazine, and an M.S. candidate in MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. You will likely find her playing the ukulele, tinkering with sensors, or eating burritos. In no particular order.

6nanotechnology, interactive, large,

Getting across a visceral sense of climate change is one of the hardest problems in science writing. Daniel Crawford, an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota decided to use a tool that’s inherently visceral — music. He wrote “Song of a Warming Planet.” It’s a small thing, but with the incredible complexity of climate change it’s going to take a lot of very different ideas to help people understand the big picture. Read more at Ensia.

» Ben

6video, music, climate change,

99% Invisible-114- Ten Thousand Years
21,657 plays

Ten Thousand Years

Roman Mars calls his podcast 99 Percent Invisible “a tiny radio show,” but in this episode they tackle a gigantic time scale. Here, they take a trip both back to 1990 and forward to ten thousand years in the future, when all of us are gone and the waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is still there. How do you explain radioactivity to people who won’t have the same language or culture you do? 

» Rose

Source: SoundCloud / Roman Mars

699pi, design, radioactivity, science, podcast, radio, audio, roman mars,

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