Toying with Science

This video is an entertaining and instructional look at early developments in microbiology (NOTE: it’s 8 minutes long, so plan accordingly):

This isn’t the first brickfilm I’ve seen, but it’s definitely one of the most detailed I’ve come across.

The archive of videos at is a pretty exhaustive resource for this type of entertainment, but if that’s not your cup of tea, I’d recommend checking out the films of Al Jarnow (readers of a certain age will definitely recognize his work). Also instructive, but in a sly way.

Slowing it Down

Here is a slow-motion video of bullets striking various surfaces. It’s long, but mesmerizing.


A few thoughts:

  1. I know the bullets are likely made of lead and therefore pretty soft, but seeing this action slowed down really illustrates how little separates solids and liquids.
  2. I really, really want a camera that can shoot a million frames per second.

Representations of Science

As a storyteller, I notice that there are two stories to most life science research. The first is the story of process, and the second is that of results. Coming from a liberal arts background, the nuance of the second – how chemistry, concentration, base pairs and phosphorylated molecules interact to deliver a measurable result – often escapes me.

I can appreciate process: an idea, followed by a near-endless series of small tests to evaluate the viability of that idea. I can appreciate the sifting of signal from noise, and the dangerous seduction of a tangent, a curious detail, and the empty promise of a lead. Conceptually, these things make art and science close cousins. I can walk comfortably on a conceptual ground, but the hard grammar delivers a path beyond my training and knowledge.

To my eye, this research looks like nothing more than the transfer of clear liquids from tube-to-tube. Sometimes the application of heat is involved, and refrigeration is essential. Visually, the two most exciting things you’ll encounter are a slight color change in a microcentrifuge tube or a bar graph. At the cellular level, we may find a grand narrative of transformation , death, and recovery; at the molecular level we can witness attraction, separation, reconciliation. Yet capturing these events requires either a miracle or a mountain of costly resources. When we want to visually communicate the story of pure DNA , we are left with the story of pipetting liquids.

In developing video protocols for our products, I’ve attempted to keep that point in mind. There are things I cannot practically show, and what I can show needs to be carefully presented in order to remain both accurate and interesting. I’ve also tried to cut details that work better in text without introducing confusion for end users.

Here’s one of the results:

[wpvideo pAyMVHa2]

I invite you to keep an eye out for future video protocols. In the meantime, you should leave a comment and let me know what procedures and products you think would benefit most from this kind of treatment.