Let’s Go Tardigrading: What a Hardy Microscopic Animal Can Teach Us About Scientific Thinking

As part of the launch of the Science Sandbox initiative, the team made a video about tardigrades and the power of thinking like a scientist.

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Science Sandbox, a recently launched initiative of the Simons Foundation, is dedicated to inspiring a deeper interest in science, especially among those who don’t think of themselves as science enthusiasts. The initiative is rooted in the idea that you don’t have to be a scientist to think like one, and that using science as a tool for making better decisions can have far-reaching positive effects throughout society.

Science Sandbox provides funding, mentorship and networking support for programs that seek to engage people with the process of science. Awardees create meaningful science experiences for a wide range of audiences. (Learn more about the initiative’s full vision here.)

In that spirit, the Science Sandbox team asked John Pavlus, a filmmaker and journalist, to help create a video that captures this inclusive notion of scientific thinking.

About the Video

Names like Albert Einstein or Marie Curie often conjure a larger-than-life image of a scientist — someone not quite like the rest of us. A common belief across the programs that Science Sandbox supports is that anyone can ‘“do”’ science, because we’re all born with the ability to ask questions about the world around us — to be explorers.

Working with Science Sandbox and The Article Group, a creative agency, Pavlus homed in on the tardigrade as the perfect mascot for “natural curiosity” and “fearless exploration,” qualities that drive scientific discovery. Also known as water bears, these particularly resilient microscopic creatures, which live underfoot in the soil and puddles we step over every day, have been known to withstand temperatures as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as –450 degrees Fahrenheit. With little more than “enough brains” and “plenty of guts,” as the video script puts it, tardigrades have thrived as a species for more than 500 million years simply by exploring new places — including the planet’s most extreme environments. Tardigrades have even survived in the vacuum of space.

In choosing music to accompany the story of this tiny metaphor, Pavlus took inspiration from the French New Wave. “I heard this amazing, fizzy pop song in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1966 film ‘Masculin Féminin,’ which was all about daring people to see the world through youthful eyes,” he told us, referring to Chantal Goya’s classic track “Tu M’as Trop Menti.” “It seemed to match Science Sandbox’s message perfectly, because we’re daring the public to see the world through young eyes, too — the eyes of the natural-born scientist that lives within all of us.”

Science Sandbox believes that scientific thinking is not something to be taught — it needs to be unlocked. With this video, we invite everyone to release their inner tardigrade.

In other words: Let’s go tardigrading!

Production Credits

Agency: The Article Group

Concept, design and direction: John Pavlus

Motion & additional design: Jamal Qutub/Nimpsy

Additional production: Robotic Raptor

Color correction: Erick Fix

Associate producer: Mohammed Alkhadter

Music Research: Kate Urcioli/Heavy Duty

Music: “Tu M’as Trop Menti,” performed by Chantal Goya and used with permission

Stock media: Getty Images, Shutterstock, Pond5, Wikimedia Commons

Additional footage courtesy of: Ralf Wagner, Amy’s Sciencey Stuff, PBS Digital/Michael Wilson, Craig Smith, AkiraFlickr, Hypsibius

Special thanks: Chantal Goya, Jean-Jacques Debout, Greg Boustead

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