Famous misanthrope Werner Herzog is listed as “Advisor” in the opening credits of Search for General Tso director Ian Cheney’s new documentary The Most Unknown, and while it shares Herzog’s sense of curiosity about the universe’s riddles, it’s dominated by a humanistic optimism that’s all Cheney. The Most Unknown plays a game of tag as Scientist A visits Scientist B, who shows Scientist A the wonders of their research as well as the mysteries they’re trying to solve. Scientist B then travels to a far-flung destination to visit Scientist C, who shows a properly gobsmacked Scientist B what they’re up to, after which Scientist C hops on a plane to visit Scientist D, and so forth.
None of the nine scientific pursuits on display can be covered in-depth, but there are still mindblowers such as physicist Jun Ye telling geobiologist Victoria Orphan how the time dilation effects of General Relativity as seen in the movie Interstellar can be used to predict volcanic eruptions, which is like whaaaaaat? A necessary byproduct of the picture’s globetrotting is the diversity among the scientists in both ethnicity and gender, but it also thankfully goes uncommented upon; notably, it’s treated as a matter of course when both scientists are female. The Most Unknown demonstrates how both science and society can progress.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.