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IN HIGH SCHOOLS
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to find and which are expected to
vastly outnumber known species
(SN: 9/17/16, p. 18).
In keeping with the film’s title,
the researchers find
common ground in
the search for the
unknown. All nine of
them are plumbing the dark depths
at the limits of current human under-
standing, including the murky work-
ings of the human brain, life on the
deep ocean floor and the cosmic mys-
teries behind the formation of stars.
It’s humanizing to
watch the scientists
become students: fum-
bling with unfamiliar
concepts and taking part in experi-
ments that put the scientists out of
their comfort zones — and that some-
times fail. A physicist learns to shakily
control a robotic arm with his brain; a
nervous astronomer goes on a deep-sea
dive in a submersible; a neuroscientist
accustomed to working with humans
plies monkeys with grapes.
Pairing up scientists from different
fields leads to some delightful insights
about how scientific expertise trans-
lates — or doesn’t — from one field to
another. A physicist who built one
of the world’s most accurate atomic
clocks, for example, turns out to be
surprisingly bad at telling time when
subjected to a neuroscientist’s test.
In each partnership, the research-
ers put their full, wonderful nerdiness
on display, expressing reverence for
scientific progress of all stripes — and
wonder at the mysteries that remain.
— Emily Conover
The Most Unknown
NOW S TREAMING
NETFLIX | MOTHERBOARD
Microbiologist Jennifer Macalady of Penn State
University (left), who studies cave microbes,
takes cognitive psychologist Laurie Santos of
Yale University (right) spelunking.