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The Cannabis Chemist

Most Americans live in a state where medical marijuana, in some form, is legal. But all marijuana isn’t the same. Different plants have different chemical compositions, and different compositions are better at treating different diseases.

Enter Chris Hudalla. Hudalla studies cannabis to help home growers treat seizures, multiple sclerosis, migraines and other illnesses. The latest film in ESPN Films and FiveThirtyEight’s series “The Collectors” is “Cannabis Chemist,” directed by Jamie Schutz.


Breaking Music Down To Its Genes

Meet Nolan Gasser, chief musicologist for Pandora and architect of the Music Genome Project. Gasser has categorized more than 500 unique genes across seven genres of music, and his genome project is the most extensive categorization of music in history. Now, Gasser is trying to create data-driven music therapy. “Musicology,” which is directed by Jamie Schutz, is part of the “Collectors” series from FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films.


How To Be Funnier

What makes something funny? Can you make yourself funnier?

University of Colorado professor Peter McGraw is trying to answer those questions and solve other mysteries in humor. The latest “Collectors” film from FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films, “Good Humor,” directed by Jamie Schutz, follows McGraw as he tries to help David, an unfunny brewery owner, become funnier. But this isn’t all a big joke — as McGraw said: “To understand what makes things funny is actually to understand people.”


The Fight To Save The Mighty Honeybee

Perhaps you don’t like honey (and certainly you don’t enjoy being stung), but you should thank bees for the work they do and be worried about their fate. The 2.5 million colonies of honeybees in the United States help feed the country; female bees pollinate about $18 billion worth of crops every year. That’s about one in every three bites of food we eat.

But there’s a threat to that system that director Steven Cantor chronicles in the latest short film in our “Collectors” series, “Beekeeper.” The film was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival.

Varroa mites are killing colonies — just 2,000 of the parasites can wipe out 30,000 bees in one year. University of Maryland entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp explains to Cantor, and us, how he and others in the field are trying to keep colonies — and ultimately our kitchens — stocked.


Understanding Why We Take To The Streets

It has been a remarkable year for public demonstrations. More than 1 million people filled Parisian streets on Sunday, a show of unity after last week’s terror attacks in France. In August, protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, after an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a police officer.

And in New York in September, tens of thousands turned out for the People’s Climate March, one of the largest environmental marches in history. Dana R. Fisher, a sociologist, was there seeking answers to basic questions: Why do individual citizens engage in the democratic process, and how do protests come together?

Fisher is the subject of “Political Action,” directed by Jamie Schutz. It’s the second film in “The Collectors,” a series of 10 short documentaries from FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films about the passionate people who collect data.


Organic Eating In The Alley Behind Your Apartment

Data has parents. Someone decides what are and what are not assists during a basketball game, tallying them from the sidelines. Headlines about the number of people who have died from Ebola probably began with an aid worker counting cases. Understanding a stat means exploring its origin story.

The Collectors, a series of 10 short documentaries from FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films, tells these stories. The films profile passionate people scrounging for information to save the world’s bees or find the formula for funny. The first documentary, “Food Cartographers,” directed by Jamie Schutz, follows Ethan Welty and Caleb Phillips, who created a crowdsourced online map to track the food growing in the wild in cities across the globe.