5 years ago

What are the big questions in modern science?

Scientists Still Don’t Totally Understand What It Means to Be Conscious

All too often, the public perception of science seems to be that we know all that there is to know, and the modern game in science is to simply fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Nothing could be further from the truth. I recently came across a fascinating documentary that not only looks at some of the big questions today in multi-interdisciplinary science, but has scientists ask and interview other scientists.

“The most intelligent documentary of 2018.”

Watch the Trailer for ‘The Most Unknown,’ Motherboard’s First Feature Documentary

The film “The Most Unknown” from Motherboard is both documentary and experiment. It takes viewers on a stunning visual journey into surprising corners of the world and follows along as nine scientists meet for the first time.

We’re talking about The Most Unknown, directed by Peabody-award winning filmmaker Ian Cheney (director of The City Dark and The Search for General Tso) and advised by filmmaker Werner Herzog (known for The Wrath of God and Grizzly Man). The film takes nine scientists for diverse disciplines such as biology and astronomy and catches them all pushing the boundaries of their respective fields into the unknown. What emerges is a fascinating look at the state of modern science, and a glimpse at where things are headed. The Most Unknown was made possible by the Simons Foundation Science Sandbox. The story literally “begins under a mountain, and ends on a monkey island.” The documentary describes itself as an experiment, as it follows each researcher and expert in their respective field, and follows them as they meet and interview the next scientist. This is science at its collaborative best, a look at how seemingly disparate branches and fields are interlinked.

What I really like about the documentary is how it shows science and scientists outside of laboratory and plying their trade in the field, a far cry from the average perspective the public has of modern scientists.

In episode one of The Most Unknown, microbiologist Jennifer Macalady, along with a team of divers, spelunk through Italy’s water-rich Frasassi Caves to search for mysterious microbes that could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth.

The film features:

Geomicrobiologist Jennifer Macalady – A Penn State professor looking at extremophile life on Earth to get a glimpse at how life might evolve on other worlds;

Particle physicist Davide D’Angelo – A CERN physicist on the hunt for elusive dark matter;

Cognitive scientist Axel Cleeremans – From the Universite Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium working to understand the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human;

Evolutionary biologist Luke Mckay: Looking at early life in extreme environments here on Earth in an effort to understand how life could evolve on other worlds;

Astronomer Rachel Smith of the Appalachian State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina, an astronomer studying the formation of the early solar system and the chemistry of protoplanetary nebulae;

Biologist Erik Cordes- Temple University taking the Alvin to the depths of the sea, an environment that may be similar to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa;

Geobiologist Victoria Orphan – California Institute of Technology, as they take the Atlantis survey submarine down to survey the ocean depths;

Physicist Jun Ye (JILA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) a researcher interested in relativity and time;

Cognitive and computational neuroscientist Anil Seth- University of Sussex, looking for the biological basis of consciousness.

Professor of psychology and cognitive science Laurie R. Santos: as she journeys to the ‘monkey island’ of Cayo Santiago off the coast of Puerto Rico to study primate behavior.

The Most Unknown includes such far flung locales as a particle accelerator buried under the Italian Alps, the windswept Keck observatory in Hawaii, and the deep sea. The film also credits, among other things, “the yeti crabs, proto-stellar clouds of dust & gas, neurons and dark matter particles who made this film possible.” The Most Unknown is a refreshing and true science documentary.

The feature-length documentary is now available on Netflix, and bonus episodes are available on MotherBoards Youtube Channel here

VICE presents Science Solved It
Listen to the 19 episode Motherboard podcast about the world’s greatest mysteries that were solved by science.

The 20 big questions in science 
From the nature of the universe (that’s if there is only one) to the purpose of dreams, there are lots of things we still don’t know – but we might do soon. A new book seeks some answers