The Brinicle of Death. It has never been captured on film … until now. And it’s all on display courtesy of the BBC series Frozen Planet.
In a nutshell, a brinicle forms when cold, dense brine comes into contact with warmer water. It all starts on the ocean’s surface, and then the emerging brinicle (otherwise known as an ice stalactite) starts to move downward, forming something of a submerged tornado, until it eventually hits the ocean floor and freezes everything in its path. The video above takes a 5-6 hour event and reduces it to a crisp, kind of hair-raising two minutes. We will be adding this clip to our collection of Great Science Videos.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, is a remarkable structure. Designed by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos of the Dutch firm UN Studio, the building received rave reviews when it opened in May of 2006. Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York, the building was described as “jet-age baroque” by The Guardian architecture critic Jonathan Glancey. “It twists and turns with breathtaking complexity,” Glancey wrote in 2006, “clever as a conjuring trick.”
The architects needed a bit of magic to bring the museum’s open plan into compliance with fire codes. Like in the Guggenheim, the interior is one continuously unfolding space that spirals around a central atrium. As a consequence there could be no fire doors to contain smoke if a blaze broke out in one section of the building. To solve the problem, UN Studio hired the engineering firm Imtech to design a system that would draw smoke away from all areas of the museum, allowing people to escape.
The result is the world’s largest man-made air vortex, a 112-foot-high tornado that automatically activates in the event of a fire, drawing smoke into the center of the atrium and moving it upward through an axial fan in the ceiling. An array of 144 outlets in the surrounding walls emit powerful jets of air to generate a central region of low pressure, just like in a real tornado. Imtech engineers perfected the design using computational fluid dynamic (CDF) simulations and laboratory models. The firm has created similar systems for airports in several German cities, including Düsseldorf and Hamburg. You can watch the tornado at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in action above.
Infinity. It’s a puzzling concept. Is it real, or a mathematical fiction?
Aristotle believed infinity could only be potential, never actual. To speak of an actual infinity, he argued, is to fall into logical contradiction: “The infinite turns out to be the contrary of what it is said to be,” Aristotle wrote in the Physics. “It is not what has nothing outside it that is infinite, but what always has something outside it.”
Aristotle’s logic rested on common sense: the belief that the whole is always greater than the part. But in the late 19th Century, Georg Cantor and Richard Dedekind turned common sense upside down by demonstrating that the part can be equal to the whole. Cantor went on to show that there are many orders of infinity–indeed, an infinity of infinities.
But what relation does the Platonic realm of pure mathematics have to the physical world? Physics is an empirical science, but that hasn’t stopped theorists from imagining the mind-boggling consequences of an infinite universe. To Infinity and Beyond, a one-hour BBC Horizon special featuring interviews with leading mathematicians and physicists, is an entertaining exploration of a subject which, by definition, you won’t be able to wrap your mind around.
3,000,000 tourists move through Venice each year. The flood starts during the spring and peaks in summer, then recedes during the cooler months, giving the local residents a little peace. True, the city, made up of 124 islands, 183 canals and 438 bridges, is radiant during the summer. (Just watch below.) But the “Queen of the Adriatic” takes on a different beauty in the winter, something that a tourist, who simply goes by FKY, captures in an artful video above. Enjoy, and if you want to know more about the architectural wonders of this 1500-year-old city, don’t miss How Venice Works.
Two weeks ago, we mentioned that Stanford will be rolling out seven new courses in its experiment with online learning. Fast forward to today, and yet another seven courses have been added to the winter lineup, bringing the total to 14.
Immediately below, you’ll find the latest additions. All of these courses feature interactive video clips; short quizzes that provide instant feedback; the ability to pose high value questions to Stanford instructors; and feedback on your overall performance in the class.
Courses start in January and February. Enroll today for free. And, if something doesn’t pique your interest below, don’t miss our big list of 400 Free Online Courses.
Next up: a lovely film about a lonely desk toy that longs for adventure. Observing the space around him, a robot finds a toy car and heads off on a road trip across the United States, guided only by Google Maps Street View. We start on the Brooklyn Bridge and finish on the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Parts of the video look like sequences from a Pixar film, they are so well made. In reality, the film was produced, animated, filmed, lit, edited and graded by one person: Tom Jenkins.
During the past two years, the films of Andrei Tarkovsky have quietly come online, giving viewers the chance to encounter the Soviet director’s great body of work. If you’re not familiar with Tarkovsky, it’s worth mentioning that Ingmar Bergman considered him his favorite director, and Akira Kurosawa once said, “Every cut from his films is a marvelous image in itself.” The list of available films now includes:
(Note: If you access the films via YouTube, be sure to click “CC” at the bottom of the videos to access the subtitles.)
You can thank Mosfilm, the oldest film studio in Russia, if not Europe, for bringing these films to the web. If you head to Mosfilm’s YouTube Channel, you can watch more than 50 Russian classics, including Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1969 adaptation of Tolstoy’s War & Peace, a film that Roger Ebert called “the definitive epic of all time.” In a concession to Western capitalism, each film is preceded by a short commercial, proving yet again that there’s no such thing as a truly free lunch.
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