CULTURE
“The Most Unknown” Is a Wavy Trip Into the World’s Greatest Scientific Mysteries
The feature-length film, created by VICE’s Motherboard, is a mind-expanding journey that flips the switch on traditional science docs. As the creators explained, “focusing on just discoveries is boring.”
Published on August 22, 2018

All photos courtesy of Motherboard

The Most Unknown is a feature-length documentary produced by Motherboard — VICE’s vertical that specializes in investigating fringe tech culture and futurism. Directed by Ian Cheney and made in collaboration with legendary filmmaker/weirdo Werner Herzog, the film follows nine scientists as they go on “blind dates” with other scientists who work in fields vastly different from their own. None of the scientists are told where they’re going, or anything about the person they’re going to meet, minus one particularly curious astronomer who googled her “blind date” even though she was instructed not to (I would have done the same TBH). 

The areas of research the nine scientists specialize in become increasingly esoteric and rarified as the film goes on. We begin by spelunking with a geomicrobiologist who studies slimey microscopic lifeforms inside caves. Then, we follow her to Milan where she meets a particle physicist who is trying to prove the existence of dark matter. And that’s only the beginning. The Most Unknown takes you on a trip across the universe, literally, from a mountaintop telescope in Hawaii, to microbe-rich hot springs in the United States, to an island in the Pacific Ocean inhabited entirely by monkeys.

The “blind date” format provides the only throughline in the doc, but it allows the scientists to humanize themselves by tackling disparate subject matter alongside the viewer, as a peer. The curiosity on display from the scientists becomes infectious, and you can’t help but feel excited watching intimidatingly complex fields of study transform into something more approachable. 

Overall, The Most Unknown leaves viewers with an overwhelming sense of wonderment, especially since these niche fields of science are rarely documented so vividly, if at all. The intention of the film, however, does not seem to be to inform the viewer about each field, but rather, to inspire viewers to become more informed themselves. In the words of the filmmakers, “focusing on just discoveries is boring.” 

One of the executive producers of the film, Derek Mead, a Motherboard OG and the vertical’s former Editor-in-Chief, was kind enough to talk with MERRY JANE and answer a couple questions about the dopest science doc we’ve seen since Cosmos

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Mira Gonzalez [b. 1992] is a writer and illustrator from Los Angeles, California. She is the author of 2 word books and 1 picture book. One time she was a finalist for an award, but then she lost to the dead guy who wrote Lord of the Rings. She tweets: www.twitter.com/miragonz
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