The creation of a "flying jellyfish" that weighs about as much as a quarter and costs less than $15 to produce has been big news in science blogs of late. The creators of this object didn't set out to create a flying jellyfish; they were looking for a mathematical solution to produce stable hovering flight. In most instances, the creation of such an effect requires complicated counter-balancing systems to keep an object steady, but by going back to the basics, the folks at NYU worked their way to a solution that nature had already discovered. You can see it work with a rather annoying electronic soundtrack accompaniment above.
This clip isn't Video of the Week, though. Check out this link to see how the ScienceTake producers over at the New York Times covered this new object. You'll immediately see there's a level of production value at work here that wasn't evident in the first clip: the plinking score, the well-lit, lightly unkempt science guy placed neatly in the frame in front of a nondescript backdrop, the sharp cutting to b-roll of the jellyfish and some of the objects that inspired it. It runs only a little over a minute, but it feels like complete documentary in miniature.
The aesthetic that's being borrowed here, is, of course, that of Errol Morris:
By now, Morris's mode of filmmaking has proven so influential that most probably don't even realize they're appropriating it. How did it come to pass that a documentarian with a quirky mind and unique style would establish his way of viewing and re-constructing information as a de facto signifier of the conveyance of truth? This is especially curious given how many of Morris's films center around the idea that "the truth" is a subjective concept, at best.
This dialogue between "mainstream" filmmaking and industrial/informational filmmaking is one of the central ideas this column has been dancing around, but this may perhaps be the one of the clearest, most 1:1 examples, of this kind of cross-pollination that I've yet turned up. Morris should charge royalties.