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A Very Altruistic Christmas? A Very Unique Biology Lesson!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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As a judge in this year’s USC Science Film competition, I had my work cut out for me. The annual event, which requires collaboration between students of different disciplines, drew some remarkable film-making talent that made selecting the winners quite difficult. The only instructions provided to students are that the interdisciplinary teams create a short film that illustrates a scientific concept, principle or issue for a wide non-expert audience. I’ve written about this film competition in the past, because it represents not only a unique opportunity for students to collaborate, but the prizes (generously supplied by the Anton B. Burg Foundation) are substantial.

The film that I chose as the overall winner is called ‘A Very Altruistic Christmas’, and it demonstrated not only a solid scientific concept, but a wealth of production techniques. Altruism can be a difficult concept to understand, and the approach of the film really resonated. Have a look for yourself:

Another film that I enjoyed a lot is called ‘Cosmic Billiards’. Great concept, well executed cinematography and a clear scientific lesson:

You can have a look at all of the top entries on their YouTube channel here. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if your institution has a similar kind of contest. I applaud the efforts and dedication of Clifford Johnson and others at USC who make this event a resounding success.

Carin Bondar About the Author: Carin Bondar is a biologist, writer and film-maker with a PhD in population ecology from the University of British Columbia. Find Dr. Bondar online at www.carinbondar.com, on twitter @drbondar or on her facebook page: Dr. Carin Bondar – Biologist With a Twist. Follow on Twitter @drbondar.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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