Aeon
Synchronising fireflies
June 27th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Part of an art experiment conducted in Thailand’s mangrove forests by the Swiss artists Robin Meier and André Gwerder, this short film documents a stunning display of fireflies flashing in manipulated patterns. In 1992, researchers solved what was once a scientific mystery, figuring out that certain species of fireflies synchronised their flashing not by following a leader, as was suspected, but by coordinating their internal clocks to match the group. In Synchronising Fireflies, Meier and Gwerder manipulate this natural mechanism by using LEDs to coax the fireflies into creating coordinated displays. The piece is hardly just an exercise in crafting ecological eye candy, though; in creating it, the artists set out to ‘explore the idea of free will and transform a machine into a living actor inside a colony of insects’. 

For those who want to be that living actor inside a colony of insects, the US-based games developer Nicky Case created 'Fireflies'

By Aeon Video

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This is the Muslim tradition of sci-fi and speculative fiction
June 27th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Think invisible men, time travel, flying machines and journeys to other planets are the product of the European or ‘Western’ imagination? Open One Thousand and One Nights – a collection of folk tales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age, from the 8th to the 13th centuries CE – and you will find...

By Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad

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Microaggressions?
June 27th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Prejudice remains a huge social evil but evidence for harm caused by microaggression is incoherent, unscientific and weak

By Scott O Lilienfeld

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A communications primer
June 26th, 2017, 04:01 AM

From personal email and texts to Facebook, Twitter and the like, the last several decades have seen an unprecedented influx of new means of human-to-human communication. So it’s a testament to the work of the US mathematician and ‘father of information theory’ Claude Shannon (1916-2001) that his model of communication, laid out in his landmark  book A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949), is still so broadly applicable. 

Working from Shannon’s book, in 1953 the iconic husband-and-wife design team Ray and Charles Eames created the short film A Communications Primer for IBM, intending to ‘interpret and present current ideas on communications theory to architects and planners in an understandable way, and encourage their use as tools in planning and design’. Released at the dawn of the personal computer age, the film’s exploration of symbols, signals and 'noise' remains thoroughly – almost stunningly – relevant when viewed some 64 years later.

By Aeon Video

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Even the ancient Greeks thought their best days were history
June 26th, 2017, 04:01 AM

This May, Greece’s parliament passed yet another austerity bill in the hopes of securing more European debt relief. For nearly seven and a half years, creditors have held the country in an economic stranglehold. Along the way, they’ve offered a series of lessons in adding insult to injury. Politi...

By Johanna Hanink

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Dissolving the ego
June 26th, 2017, 04:01 AM

You don’t need drugs or a church for an ecstatic experience that helps transcend the self and connect to something bigger

By Jules Evans

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The Honeys and Bears
June 23rd, 2017, 04:01 AM

‘I never was a dancer, but I can dance in the water.’

Putting the maxim ‘it’s never too late to learn’ into eloquent practice, the Honeys and Bears is a synchronised swimming team made up exclusively of people over the age of 55 – some of whom never swam until their 60s. Soothing and charming in a way that suits its subject, the US director Veena Rao’s short film hangs out with the Honeys and Bears in the New York City neighbourhood of Harlem as they reflect on the freedom that moving in the water gives them as they grow older.

By Aeon Video

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The tree of knowledge is not an apple or an oak but a banyan
June 23rd, 2017, 04:01 AM

In European societies, knowledge is often pictured as a tree: a single trunk – the core – with branches splaying outwards towards distant peripheries. The imagery of this tree is so deeply embedded in European thought-patterns that every form of institution has been marshalled into a ‘centre-peri...

By Jonardon Ganeri

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The island
June 22nd, 2017, 04:01 AM

Located in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Australia and south of Indonesia, the Australian territory of Christmas Island is the arrival point for thousands of asylum seekers held in indefinite detention. Most of the island, however, is a protected national park, famous for its 50 million red crabs and their migration from the jungle to the sea. The Island follows Poh Lin Lee, a trauma counsellor who uses 'sand tray therapy' or 'sand play' to explore detainees’ personal and diverse stories of hardship, and helps them cope with the difficulties of life in detention. Despite her best efforts, Lee sees her patients – largely powerless, frequently mistreated and with little hope of freedom in sight – faring worse over time due to the anguish of living in limbo. Juxtaposing the spectacle of innumerable migrating crabs with the plight of the trapped detainees, this poignant short documentary probes the breadth, chaos and frequent cruelty of today’s migrant and refugee crises with an urgent humanity.

