Hidden miracles of the natural world | Louie Schwartzberg

What is the intersection
between technology, art and science? Curiosity and wonder, because it drives us to explore, because we’re surrounded
by things we can’t see. And I love to use film
to take us on a journey through portals of time and space, to make the invisible visible, because what that does, it expands our horizons, it transforms our perception, it opens our minds and it touches our heart. So here are some scenes
from my 3D IMAX film, “Mysteries of the Unseen World.” (Music) There is movement which is too slow
for our eyes to detect, and time lapse makes us discover and broaden our perspective of life. We can see how organisms emerge and grow, how a vine survives by creeping
from the forest floor to look at the sunlight. And at the grand scale, time lapse allows us to see
our planet in motion. We can view not only
the vast sweep of nature, but the restless movement of humanity. Each streaking dot
represents a passenger plane, and by turning air traffic data
into time-lapse imagery, we can see something
that’s above us constantly but invisible: the vast network of air travel
over the United States. We can do the same thing
with ships at sea. We can turn data into a time-lapse view
of a global economy in motion. And decades of data give us
the view of our entire planet as a single organism sustained by currents circulating
throughout the oceans and by clouds swirling
through the atmosphere, pulsing with lightning, crowned by the aurora Borealis. It may be the ultimate time-lapse image: the anatomy of Earth brought to life. At the other extreme, there are things that move
too fast for our eyes, but we have technology
that can look into that world as well. With high-speed cameras, we can do the opposite of time lapse. We can shoot images that are thousands of times
faster than our vision. And we can see how nature’s
ingenious devices work, and perhaps we can even imitate them. When a dragonfly flutters by, you may not realize, but it’s the greatest flier in nature. It can hover, fly backwards, even upside down. And by tracking markers
on an insect’s wings, we can visualize the air flow
that they produce. Nobody knew the secret, but high speed shows that a dragonfly can move all four wings
in different directions at the same time. And what we learn can lead us
to new kinds of robotic flyers that can expand our vision of important and remote places. We’re giants, and we’re unaware of things
that are too small for us to see. The electron microscope
fires electrons which creates images which can magnify things
by as much as a million times. This is the egg of a butterfly. And there are unseen creatures
living all over your body, including mites
that spend their entire lives dwelling on your eyelashes, crawling over your skin at night. Can you guess what this is? Shark skin. A caterpillar’s mouth. The eye of a fruit fly. An eggshell. A flea. A snail’s tongue. We think we know
most of the animal kingdom, but there may be millions of tiny species waiting to be discovered. A spider also has great secrets, because spiders’ silk thread
is pound for pound stronger than steel but completely elastic. This journey will take us
all the way down to the nano world. The silk is 100 times thinner
than human hair. On there is bacteria, and near that bacteria, 10 times smaller, a virus. Inside of that, 10 times smaller, three strands of DNA. And nearing the limit
of our most powerful microscopes, single carbon atoms. With the tip of a powerful microscope, we can actually move atoms and begin to create amazing nano devices. Some could one day patrol our body
for all kinds of diseases and clean out clogged arteries
along the way. Tiny chemical machines of the future can one day, perhaps, repair DNA. We are on the threshold
of extraordinary advances, born of our drive
to unveil the mysteries of life. So under an endless rain of cosmic dust, the air is full of pollen, micro-diamonds and jewels from other planets
and supernova explosions. People go about their lives
surrounded by the unseeable. Knowing that there’s so much
around us we can’t see forever changes
our understanding of the world, and by looking at unseen worlds, we recognize that we exist
in the living universe, and this new perspective creates wonder and inspires us to become explorers in our own backyards. Who knows what awaits to be seen and what new wonders
will transform our lives. We’ll just have to see. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)


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