Aeon
The slow professor can dish out a more nutritious education
March 29th, 2017, 04:00 AM

The academy has moved to the fast lane. Corporatisation has sped up the clock, compromising teaching, scholarship and collegiality. The ‘slow movement’ – originating in slow food – challenges the frantic pace and homogenisation of contemporary culture. We believe that adopting the principles of s...

By Barbara Seeber & Maggie Berg

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Echoes of a black hole
March 29th, 2017, 04:00 AM

Ripples in space-time could herald the demise of general relativity and its replacement by a quantum theory of gravity

By Sabine Hossenfelder

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The Stuarts in seven minutes
March 28th, 2017, 04:00 AM

From the ascent of King James I in 1603 to the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the House of Stuart’s rule over England, Ireland and Scotland was marked by bloodshed, political turmoil, religious conflict, and occasional chaos. But it was also an era of scientific enlightenment, growing wealth in the British Isles, and radical thinking that ultimately paved the way for the creation of the modern United Kingdom – England and Scotland were officially united by Queen Anne in 1707, and merged with Ireland in 1801 – and its constitutional monarchy. Presented by the British comedian David Mitchell, this cleverly animated history condenses the tumultuous, pivotal Stuart period to a brisk few minutes.

By Aeon Video

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How many great minds does it take to invent a telescope?
March 28th, 2017, 04:00 AM

On 11 January 1672, the Fellows of the British Royal Society were treated to a demonstration of Isaac Newton’s reflecting telescope, which formed images with mirrors rather than with the lenses that had been used since the time of Galileo. Afterward, the fellows hailed Newton as the inventor of t...

By Thony Christie

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The legal imagination
March 28th, 2017, 04:00 AM

Hypotheticals, fantastical beings, and a fictional omnibus: legal reasoning is made supple by its use of the imagination

By Maksymilian Del Mar

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Mammoth
March 27th, 2017, 04:00 AM

In the barren reaches of Arctic Siberia, Sergey and Nikita Zimov, a Russian father-and-son team of scientists, are working on geoengineering measures that sound as if they’re ripped from the pages of a Michael Crichton novel: reintroduce a massive, bygone ecosystem to the Eurasian steppe, including mammoths developed from elephant-mammoth DNA hybrids. Their plan is not, however, just for their own amusement – it's to fight global warming. Placed in context, their idea isn’t nearly as farfetched as it sounds: the massive permafrost covering much of Siberia is in grave danger of melting away. If it does, dormant microbes frozen in the soil would wake and release enormous quantities of carbon into the air, creating a potentially disastrous climate feedback loop. According to the Zimovs, a new, thriving steppe ecosystem teeming with large, roaming herbivores – Pleistocene Park, as they call it – could keep the dangerous carbon insulated in the ground. And those mammoths that have been extinct for millennia? Thanks to the new gene-editing technology CRISPR, they could be just years away. At once a rather curious father-son portrait, and a revealing investigation of the inventive and extraordinary measures needed to fight global warming, Mammoth is the US filmmaker Grant Slater’s video companion piece to an article by Ross Andersen, senior editor at The Atlantic and former Aeon deputy editor.

By Aeon Video

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It wasn't just hate. Fascism offered robust social welfare
March 27th, 2017, 04:00 AM

An analogy is haunting the United States – the analogy of fascism. It is virtually impossible (outside certain parts of the Right-wing itself) to try to understand the resurgent Right without hearing it described as – or compared with – 20th-century interwar fascism. Like fascism, the resurgent R...

By Sheri Berman

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When nations apologise
March 27th, 2017, 04:00 AM

National apologies are a big deal: they acknowledge the past to help move everyone forward. No wonder they’re so hard

By Edwin Battistella

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The saint of Dry Creek
March 24th, 2017, 04:00 AM

Growing up in rural Washington State during the 1950s, Patrick Haggerty tried to hide the fact that he was gay from his family and from himself. In this short animation from StoryCorps, Haggerty recounts how during an impromptu visit to school, his father, a dairy farmer, first embarrassed him and then gave him a message of affirmation and acceptance that he still remembers with gratitude decades later: ‘Don’t sneak.’

By Aeon Video

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Hierarchy is either strictly constrained or it is indefensible
March 24th, 2017, 04:00 AM

The authors of the essay ‘In defence of hierarchy’ appear to throw caution to the winds in advertising the defence of an abstract, audacious thesis about the merits of hierarchy. But the advertisement is misleading. For in defending the advertised thesis, it is audacity that they throw to the win...

