Tag Archives: technology

Behind-the-Scenes Look Inside the Pyramids

The Great Pyramid at Giza has fascinated scientists and treasure seekers alike for more than 4,000 years. Now on CuriosityStream, we are thrilled to bring you our 55-minute HD and exclusive, extended 90-minute 4K films that give you a behind-the-scenes look at the Scan Pyramids mission.  Over the three-year experiment, scientists use cosmic rays to virtually “x-ray” Pharaoh Khufu’s 45-story pyramid to unlock the secrets inside.

Produced in collaboration with Bonne Pioche Productions, THIRTEEN Productions for WNET, Japan’s NHK and France 5, CuriosityStream’s Scanning the Pyramids captures the researchers’ possible discovery of secret voids. As one can imagine, filming on, in and around the pyramids alone is a formidable task—coordinating the international team of researchers and filmmakers adds a massive layer of complexity. Under the direction of seasoned documentary filmmaker Florence Tran, the result is a stunning, exhilarating look at groundbreaking research as it happens.

We asked Flo about some of the challenges her team faced, and some of the fascinating experiences along the way.

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CS: What were some of the challenges in gathering and working with this large international team?

FT: The scientific mission itself was challenging and took a long time to coordinate, especially with an international team of scientists who sometimes don’t understand each other’s language, methods of analysis or results. But they always found a way to work it out, stronger as a team because of their commitment to the project.

On the film side, we had French, Egyptian and Japanese cameramen in the field covering the operations. Fortunately, I had lived and worked for several years in Egypt and had previously made a film about Egyptian filmmakers and the country’s teeming cinema industry. So, I already had a network of great professionals who I knew could trust.

The Japanese tend to film in different ways than we do, but on the first shoot, the Egyptian and Japanese crews broke the ice over a few glasses of sake and Egyptian Stella beers. We discussed our different habits and needs…and we never had any coordination problems. We shared everything we filmed.

CS: We know it was quite a process to get the project approved, working through the Egyptian Antiquities Council, etc. What kind of hoops did you have to jump through?

FT: The first difficulty was finding key people who would embark on this long and complicated adventure and accessing the official organization in Egypt. It took Mehdi Tayoubi (of the French Dassault Systèmes software team) several years to find Dr. Hany Helal, now a professor at the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University, who was once the minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Egypt. He knew the ins-and-outs of the Ministry of Antiquities. With his understanding of Egyptology and advanced experimental research like particle physics, he was critical to the mission.

Once we found him, I happened to be living in Egypt working on other films, so I met with Dr. Helal on Medhi’s behalf in September 2013. Just a week prior to our meeting, the Faculty of Engineering building had been burned and partly destroyed by Muslim Brotherhood partisans. Dr. Helal was in a temporary office, tending to urgent matters, and here I was talking about scanning the pyramids with infrared thermography cameras and unknown techniques using cosmic particle detectors. It seemed utterly unconceivable, almost absurd, at that time. The whole country was in shock, on the verge of civil war for some people, so I was not very optimistic. But to my surprise, he took the time to listen, said it would be great for Egypt to participate in such a great international mission and he agreed to meet Mehdi and his team in France not long after. It took another 2 years to really coordinate and launch the mission, and by 2015, Egypt’s political situation had settled down. The Minister of Antiquities strongly supported the Scan Pyramids mission.

During that time of global international terrorists, it was a nightmare for the logistics team in charge of moving chemicals and bizarre instruments through customs in all of these countries. In comparison, getting our filming equipment through was a piece of cake. We couldn’t complain.

CS: The weather was a challenge, right? Tell us about that, and how did you overcome it?

FT: During summer, temperatures can be really hot, but again, it was more difficult for the scientists than for us. We are used to being in the field and have proper filming equipment for this. But that’s not the case for state-of-the-art particle physics prototype devices which are usually kept in a completely controlled and safe environment. For example, the French scientists who had to set up their equipment outside, had to face warm winds, sandstorms and extreme temperatures. They had anticipated some of these problems but not all of them. But despite these trials, they managed to make their equipment work properly.

CS: What was it like to be inside the pyramids? To climb on them? It must have been surreal.

FT: Climbing the pyramid was exhilarating. From up there, you really admire the work of ancient Egyptians even more… and wonder how they did. It is truly vertiginous. We thought at the beginning we wouldn’t need professional climbers to ascend but moving so many people up there in such a short time, it was really not an option to do without. Going down is actually more dangerous than going up. You can slip easily, and any fall can certainly be fatal. When climbing was still allowed for the public, there were many accidents, which is why the Ministry of Antiquities rightfully forbids tourists to climb up there today.

CS: Setting up equipment to film while being respectful of the structures must have been quite difficult. How did you deal with that?

