How did the big bang shape the structure of the universe? What would happen to reality if we tweaked the fundamental forces? Why is gravity just so strange?

In our new three-part video miniseries, Scientific American contributors Jared Kaplan and Emily V. Driscoll ponder these weighty existential issues with you through the lens of beautifully rendered explanatory animations created by artist Lottie Kingslake. 

Think of it as your cosmic therapy session for our on-edge times.

Part I: What if the laws of physics were different?

In the video Did the Universe Have to Be the Way That It Is? we examine what our universe—and more specifically, our lives—might look like with some tweaks to the physics responsible for the world as we know it.

Part II: How did the universe get its texture? 

In this video, How the Big Bang Governs the Texture of Our Universe, we explore the concept of cosmic inhomogeneities—using zebras as an analogy for clumps of matter scattered throughout the universe.

Part III: Why is gravity different?

In our video Why Is Gravity Different? we explore why this force is so perplexing and why it remains difficult to understand how Einstein’s general theory of relativity (which covers gravity) fits together with quantum mechanics.