Genius of the Modern World

These are the latest articles and videos I found most interesting.

  1. Genius of the Modern World
  2. Letters from Einstein
  3. Your Guide to Understanding How CRISPR Works
  4. Will Batteries Power the World?
  5. Project Apollo Guidance and Navigation ~ 1966 NASA Apollo Digest

Knowing that you do not know is the best.
Not knowing that you do not know is an illness.

‒ Lao Zi (6th-5th century BCE)

Genius of the Modern World


Karl Marx was a man who lived a life of contradiction: An angry agitator who spent years in scholarly silence in the British Library Reading Room. A family man who got the housekeeper pregnant. A brilliant mind who argued against exploitation, but lived off wealth exploited from workers in Engel’s family mills.

Yet despite the paradoxes this philosopher’s ideas had a greater influence in a shorter time than any other thinker in history. During his lifetime he was a little-known, impoverished intellectual, living on the charity of friends and spending his days reading and writing. But within seventy years of his death in 1883, almost a third of the entire human race was living under governments that called themselves by his name – Marxist.

Bettany begins her journey in the city of Trier on the banks of the Mosel in Germany. It was here on the 5 May 1818 that one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century was born.



The 19th century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the most brilliant and dangerous minds of the 19th century. His uncompromising and often brutal ideas smashed the comfortable presuppositions and assumptions of religion, morality and science. His was a world not just bereft of God, but almost of humanity – breath-taking in both its post-religious starkness and its originality.

In this episode Bettany will go in search of the beliefs of a man whose work is possibly the most devastatingly manipulated and misinterpreted in philosophical history. Nietzsche’s dislike of systems and of seeking truths left his ideas ambiguous and sometimes incoherent. It was this that made him vulnerable to interpretation, and as a result his thoughts – which warned against the very notion of a political system like totalitarianism – were manipulated to strengthen its ideals. Violently opposed to anti-Semitism throughout his life, his anti-Semitic sister made sure he became the poster boy for Hitler’s drive for an Aryan ideal. Anti-nationalistic he came to symbolise a regime he would have loathed.



Bettany Hughes stands in front of the East side of the Berlin Wall. Copyrighted image Icon

Sigmund Freud was dubbed the “Father of psychoanalysis”. And certainly no other individual exploration of the human condition has had such a lasting and profound effect on the understanding of the psyche. His work changed the climate and the context in which we understand our lives, as well as the landscape of the inner workings of the human mind.

The film begins in Vienna. Sigmund Freud arrived here in 1860 aged 4 and for the next 80 years this was the context for his radical and often disturbing insights into the human psyche: Insights that would wipe away the horizon of all that had come before, and re-envisage the landscape of the mind.

Bettany travels to Vienna to discover that when Freud first came here, this was a city of political and economic turbulence. It was one of the capitals of the Austro Hungarian Empire, and its population of one and half million, half were immigrants. Germans, Poles, Slovaks, Serbs, Italians, and Hungarians filled the streets. And it was in this atmosphere riven with inequalities, that the ideas that would become Freud’s obsession were forged.

Letters from Einstein


In 2016, Gene Sharp’s collaborator Jamila Raqib made an incredible find: a box containing correspondence between Albert Einstein and the 25-year-old Sharp, who was in prison at the time for refusing conscription into the Korean War. Written in the last two years of Einstein’s life, the letters show how the two thinkers grappled with some of the most profound challenges of the 20th century: war and violence, totalitarianism, the degradation of civil liberties, and attacks on academic freedom. It is evident that the McCarthyism of the era weighed heavily on Einstein’s mind as he offered steadfast support to Sharp and addressed the “conflict between political obligation and moral conscience.”

Your Guide to Understanding How CRISPR Works


Is CRISPR really such a big deal? Put simply: Yes. Here’s why, and the nitty gritty of how the gene-editing tool works.

Will Batteries Power the World?


Can Batteries Power Everything? This video is about the physical and chemical limitations to electrolytic batteries, and how we might surpass the energy density and specific energy of lithium-ion batteries (like the Panasonic 18650 batteries used in the Tesla Model S, for example).

Project Apollo Guidance and Navigation ~ 1966 NASA Apollo Digest


Overview of guidance and navigation tools and techniques used onboard the Apollo spacecraft and Lunar Module.

The Apollo Primary Guidance, Navigation and Control System (PGNCS) (pronounced pings) was a self-contained inertial guidance system that allowed Apollo spacecraft to carry out their missions when communications with Earth were interrupted, either as expected, when the spacecraft were behind the Moon, or in case of a communications failure. The Apollo Command Module (CM) and Lunar Module (LM), were each equipped with a version of PGNCS. PGNCS, and specifically its computer, were also the command center for all system inputs from the LM, including the Kollsman Instrument built Alignment Optical Telescope, the radar system, the manual Translation and Rotation device inputs by the astronauts as well as other inputs from the LM systems.

One comment

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