FT: The most difficult part of making this film was actually being really patient, to follow all the scientific steps, day after day, without disturbing the scientists. We couldn’t re-enact anything or bother them with fancy, sexy filming ideas. We had many, many shoots (more than 70 days) in Egypt, Japan and France over 2 years. Sometimes I was alone with my camera late at night because we couldn’t pay for a crew. So, in the end we ended up with lots of repetitive footage. So, that meant the second biggest difficulty was to edit all this material. It took us several months to get a clear and functioning narration. And, because we had to wait for the “end” of the story… the action was developing at the same time we were filming and editing.

CS: Dr. Hawass, an influential official whose support was required for the project, was at first skeptical of the technology. That must have been harrowing and disheartening. Can you tell me about that?

FT: In 2016 [well into the process of the experiment and filmmaking], Dr. Zahi Hawass was named the head of a special committee of Egyptologists who are officially in charge of examining and interpreting Scan Pyramids results. As you see in the film, the first meeting between Dr. Hawass and the scientists was a bit of a shock—he was very skeptical of their work and techniques and expressed it vividly. The scientists didn’t know him and were surprised to discover his famously strong temper.

After this, the team feared their work could be stopped at any time, so they changed strategy. Initially, the detector of the KEK was eventually supposed to be installed in Khafre’s pyramid, as were the CEA’s detectors. It was the mission’s first assignment to scan the 4 biggest Egyptian pyramids: the Bent, the Red, Khafre’s and Khufu’s.

But, when Dr. Morishima detected this huge anomaly for the first time in the Khufu pyramid, Dr. Helal and Mehdi decided to focus all efforts on this pyramid. All 3 muographic teams then pointed to the same location. The idea was to have complete counter-expertise within the mission itself, to be irreproachable and unattackable, scientifically speaking. So, the pressure and demanding attitude from Dr. Hawass was—in the end—a blessing.

CS: The moment when all three teams gathered to compare results…what can you tell me about the energy in that room? It must have been thrilling to have triplicate confirmation of the void.

FT: First, I have to tell you that we waited months for this moment to happen. Particle physicists are especially rigorous and anal when it comes to analyzing and checking their results. Their reputation was at stake and they would never publish anything they are not 300% sure of. All these extra precautions sometimes seemed superfluous to us and made us (the filmmakers, producers and broadcasters) all exasperated and impatient. But, you cannot dance faster than the music and respecting the scientific process was mandatory. When the scientists all gathered in Paris, they spent hours arguing on highly technical points. Only they understood what they were talking about, which was a bit frustrating, especially for Mehdi and me. But their perspective is different from us neophytes—for them, details are of a great importance and we were just waiting for the main conclusions. So, in a way, we seemed to be more relieved and happy than they were.

Despite this “victory” moment, everyone remained very cautious of what would happen next. There was no moment of exhilarating or overwhelming joy. It’s not time yet! Though it took 2 years of hard work to get there (not to mention the long preparation) the real exploration is just beginning. Everybody now wants to know what is inside this big cavity!

 

Watch the Scanning the Pyramids trailer here:

Both the original and extended versions of Scanning the Pyramids are available now on CuriosityStream in Ultra HD 4K

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Stay curious in 2017

Happy New Year!

Part and parcel with a new year arrives both reflection on the past and excitement (hopefully) toward the future.  Here at CuriosityStream, we are very much looking forward to 2017 and to helping you become more curious about the many wonders in science, technology, history and nature.  Our team has been hard at work over the holidays putting together a release schedule of original and exclusive titles debuting on CuriosityStream over the next few months.  Take a look at some highlights below and stay tuned for their official premiere dates.

 

January 2017

New year, new you!  Hosted by Dr. Michael Greger, MD, author of the New York Times best-seller How Not to Die and editor of the world renowned website NutritionFacts.org, explore the dramatic health benefits of plant-based diets and the amazing revolution in how we approach our relationship with food.  New episodes will be released bi-weekly beginning in early January.

February 2017

Travel back in time to visit the three most powerful extinction events in Earth’s history.  This original series explores the major events that wiped out between 70-90% of Earth’s species developed during the Permian, Triassic and Cretaceous periods.

March 2017

Join former astronaut Chris Hadfield – a YouTube sensation for his performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station – along with hitchhikers Michio Kaku and more on a joyride across our Solar System, scaled down to the size of the continental United States.

April 2017

You will be captivated by this epic story of our origins told through the story of one extended family.  This group of men, women, and children are your guide to over 15 million years of human history, including the trials, drama and joys of being human across the ages.

May 2017

Can a team of scientists reveal unknown chambers in the Great Pyramid using special muon detector plates beneath the pyramid?  In this expedition, experts use high-tech drones, thermal cameras, laser scanning to create a 3D map of inside and out of the famous Giza plateau tombs.

Stay curious!

