Stories of the American Land

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has tackled a wide variety of subjects, from jazz to baseball to war, but all have one thing in common: they cut somehow to the heart of the American story. In an interview with Big Think, Burns defended the claim made in the subtitle of his latest film, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," arguing that the story of our land is also the story of our people.


Throughout the conversation, Burns surveyed the full range of his storied career, beginning with his struggle as a young filmmaker to pitch his first documentary, "Brooklyn Bridge." He discussed not only the enduring American themes of "race and space" that unite his films, but also the groundbreaking techniques that distinguish them, including the "Ken Burns Effect" familiar to millions of users of Apple software. More contentiously, he argued that while digital software may have put filmmaking technologies in the hands of the masses, the idea that it makes us all filmmakers—let alone artists—"is bullshit."

Car culture and suburbs grow right-wing populism, claims study

New research links urban planning and political polarization.

Pixabay
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
  • Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
  • People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Flickr / 13winds
Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less