By Philip Pettit

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Scientific instruments of yore
March 23rd, 2017, 04:00 AM

Behind its modest storefront in Peekskill in New York state, the Early Electrics antique and custom lighting shop doubles as a museum of obsolete medical equipment and scientific models. Amassed by Steve Erenberg over 30 years, the collection is a whirlwind tour of early medical science, with promising prototypes and what Erenberg calls ‘quack devices’ offering a glimpse into the pervasive ailments and the (sometimes snake-oil) remedies of the recent past. But Erenberg appreciates the items more for their aesthetic qualities than their historical significance, finding beauty in the design of the tools, many of which were crafted with extreme care before the age of mass-production.

By Aeon Video

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What do slaveholders think?
March 23rd, 2017, 04:00 AM

It is everywhere illegal yet slavery persists in many corners of the global economy. How do its beneficiaries justify it?

By Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick

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The only line comedy shouldn’t cross is the no-laughter line
March 22nd, 2017, 04:00 AM

In 1996, the late American comedian George Carlin opened his set at the Beacon Theater in New York with a blistering question: ‘Why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn’t wanna fuck in the first place?’ Fellow stand-up Patrice O’Neal, in Elephant in the Roo...

By Casey Michael Henry

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In defence of hierarchy
March 22nd, 2017, 04:00 AM

As a society we have forgotten how to talk about the benefits of hierarchy, expertise and excellence. It's time we remembered

By Stephen C Angle, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Julian Baggini and others

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Pleasure and the good life
March 21st, 2017, 04:00 AM

Pleasure, despite being central to human experience and evolution, is quite hard to define. Aristotle argued that what we call pleasure is comprised of least two distinct aspects, hedonia (pleasure) and eudaimonia (human flourishing or a life well-lived). However, as Morten Kringelbach, professor at the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford in the UK and at the Centre for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University in Denmark, points out this instalment of Aeon’s In Sight series: ‘It’s surprisingly difficult to show that somebody who is happy is also somebody who has had a lot of pleasure.' 

Kringelbach’s research into how pleasure works in the brain seeks to find the connections between experiencing hedonistic pleasure – food, sex, drugs – and living an eudaimonic life. When all is well, he discovered, there is a system of give and take between different regions of the brain that yields experiences of pleasure that cumulatively contribute to feelings of wellbeing. However, imperfections in the mechanisms that govern pleasure in the brain leave us susceptible to conditions such as addiction, an unhealthy fixation on the pursuit of pleasure, or depression, in which both the desire for pleasure and pleasure itself are significantly diminished. A common characteristic of these and other affective disorders is that they take people away from what Kringelbach argues are the two key – often overlooked – aspects of pleasure: variety and community. Ultimately, he thinks, variation in pleasure, together with sharing that enjoyment with others, is what’s needed for a well-balanced, eudaimonic life.

By Aeon Video

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Science funding is a gamble so let’s give out money by lottery
March 21st, 2017, 04:00 AM

Perhaps your life, like that of many of my friends and relatives, has been improved by propranolol – a beta-blocker that reduces the effects of stress hormones, and that’s used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, chest pain, an uneven heartbeat and migraines. It’s considered one of t...

By Shahar Avin

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The last hollow laugh
March 21st, 2017, 04:00 AM

Since Francis Fukuyama proclaimed ‘The End of History’ 25 years ago, he has been much maligned. His work now seems prophetic

By Paul Sagar

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Possibly the best rectangle in the world
March 20th, 2017, 04:00 AM

Described by the 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler as a ‘precious jewel’, the so-called ‘golden ratio’ is an irrational number whose physical manifestation is prevalent in nature and has been employed by artists, architects and designers for its aesthetic allure. It has been argued, however, that the ratio’s occurrence in the natural world has been exaggerated, and that its ‘beauty’ can be chalked up to its pleasing simplicity. This brief animation explores the ratio through its most famous manifestation, the ‘golden rectangle’, whose very name begs the question whether some shapes are inherently more beautiful than others.

By Aeon Video

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There's a Green Card-holder at the heart of Greek philosophy
March 20th, 2017, 04:00 AM

When it comes to immigration, not all foreigners are the same. The treatment of non-citizen legal residents, for example, raises very different moral and political questions from the larger debate about who should, and who should not, be allowed to enter. States have the right to control their bo...

By David V Johnson

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The real Casanova
March 20th, 2017, 04:00 AM

His name is synonymous with serial seduction but Casanova's memoirs reveal a man greater than the sum of his ‘conquests’

By Laurence Bergreen

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