Cheers,

Elizabeth Hendricks North
President & CEO, CuriosityStream

Elizabeth Hendricks North is President and CEO of CuriosityStream. Follow her on Twitter @ehendricksnorth.

 

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Top 10 Curious Moments of 2016

As we look back on 2016, we want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a part of our curious community.  This past year has been monumental for science and technology and CuriosityStream been there every step of the way with documentaries that explore key moments in science, history, space, technology, nature and the human spirit.

Journey down memory lane by binge-watching our top 10 curious moments of the year.  Who knows what 2017 will have in store?

               

               

               

               

               

 

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You’ll Never Look at the Internet in the Same Way Again

DIGITS is available now in ultra HD 4k, HD and standard definition on CuriosityStream. The worldwide exclusive, original 3-part documentary series takes viewers on a journey into the history of the Internet with exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes insight into the remarkable technology that now permeates our lives.

Today marks a very exciting day for CuriosityStream, with the release of our groundbreaking new documentary series, DIGITS. We have been anticipating this series since it was included as part of our suite of original 4K content when our founder first announced CuriosityStream to the world. But today, the show’s relevance is even higher.

“DIGITS is a perfect example of the smart, deep dive programming we offer.  The series takes the time to delve into the past for context, and then it examines the present for implications affecting us now.  And finally, it taps into expert predictions to help shape our thinking for the future.” – John Hendricks, Founder and Chairman of CuriosityStream.

 

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Originally described as “a history of computers and the Internet,” the final product delivers on that front, plus it has evolved into something heavily influenced by one major issue that we all face in today’s online world: cyber security. Viewers are taken on a fascinating look at the Internet, exploring the potential applications—and risks—of innovations like virtual reality, artificial intelligence and 24/7 surveillance. The series is hosted by Derek Muller, who knows a little something about digital media and online engagement, as the creator of the YouTube science channel Veritasium, followed by close to 4-million subscribers. In DIGITS, Muller leads the conversation, which features interviews with co-founder of the Internet Vint Cerf and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“When you think about the fact that your washing machine is a computer and can be used to attack other computers within your own home network—your laptop, your tablet, your phone…or better yet, when your toaster gets connected to the Internet, think about who has the capability to turn that on. This brings us to this big question of, ‘well what do we do about it?’” – Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor

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With today’s headlines of hacked emails and cyber security attacks becoming the norm, it’s almost impossible to keep up with what is private and what is personal anymore. Just think about it. What if someone was able to recover a decade’s worth of private information and documents that you’ve submitted online? What could they do with it? Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that we are now relying on the Internet for everything – from our phones, to our entertainment viewing, to our watches, to our fitness trackers to our household appliances.  So, what happens to all of that information that we provide when we register and engage with these devices? And, how might the laws in different countries protect their citizens’ rights to privacy in different ways?

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DIGITS isn’t all dark – in fact, many moments in the series are quite fun and even humorous. But it also provides valuable information that we hope will spark conversations by everyone who tunes in about what it means to be an informed and responsible digital citizen in the 21st Century. Welcome to 2017, folks.

Watch the trailer below and experience the entire 3-part series here, only on CuriosityStream.

Michael Hammerstrom is CuriosityStream’s Manager of Marketing and Engagement. Follow him on Twitter @mhammerstrom.

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A Powerful New Tool Set for Humanity

“In the near future, every object on Earth will be generating data including our homes, our cars, even our bodies. Almost everything we do today leaves a trail of digital exhaust, a perpetual stream of text, location data and other information that will live on well after each of us is long gone. We are now being exposed to as much information in a single day as our 15th century ancestors were exposed to in their entire lifetimes.

But we need to be very careful because in this vast ocean of data there is a frighteningly complete picture of us—where we live, where we go, what we buy, what we say. It’s all being recorded and stored forever. This is the story of an extraordinary revolution that’s sweeping almost invisibly through our lives.”

That powerful opening statement sets the stage for a fascinating in depth look at the dramatic new era of “big data.”

The Human Face of Big Data, a critically acclaimed documentary based on the best-selling book of the same name by executive producer Rick Smolan, is premiering this week on CuriosityStream.

Smolan is an award-winning photojournalist and creator of the epic Day in the Life series. He was also a 2015 Curiosity Retreat Luminary, engaging our audience with real life stories about how the explosion of big data is affecting all our lives.

Smolan says healthcare is likely to be the area of this revolution that impacts people’s lives first.  Who hasn’t gone to the Web to diagnose their own illness?  Those searches, and the data behind them, have a dramatic impact.



 

Other stories include a fascinating experiment by an MIT researcher, revealing a breakthrough theory about how children acquire language.  And a story about how the explosion of digital information shared on social media is transforming how we respond to disasters like the Haitian earthquake and Hurricane Sandy.

