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

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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 as well, though we might not think of them that way. We might call our own personal axioms “limiting beliefs” or our “worldview”. These are statements about ourselves, other people, and society at large that we take to be true. They’re often based on observation and lived experience, but tainted by each of our subjective dispositions. Depending on the stories of our own lives—where and how we grew up, our wealth or lack thereof, our race, our religion, our sexual orientation, our education—each of us will have a different set of personal axioms. On the scale of objectivity, our minds fall near the opposite end of peer-reviewed and time-tested scientific theories (whether these are truly objective is a different discussion). Point is, our own personal axioms are not inherent laws of the universe, but laws conceived of and imposed by our own minds. …

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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 with single-celled algae called coccoliths. When they died, their skeletons accumulated at the bottom, forming the chalk at a rate of roughly half a millimeter per year. …

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 amusement parks, in the family car. Some show their age; like this one, a family gathered around the TV set, watching the moon landings. …

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 of Ghibli’s films. …

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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 the podcast episode.

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 nicely to the CO2 issue, and the climate on ground, so it’s not our generation suffering from all the CO2 released into the atmosphere, it is future generations, but it is our generation that has to take the action. …

An essential guide

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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 post-production process. …

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.

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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, with your idle time, find yourself reading a random Wikipedia page? I can’t be the only one who does that. Maybe it comes up in conversation and you get curious. And you go to this Wikipedia page, and one blue link leads to another, and at some point you’re reading about Galapagos tortoises. Well I do that once in awhile, and that’s how I came across this story. …

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My closest friends and I had long entertained the idea of making a movie together. All of us worked either in or around the film industry in some capacity, or had an interest in it. We often discussed writing and shooting our own short film like it was some kind of pipe dream. We yearned for complete creative control, oversight throughout all aspects of production, and a perfect sandbox to learn about the mysterious workings of a film’s many departments. …

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It’s all just a balancing act.

Twenty years seemed like a natural milestone to stop and reflect. It’s like when you’re climbing a mountain and you reach a good waypoint to enjoy the view you’ve achieved so far. You can look back upon the rocky and windy Teenage Trail receding behind you, disappearing into the enchanted forest of childhood, now just a hazy patch of trees in the distance.

There’s still a hell of a trek ahead, but it’s wise to stop now and then, to lay your heavy backpack down, and to appreciate what you’ve achieved and how you can go about the rest of your journey in better ways. …


Asher Isbrucker

Writer & Video Producer.

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