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What is dust made of? - Michael Marder

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Less than a tenth the size of an ant, a dust mite’s whole world is contained in the dusty film under a bed or in a forgotten corner. This realm is right under our noses, but from our perspective, the tiny specks of brilliant color blend together into a nondescript grey. What are these colorful microscopic particles? Michael Marder explores the science of dust.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Michael Marder
  • Director Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Producer The Animation Workshop, Ian Otto
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott, Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-checker Brian Gutierrez
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
In addition to the scientific studies of household, atmospheric, industrial, and cosmic dust, scholars in the social sciences and the humanities have explored the varied histories of dust. 

Joseph Amato’s Dust: A History of the Small & the Invisible (2000) documents, among other things, how dust became a problem of public health and hygiene starting with the nineteenth-century’s Great Cleanup.

Carolyn Steedman’s Dust: The Archive and Cultural History (2002) looks into the materiality of the archive and the work of historians who have been frequently susceptible to dust-provoked illnesses.

In Dust (Object Lessons) (2016), Michael Marder examines dust from a philosophical and literary point of view in an attempt to ascertain what we can learn about the world and ourselves from dust.

His other fragmentary reflections on the theme can be found here and here. His website with further materials and resources to explore is accessible here.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Michael Marder
  • Director Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Producer The Animation Workshop, Ian Otto
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott, Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-checker Brian Gutierrez
  • See more