Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"You better think! (Think! Think!)" -- Aretha Franklin

 I think documentaries are the greatest inventions in the world. Man, I love them.

Guns, Germs, and Steel
Jared Diamond is awesome. And I think worth listening to. He's also the author of a book called "Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail," and he seems to have a good grasp of the big picture when it comes to human civilization. In this documentary, he discusses how guns, germs, and steel have shaped humanity's history.

The Amber Time Machine
I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I adore David Attonborough more than I can say. You know how his brother Richard played this guy who carried around a mosquito in amber on a cane and tried to clone dinosaurs before it all went to hell? Well, David tells us just how possible it is to do that (not at all) before explaining just how much it IS possible to learn from amber. We can even figure out what the climate was 45 million years ago from amber!

Cracking the Color Code
Man, I love the human brain. Know what's freaky? Color, as we normally think of it, doesn't actually really exist. It's just how our brains process light. That red sweater you're wearing? It's not actually "red." It's just that it's absorbing every wavelength of light except the one that you're brain registers as "red." And did you know that dogs aren't actually "color-blind"? They just see in 2 colors instead of 3 like humans.

The Great Sperm Race
Okay, I know this sounds either silly or questionable. But it's neither! It's awesome. (Okay, maybe it's a little silly.) But when you actually take a look at what a journey sperm have to make...it's a wonder anyone is conceived at all. And the actual process of fertilization is totally different and way more awesome than I thought. Did you know that fertilization doesn't actually happen until like 14 hours after intercourse? Or that by the time the sperm get to the egg, there's like 5 of them left? Out of like 2 million?

The Poetry of Science
I know Richard Dawkins and a handful of other prominent scientists are always all "There is no God and all of you are delusional," but forget that for a second and just see him as a scientist. He and astrophysicist Neil Tyson deGrasse (whose name I can never remember, so I usually just call him "De-Grassy Man") sit down in front of a university auditorium and talk about the microcosms and macrocosms. It's fascinating and awe-inspiring. It's also fun because Dawkins is so academic and elderly and British, and Tyson keeps bringing up movies. 

Why Reading Matters
Although at times it's a bit defensive, it's a fascinating look at how the brain works. Everything from how we experience empathy through fiction, to how the brain processes different mistakes in language. Did you know that some stroke victims will look at the word "yacht" and say "boat," while others try to sound out "yacht" and not know what it's talking about? The brain processes meaning and pronunciation in slightly different places. Man, the brain is awesome.

The Frankincense Trail
A spunky woman travels the ancient route that the aromatic Frankincense did thousands of years ago, from Oman to Bethlehem, with stops in modern-day Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. A unique glimpse into the enigmatic Middle East, and the religions and history that influence it.

By the way, that picture up there is a real human brain. Cool, huh? 

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