By Aeon Video

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The future is emotional
June 22nd, 2017, 04:01 AM

Human jobs in the future will be the ones that require emotional labour: currently undervalued and underpaid but invaluable

By Livia Gershon

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Cognitive dissonance helps old dogs with their new tricks
June 21st, 2017, 04:01 AM

How do we get others to change their minds? That is the question many of us are asking in this polarising social and political climate, where the gulf between some people’s beliefs appears almost insurmountable. But there is a way, based in the academic field of adult learning, that has helped pe...

By Suzanne Cope

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Quantum common sense
June 21st, 2017, 04:01 AM

Despite its confounding reputation, quantum mechanics both guides and helps explain human intuition

By Philip Ball

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Being hear
June 20th, 2017, 04:01 AM

'Nature is music. I'm not asking you to get all theoretical here – I'm saying, just listen.'

There are vanishingly few places left on land untouched by human-made sounds, and those quiet areas are shrinking every year. No one knows this better than the US sound recordist and acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, an Emmy award-winner who specialises in capturing the sounds of nature. At once a profile, a guided meditation and a call to action, Being Hear follows Hempton as he records sounds on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula – a National Park that contains the continental United States’ only rainforest. Combining Hempton’s measured words with striking scenes and sounds of the park’s lush vegetation, rippling waters and diverse animal life, the film suggests that ensuring that parts of nature remain untouched by human sound starts with us listening attentively and with intention.

By Aeon Video

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So I exaggerate a little – am I wrong to jazz up my stories?
June 20th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Before 8 November 2016, I thought it was okay to stretch the truth in storytelling, especially if you were trying to be funny. Now, I’m not sure. TrueStory was my Match.com handle. I don’t remember Victoria’s handle; what I remember is her picture. She’s wearing drag-queen quantities of makeup: ...

By Andrea Askowitz

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How totalism works
June 20th, 2017, 04:01 AM

The brainwashing methods of isolation, engulfment and fear can lead anyone to a cult. I should know – I was in one

By Alexandra Stein

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Sun
June 19th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Created using footage captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft between 2011 and 2015, Sun is a mesmerising, perspective-shaking glimpse at Earth’s life-giving star. While seemingly immutable in the daytime sky, a closer look at the Sun reveals a dynamic and unpredictable body, blotted with sunspots and regularly spewing violent plasma eruptions far into interplanetary space.

By Aeon Video

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Why does contemporary art make for wildly popular blockbusters?
June 19th, 2017, 04:01 AM

For Americans who love art by the likes of Hans Holbein, Édouard Manet, Georges Braque and Paul Klee, dark times lie ahead. Each one is a brilliant artist, but none is a household name like Claude Monet or Pablo Picasso. After years of declining public arts education, only the most high-profile a...

By Judith H Dobrzynski

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The bloodstained leveller
June 19th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Throughout history, plagues and wars have left greater equality in their wake. Can we get there again without violence?

By Walter Scheidel

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People in order: love
June 16th, 2017, 04:01 AM

‘I had his meringue and he had my coffee – and that’s how it all started.’

This instalment of the People in Order series, by the UK directors Lenka Clayton and James Price, presents 48 couples in descending order based on the length of their relationships – from 77 years to what appears to be a first date. The resulting short film is a surprising, heartwarming and frequently funny survey of love across generations, cultures and sexual orientations. According to the filmmakers, the People in Order series is ‘like a list of government statistics where the citizens … have broken out from behind the figures on the page. The people on the screen stop us from seeing them as numbers. Even in single-second bursts there are worlds of personality stretching out in front of us.’

By Aeon Video

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Is it moral to respect the wishes of the dead, above the living?
June 16th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Imagine what a country would be like if every person could secure a vote in elections that happened after their death. If you stated your preferences in your will, you could execute a vote for the conservative, liberal, Asian, or White Separatist candidate, in every election, in perpetuity, and y...

By Barry Lam

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