Pioneers. At the Edge of Understanding

The series about the most fascinating thinkers of our times. A philosopher Daniel C. Dennett behind the wheel of his old Beetle.

The series about the most fascinating thinkers of our times. A philosopher Daniel C. Dennett behind the wheel of his old Beetle.

Pioneers is the unique documentary film project devoted to some of the most unorthodox contemporary thinkers and scientists who challenge current paradigms and go against the “publish or perish” decree. Thrills, joys, and sorrows of exploring frontiers of the known and the unknown – this is what this series of moving, personal encounters is about
The series

The series focuses on emotions of discovering and stress-testing new theories and the passion which prompts one to go against the expectations of others. Among its protagonists have been philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, mathematician Gregory Chaitin, physicists Julian Barbour, futurist Freeman Dyson, quantum tinkerer Charles H. Bennett, and cryptologists Artur Ekert.

This ongoing project was previously produced by the POLITYKA weekly, supported generously by the Centre for Quantum TechnologiesNational University of Singapore. Recently it has been nourished by the Santa Fe Institute.

Karol Jalochowski, the creator of the series, finds the human element of a theory as important as the concrete outcome, verified by the Popperian trial-and-refutation method – and often overlooked one. Pioneers is an expression of this reasoning. Each episode is tuned to the modus operandi of the person portrayed, each grew organically during the process of close collaboration.

The author

Karol Jalochowski is a physicist acting as a science/culture journalist, reporter, and documentary film-maker. He has worked for POLITYKA weekly, Polish Public Radio, Scientific American. He was the first Outreach Fellow at the Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore. He is also a recipient of the Grand Press Award.

He is the author of over 150 essays, reviews, reportages, and a series of in-depth, one-to-one interviews with some of the most fascinating contemporary scientists such as James D. Watson, David Deutsch, Lee Smolin, Michal Heller, et al.

He is also the author of Reality Lost, an experimental feature documentary on the consequences of the discovery of quantum entanglement. As something of a continuation, he has been working his own, original film project – Pioneers.

Karol Jalochowski’s films were presented by: Polish Public Television (TVP), Docs+Science Kraków Film Festival, Academia Film Olomouc, ArtScience Museum in Singapore, Universum: Museo de las Ciencias in Mexico City, FANK Science Film Festival in Moscow, Bienal Internacional de Cine Científico in Madrid, etc.

More about Karol:
Contact him here.

THE Episodes / Thinkers

Freeman Dyson | Space Dreamer

Freeman Dyson (b. 1923) is a legendary, almost mythical in some circles, scientific figure who has influenced countless fields of knowledge. He is also known for his optimistically subversive and provocative views on key world problems. The world needs heretics to challenge prevailing orthodoxies, he explains.

Dyson has been involved in all the major nuclear disarmament initiatives – including the most peculiar and the least known one: the Orion. This forgotten project assumed using spaceships propelled by a series of explosions of atomic bombs.

Freeman Dyson has also been a lone proponent of long-term deep space colonization and sailing to the moons of Jupiter, the subjects of this movie.

Artur Ekert | A Model Kit

In 1992 Artur Ekert (b. 1961), a young maverick mathematician and physicist, invented a unique kind of quantum cryptography. Being a recipe for the perfect cipher, it also questioned some common truths about the nature of free will, randomness, and the deepest structure of the our reality.

Despite being intensively researched the idea remains remarkably challenging and elusive – as does its inventor, who seems to inhabit many universes simultaneously.

This rare movie presents Artur Ekert in his ad hoc habitat, in Singapore.

Daniel C. Dennett | Do Lobsters Have Free Will?

Daniel C. Dennett (b. 1942) from Tufts University is probably the most influential philosopher today and a great reformer in the fields of philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and philosophy of biology.

For nearly half a century the thinker has been searching for answers to the following questions: What is consciousness? What is free will? Is faith a natural phenomenon? What are the roots of irrationalism? He is also known for reverse-engineering the mind using humor – and having a weak spot for VW Beetles.

The film is an unique recording of a one-to-one meeting with the philosopher at his home in northern New England.

Julian Barbour | Bottom’s Dream

Julian Barbour (b. 1937) is an independent thinker, physicist, and a science historian. For 40 years he has been tending his beautiful garden – and removing what he believes to be unnecessary terms from the physics toolbox. One of them is time, which, according to Barbour, is an illusion (he suspects size might also be superfluous, but that’s another story).

In recent years, Barbour has been working on a potentially revolutionary theory explaining where our sense of the passage of time and its direction comes from.

We meet Barbour at his home, in a small village near Oxford, accompanying him in his daily household chores.

Charles H. Bennett | A Drinking Bird Mystery

Charles H. Bennett (b. 1943) is an American thinker, physicist, and information theory pioneer with astonishingly broad interests – one of the inventors of quantum cryptography and a famous phenomenon heavily exploited by science-fiction, the quantum teleportation. But that you can discover on the Internet.

In this installment of Pioneers doc series Bennett tells a touching story of the ambiguity of the past, and the complexity of the present.

Strolling in the autumnal woods of Massachusetts we shall follow some tiny events like waves shaping the surface of a forest lake and ask whether they’re doomed to be entirely forgotten – or not.

Gregory and Virginia Chaitin | Against Method

Gregory Chaitin (b. 1947) is a mathematician, an expert in complexity. Already as a young prodigy he contributed greatly to the philosophy of mathematics and computer science. Chaitin states that although there are truths in science that cannot be proven, there is reason for huge optimism.

This natural born thinker-rebel has been recently constructing a theory of the source of beauty and creativity in nature. The new theory that he calls metabiology.

We’re meeting Gregory and Virginia – his wife, his muse, his intellectual partner and scientific collaborator – at the tiny Brazilian island of Paqueta, their philosophical retreat.

Roy Glauber | The Bomb that Shook the World

On July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert, in a flash “brighter than a thousand suns”, the post-war order was established. The Trinity Test had a handful of eyewitnesses and of those just a few took part in the creation of the weapons which less than a month later would destroy Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

One of them wasRoy Glauber (b. 1925), a future Nobel Prize laureate in physics.

The film presents his extraordinary and deeply personal account of those crucial events, the story of the last surviving scientist of the legendary Manhattan Project.