Experimentals: Nautiluses

June 13, 2018 2:15 pm Categorised in:

This is a nautilus story: A chambered nautilus never forgets. Nature’s math equation. And finding Captain Nemo…

[00:10] Act. 1 – Floating in the ocean for over 500 million years, nautiluses have survived five mass extinctions thanks in large part to a big and complex brain that smells and feels better than it can see. That’s why Dr. Jennifer Basil, an evolutionary biologist at Brooklyn College, has rethought how humans perceive intelligence. Because with the nautilus, looks can be deceiving.

[02:30] Act. 2 – Depending on how you look at it, the nautilus’ shell is either an ever increasing or decreasing chambered spiral. The twisting walls along this curve make what’s known as a fractal pattern. And that pattern is a kind of equation occurring all around us in nature. So what’s a fractal and what does it have to do with romanesco broccoli, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, peacocks, and predicting diseases?

[04:21] Act. 3 – The Nautilus is also the fantastical submarine in Jules Verne’s 1870’s classic, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Almost a half century later in 1916, the book’s silent film adaptation marked the first time the world saw below the ocean’s surface in motion pictures… But, actually, it was the second time. The first movie filmed underwater has been lost in obscurity for decades… until now that is. Popular Science recently uncovered this forgotten footage and found a story too strange and horrifying to be fiction.

To learn more about the nautilus (ancient marine mollusc and metaphor magnet) go to https://www.popsci.com.

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Video by Tom McNamara

Act 1. “A Chambered Nautilus Never Forgets”
Interview with Dr. Jennifer Basil, Professor and Chair, Biology Department, City University of NY, Brooklyn College
Featuring the Brooklyn chambered nautiluses

Act 2. “Nature’s Math Equation”
Narrated by Eleanor Cummins

Act 3. “Finding Captain Nemo”
Narrated by Kevin Gray
Williamson footage provided by the Collection EYE Filmmuseum, the Netherlands
—“Thirty Leagues Under the Sea” or “The Terrors of the Deep” (1914) by J.E. Williamson
—“Wonders of the Sea” (1922) by J.E. Williamson
“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1916) by Stuart Paton
“Twenty Years Under the Sea” (1936) by J.E. Williamson


Additional media
Jacopo Werther (“Romanesco broccoli,” Wikimedia)
Pat Leahy (“Ferns,” Flickr)
Egor Kamelev (“Snowflake,” Pexels)
Murray Foubister (“Bolivias’ Salar de Uyuni,” Flickr)
Burns Library, Boston College (“3D glasses,” Flickr)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Paramount Pictures, 1982
The Information Machine – IBM/Charles and Ray Eames, 1958
—Alan Chan, Jack A. Tuszynski – R. Soc. open sci. 2016 3 160558; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160558. Published 7 December 2016 – Automatic prediction of tumour malignancy in breast cancer with fractal dimension (Image of a 40× slide of ductal carcinoma, after binarization and edge detection)
Prelinger Archive
Media History Digital Library
“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: A Tour of the Underwater World” (1870) by Jules Verne

Erin Chapman
EYE Filmmuseum
Elif Rongen, EYE Filmmuseum
Leenke Ripmeester, EYE Filmmuseum
Biology Department, City University of New York, Brooklyn College
Naomi Lewandowski, City University of New York, Brooklyn College
Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress
Josie Walters-Johnston, Reference Librarian, Moving Image Research Center, Library of Congress
Brian Taves, Ph.D., Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (retired)

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