But is all this for better or for worse?  Every new technology raises that question.  And big data certainly has a dramatic impact on our privacy and our future, as we each evolve into virtual human sensors.

Smolan says, at the beginning of this project, he was skeptical.  Could the big data revolution really be more transformative than the Internet?  He says he is now a convert, convinced that big data could turn out to be the most powerful tool set we have to address the widespread challenges facing our species and our planet.

The documentary has already toured several film festivals, and was honored with the Jury Prize for “Best Cinematography” at the Boston International Film Festival.  And the U.S. Department of State selected the film to be shown at embassies and consulates around the world as part of the American Film Showcase.

The Human Face of Big Data is now premiering on CuriosityStream for our subscribers. And you can hear about Smolan’s own quest to learn more about the big data revolution in his 2015 Curiosity Retreat lecture here, and in a ‘behind the scenes’ look at The Human Face of Big Data here.

And then you can begin to decide for yourself about the impact of this new set of technologies on humanity and on you.

 

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Now On Roku!

CuriosityStream is now available on Roku!

On demand, 24 hours a day, commercial free – you now have access to the 1000+ titles of programming on your television via the Roku channel.

As consumers continue to shift to connected devices for their programming of choice, our newly-launched Roku channel now gives a direct and simple way to watch CuriosityStream programming on your television sets. Roku access complements CuriosityStream’s existing web and mobile access, and it enables our membership pursue their curiosity on the big screen.

Development of the Roku channel is an important step in CuriosityStream’s evolution as the premier provider of video-on-demand non-fiction programming that educates, entertains and inspires.

Peter North, Chief Digital Officer at CuriosityStream, gives us a look behind the scenes at the development process:

“Moving from the keyboard-and-cursor and touch-based paradigms of our web and mobile applications to the ten-foot, remote-based experience on the big screen required substantial development. The thinking that went into our Roku channel has effectively paved the way for us to have a presence on other big-screen platforms that cater to the home theater experience. We’re already utilizing that work to build on several other well-known and widely-used streaming devices, and our members have helped us understand which platforms would be best to pursue next.

We’ve always intended for CuriosityStream customers to enjoy our content alongside friends and family members. Access only on web and mobile devices made it difficult to have that kind of shared experience. But, with the recent rollout of our Roku and Chromecast support, as well as the Apple TV support (via AirPlay) that we’ve offered since launch, CuriosityStream members now have several convenient and affordable ways to enjoy our library on their bigger screens.”

If you are new to CuriosityStream, sign up for a free 30-day trial here. And for current subscribers with a Roku device, you can add our Roku channel to your Roku device via the Roku channel store.

Grab the remote, sit back, watch, and we hope you enjoy!

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Curiosity Luminary Rick Smolan: “I have become a convert.”

I’m really looking forward to my first Curiosity Retreat later this month, and the chance to brainstorm the future with some of the smartest people in the world.

I’m honored to be sharing a fascinating journey I’ve been on for the past 18 months, exploring a strange new land, widely talked about in labs and boardrooms from Palo Alto to Bangalore, as the world of Big Data. As with all the best journeys, when I began there were no maps to guide me, just helpful fellow travelers also trying to navigate a wild and uncharted territory.

Along the way, I asked many experts to help me understand what Big Data really means. Some define Big Data as more than what can be stored on a personal computer. Others say it isn’t just the quantity of information, but the tools that show the patterns within it. Still others choose to be metaphorical: Big Data, they told me, is the process of helping the planet grow a nervous system, one in which we are all evolving into human sensors.

The overarching message I came away with is that we are witnessing something the human race has never experienced before. The real-time visualization of data streaming in from satellites, and from billions of sensors, RFID tags, and GPS-enabled cameras and smartphones, is enabling humanity, in real time, to sense, measure, understand, and affect aspects of our existence in ways our ancestors could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.

In the lecture I’ve been invited to share at the Curiosity Retreat, I’m going to share a wide array of examples of how Big Data, still in its infancy, is sweeping, almost invisibly, through business, academia, government, health care, and everyday life. It’s already enabling us, both as individuals and as a society, to provide a healthier life for our children; to provide our seniors with independence while keeping them safe; to conserve precious resources like water and energy; to peer into our own individual genetic makeup; to create new forms of life. And soon, many predict, to reengineer our own species. And yet, we’ve barely scratched the surface.…

To be honest, at the beginning of this project I was skeptical of the many claims I heard that Big Data might one day turn out to be more transformative than the Internet. Having now traversed vast regions of this new land, I have become a convert. I am now convinced that Big Data may well turn out to be the most powerful tool set the human race will have to address the widespread challenges facing our species and our planet.

Like all new tools, Big Data carries the potential for unintended consequences. But if we are careful and wise, in the not too distant future this new set of technologies may have an impact on humanity as great as those of language and art.

 

Rick Smolan
Founder
Against All Odds Productions

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