Reflecting on death, growing up, and my grandfather’s farm

The last photo I took of my grandfather, on my last visit to his farm.

The Cows

The calf was born in winter. My grandfather’s neighbour, Alan, had interrupted our dinner and ushered us into this drafty corner of his barn, following the irritated mooing of a mother cow in the throes of labour. We shivered under ill-fitting winter jackets, watching through clouds of our frozen breath as one cow emerged from another.

The calf was a tangled mess of limbs, coated in a thick mucous, squeezed out the backside of its mother like an oversized bowel movement. The mother cow mooed and stomped her feet, but most of the time she remained still, as if she…

‘New math’ is remembered as “a dismal mistake”, and has been called “one of the worst ideas of the 20th century” — but, to many of the brightest minds in education and mathematics, it seemed like a good idea at the time. So, where did ‘new math’ come from, and what went wrong? And sixty years later, what has it taught us about the nature of education reform?

The following is a transcript of the documentary, with a bibliography at the end.

Amidst the turmoil and change of the 1960s, an experiment was playing out in schools across America…

How rewriting the rules you live by can help you overcome your self-imposed limitations.

Illustration by me.

There’s a concept in mathematics and the sciences called an “axiom” or a “postulate” — it’s a technical term meaning a statement that is taken to be true. That statement then provides the logical foundation for a system of thinking. For example, the laws of thermodynamics are well-known axioms. That every action is met with an equal and opposite reaction is an axiom based on observation—so there is reason to believe that it is true—and it provides a foundation for modern science.

Axioms aren’t relegated solely to the realms of science and mathematics. We have axioms in our own lives…

On a clear day, peering across the English Channel from atop the White Cliffs of Dover, you can just make out the coast of France as a strip of pale land flecked with white, like paint peeling from a picket fence. Viewed from Dover, the French coast is a distant mirror, a continuation of the same geological phenomenon that constitutes the ivory-white cliffs beneath you, resembling massive pleated curtains turned to stone, or a frozen waterfall.

The chalk in the cliffs dates back to a distant subaquatic history, when the UK sat at the bottom of a vast sea abundant…

This short was listed as one of the best video essays of 2017 by Sight & Sound. The following is a transcript:

I recently came across a collection of old home movies in an obscure corner of the internet. There are thousands in the collection, comprising a digital museum of other people’s memories. They depict mostly family scenes and domestic b-roll from the middle decades of the 20th century, providing a rare and candid glimpse of everyday life in a different time. They mostly show moments of togetherness; families together in living rooms, on front lawns, on sidewalks, at…

The following is a transcript of the video essay.

In order to tell a compelling and effective story, storytellers must construct an immersive world in which the story takes place; a process known as worldbuilding. Some stories require more detailed worldbuilding than others, but in the end the point is the same: suspend our disbelief, draw us in, make us buy into the world you’ve created.

I’d like to explore the films of Studio Ghibli through the lens of worldbuilding, and how they use worldbuilding to achieve a sense of immersive realism, a quality I’ve long admired in all…

A couple years ago, a few amateur astronomers digging through a trove of Kepler data made a peculiar discovery: it was a misbehaving star in the constellation Cygnus; one which erratically dimmed in unpredictable and unprecedented ways. They flagged the star, which perplexed astronomer after astronomer and became a media sensation when whispers of Dyson spheres and alien technology began to circulate. Much of that hooplah has faded away now, as the star and its mysteries have largely been explained, but the story of KIC 8462852—colloquially known as Tabby’s Star—is one to remember.

The following is a transcript of…

This is a transcript of the documentary above.

Donald Kessler: The worst case scenario is that you end up creating enough debris that it’s not cost-effective to depend on space. Now, that may take a long time, but because it’s a non-reversible process, once you’ve reached a certain threshold where you’re generating debris from these collisions faster than it can be cleaned out, it’ll just continually get worse unless you can do something drastic.

Holger Krag: If we continue operating the way we do today, we will have a disaster in 50 years, in 100 years. It compares quite…

An essential guide

In late 2015, I was the only video editor at a mobile fitness app startup called Fitplan, which provides workout programs by well-known athletes. There was a lot of video content being shot for these programs — mostly instructional exercise videos, interviews, and b-roll. One single shoot could bring in over a terabyte of footage. I started editing the videos on my own, but we realized quickly the volume was too much for one person to meet the required pace of production, so we brought in a few more talented editors and we started to consider the efficiency of our…

In 2005, a portrait was distributed to hundreds of people around the world as part of an online “Alternate Reality Game”, initiating a global game of hide and seek w̶h̶i̶c̶h̶ ̶s̶t̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶e̶n̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶o̶l̶v̶e̶d̶.̶ which has finally been resolved! More information below.

Do you know this man?

December 2020 update: Satoshi has been found! You can find out how on Laura’s website (scroll down), and on this reddit post by Reddit user /u/th0may, who used a reverse image search with facial recognition to track him down.

The following is a transcript of a podcast episode. Listen here or on iTunes.

Do you ever…

Asher Isbrucker

Writer & Video Producer.

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