Although science-fictional movies are captivating to watch, scientific documentaries are those that are more informative. They explain the science behind a particular phenomenon, comprehensively. However, documentaries don’t receive the attention that it deserves. Needless to say, making a documentary is as difficult as directing a movie. It involves a lot of research. Above all, a documentary maker is required to avoid as much jargon as possible, so that it can be understood by those who have limited knowledge on the topic. In fact, that is the success of a documentary. If you are not into documentaries, it is about time you get familiarised with it. The direction will be completely different from that of the movies. But you will definitely enjoy this difference. To get you started, here are a few scientific documentaries that you can stream on Netflix.
1. Chasing Coral
American filmmaker, Jeff Orlowski rose into fame after the success of his debut film, Chasing Ice. Whilst working on other projects, he came to know of the bleaching of Coral reefs. Seeing this as a potential threat to marine life, he decided to make a film on it. Chasing Coral depicts both the beauty and horror of what is happening in the coral reef. It shows the effects of climate change of the reefs over time. With a dedicated team of divers, scientists and photographers, Orlowski documented the disappearance of coral reefs. This film is a culmination of three years of relentless shooting that included 500+ hours shot underwater. In the end, Orlowski is successful in conveying a pressing message. If we act now, we can recover the damage done to oceans.
2. Into the Inferno
Volcanic eruptions, though fatal, are mysterious in nature. While people still question as to whether it helped kill off the dinosaurs, many still wonder what makes them tick. To put an end to this, filmmaker Werner Herzog risks his life to watch volcanic eruptions closely. Along with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, he explores active volcanoes from around the world. This exploration took them to many places. Filming across Indonesia, Iceland, North Korea and Ethiopia, they intend to minimize the volcanoes’ destructive impact.
3. American Experience: Tesla
If it wasn’t for Nikola Tesla’s intervention, we would have still lived a primitive life. From Alternating current to water turbines, he changed the world in innumerable ways. This 50-minute documentary film from PBS is a perfect material for you to know him as a visionary. Along with his success in the field of science, the documentary also shows his downfall. Tesla, though one among the most influential scientists, was called a “mad scientist”. This had a huge impact on his life, subsequently overshadowing his reputation as a brilliant inventor. Before his death, he patented some of the controversial devices that made people address him by names. However, as of now, Nikola Tesla is more popular than ever. This film will give you a gist on Tesla’s life before he became a revolutionary scientist, that he is today.
4. NOVA: Inside Einstein’s Mind
Same as Tesla, Einstein’s contribution to the world of physics is commendable. Needless to say, he is lauded as one of the best Physicists. If you are not aware of his scientific contributions, then this documentary would be perfect. It depicts Einstein’s thought experiments, and how it proved vital in reshaping our understanding of gravity. In addition to that, this 50-minute documentary also runs through his old letters. These letters give us a crux of what was inside the mind of history’s most beloved scientist.
5. The Great Hack
Data will make, or break a country – This might sound a bit far-fetched, but that’s what The Great Hack shows us. It shows us how one company abetted the selling of democracy. This film documents the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal that influenced a lot of political elections. In this movie, an investigative journalist and a former business development director for Cambridge Analytica expose the truths behind this scandal. This company was held responsible for defrauding US and UK elections. In addition to that, it signifies how the advancement in technology became a bane, then a boon. You will learn quite a lot on Big Data, Data mining structures and algorithms. Moreover, this film is a wake-up call for those who give a lot of their personal data on the Internet. If you want to know the science behind this “data war”, check our Brexit article.
6. The Mars Generation
While the vehicle to take us to Mars is already being built, a group of astronauts are already getting trained to take humanity’s first step on Mars. Believe it or not, there is a dedicated group of teenagers preparing themselves to become intergalactic explorers. The Mars Generation takes you through their journey. In addition to that, it will also tell the essentials to make the journey to Mars a reality. This film features veteran astronauts and their take on multi-planetary life. Hence, if you think colonising Mars is far-fetched, this film will be perfect for you.
7. The Most Unknown
Although science was able to answer pressing questions about the Universe, it couldn’t answer some simple questions. Questions like, What is life?, What is consciousness?, How do we really know? and more. The Most Unknown tries to answer these. For this, nine scientists are sent to extraordinary parts of the world. In addition to that, this documentary also tells us about interdisciplinary research. In the sense, the crux of the film is introducing researchers to fields that they haven’t tackled before. Were they able to answer humanity’s deep existential questions? I guess I’ll save the suspense for now.
8. The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms
Algorithms are ubiquitous in nature. Thanks to algorithms, you are reading this specific article out of billions of other published pieces on the internet. Needless to say, algorithms control what we read, the products we buy, and with whom we socialise. However, it is still a mystery as to how algorithms are capable of doing this. To bring clarity, Professor Marcus du Sautoy explains the science behind this. The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms, shows us how maths and computations make things work these days. Definitely, worth watching if you are interested in understanding the science behind algorithms.
9. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Not a documentary, but it’s hard not to include this on this list. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a television series that is presented by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. This series holds a historic significance as it is the followup to the infamous Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. It is undoubtedly the best educational content on science. If you want to know about the universe and the science behind it, watch this show’s 14 episodes.
10. Zero Days
Directed by the critically acclaimed filmmaker, Alex Gibney, Zero Days depicts cyberwarfare. The film tells us, Cyberwarfare isn’t a dystopian vision of the future. Stuxnet, a malicious computer worm, was the first. This cyber weapon was a piece of expertly choreographed espionage, that almost started another world war. Even if you know what Stuxnet is, Zero Days will give you a better understanding.