Aeon
My cat and me
December 15th, 2017, 04:01 AM

1Minute Nature is a Dutch series of short vignettes in which children from the Netherlands reflect on how they experience nature. In this episode, 11-year-old Lieuwe recalls finding his pet cat dead, and gives an imaginative (if not entirely accurate) account of what will happen to the cat’s body after he buries it, grappling with the universal human struggle to process death by finding a slightly macabre, but funny link between himself and the dead pet.

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How climate change and disease helped the fall of Rome
December 15th, 2017, 04:01 AM

At some time or another, every historian of Rome has been asked to say where we are, today, on Rome’s cycle of decline. Historians might squirm at such attempts to use the past but, even if history does not repeat itself, nor come packaged into moral lessons, it can deepen our sense of what it me...

By Kyle Harper

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They are the last
December 14th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Leonardo Da Costa is a lighthouse keeper stationed in the small hamlet of Cabo Polonio on Uruguay’s southeastern coast. The area has no road access and is largely cut off from the rest of the world, but the lighthouse there has helped guide ships on this treacherous bit of coast since 1881. Through fleeting glimpses of Da Costa’s home, work and daily routines, but without a single line of dialogue or clear shots of his face, filmmakers Diego Vivanco and Ian Clark give a sense of this disappearing way of life as automation closes in on the last lighthouses around the world.

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In cold blood
December 14th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Therapeutic hypothermia could save lives, propel interstellar travel and expand consciousness. Why the cold feet?

By Philip Jaekl

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Our enemies are human: that’s why we want to kill them
December 13th, 2017, 04:01 AM

At last count, more than 600,000 of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority had fled the country for Bangladesh. Ever since Rohingya militants attacked Myanmar police outposts, resulting in a dozen deaths in August 2017, Myanmar security forces have begun a campaign of ethnic cleansing. They have burn...

By Tage Rai, Piercarlo Valdesolo & Jesse Graham

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The African Enlightenment
December 13th, 2017, 04:01 AM

The highest ideals of Locke, Hume and Kant were first proposed more than a century earlier by an Ethiopian in a cave

By Dag Herbjørnsrud

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How Orwell used wartime rationing to argue for global justice
December 12th, 2017, 04:01 AM

‘We are the 99 per cent!’ Many of us who have applauded those stirring words, beginning with the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, knew that the number was not precise, and was never intended to be. The slogan did not arise because someone calculated that 99 per cent was more accurate than 92 ...

By Bruce Robbins

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The minds of plants
December 12th, 2017, 04:01 AM

From the memories of flowers to the sociability of trees, the cognitive capacities of our vegetal cousins are all around us

By Laura Ruggles

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Kurt Vonnegut: the shape of stories
December 11th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Although his master’s thesis on the topic was rejected by the University of Chicago’s anthropology department, it's hard to discount the acuity of the US writer Kurt Vonnegut's theory of ‘story shapes’. This archival video features Vonnegut using a chalkboard and his famous deadpan wit to map out three highly familiar narrative arcs that seem to have lost none of their popularity despite countless iterations. He addressed story shapes at greater length in his essay collection A Man Without a Country (2005). The US graphic designer Maya Eilam later adapted his archetypes into a series of handy infographics, which can be viewed at her website.

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Even if genes affect intelligence, we can’t engineer cleverness
December 11th, 2017, 04:01 AM

First, let me tell you how smart I am. So smart. My fifth-grade teacher said I was gifted in mathematics and, looking back, I have to admit that she was right. I’ve properly grasped the character of metaphysics as trope nominalism, and I can tell you that time exists, but that it can’t be integra...

By Jim Kozubek

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The other side of the curtain
December 11th, 2017, 04:01 AM

During the Cold War, US propagandists worked to provide a counterweight to Communist media, but truth eluded them all

By Melissa Feinberg

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Are university admissions biased?
December 8th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Simpson’s paradox is a statistical phenomenon in which a trend appears in small data sets, but differs or reverses when those sets are combined into a larger group. One of the most fascinating examples of the paradox comes from a study about gender bias in graduate admissions at the University of California, Berkeley in 1973, when roughly 44 per cent of male applicants were accepted, compared with only 35 per cent of female applicants. These figures appeared to show an obvious bias against women, but when the data were broken down by department, they actually showed a slight bias in favour of women. This animation from MinutePhysics explains just how Simpson's paradox occurs and, in the case of Berkeley, how the paradox highlighted a deeper societal bias that pushes women towards departments that are more crowded, have less funding, and offer poorer employment opportunities. 

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Stop boycotting SeaWorld if you care about marine conservation
December 8th, 2017, 04:01 AM

In 2010, the death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando, focused attention on the entertainment groups’ orca (or killer whale) shows. The subsequent release of the documentary Blackfish (2013) detailing captive breeding and training at SeaWorld shifted public perception of dolphin and...

By Samantha Muka

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Mother Canada
December 7th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Planned for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia by the Toronto businessman Tony Trigiani, the 24-metre Mother Canada monument was intended to serve the dual purpose of honouring the country’s war dead and boosting the area’s largely seasonal fishing economy. However, its opponents saw it as a violation of protected public lands, a troubling appeal to ‘one-dimensional nationalism’, and an eyesore. Engaging and evenhanded, Craig Jackson’s short documentary shifts between the varying perspectives of the planned monument’s defenders and its detractors, capturing the vexing nature of public discourse. Beginning as a film about a local dispute, Mother Canada becomes a gripping tale of media sensationalism, contrasting notions of patriotism, jingoistic local politics and the purpose of public lands.

By Aeon Video

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Freud in the scanner
December 7th, 2017, 04:01 AM

A revival of interest in the power of introspection and thought has brought Freud’s ideas back into the scientific fold

By M M Owen

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Everyone in the world should be taxed on their energy footprint
December 6th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Technological advances and historically unprecedented income inequalities have raised living standards while enabling a new global elite to enjoy lifestyles more lavish in energy consumption and environmental impact than those enjoyed by any aristocracy in the past. Real-life illustrations of el...

By Iason Athanasiadis

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Touching the sky
December 6th, 2017, 04:01 AM

At their best, daredevils rival philosophers and mystics in their exploration of human mortality and spirit

By Lary Wallace

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How a children’s toy led to an essential medical device
December 5th, 2017, 04:01 AM

Centrifuges are a basic component of any modern medical laboratory. Used to separate different types of cells within a blood sample by spinning them extremely quickly, they are an essential tool for detecting many diseases. Due to the price of equipment and a lack of electricity, however, many medical centres in resource-poor areas lack access to the technology. After seeing this problem first-hand on a visit to Uganda, Manu Prakash, professor of bioengineering at Stanford University, thought up a new tool that wouldn't require any electricity whatsoever. Inspired by a children's toy known as the whirligig, Prakash invented the 'paperfuge', a hand-powered centrifuge that costs just 20 cents each to produce. Read more about Prakash and the paperfuge at NPR’s website.

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‘Let the soul dangle’: how mind-wandering spurs creativity
December 5th, 2017, 04:01 AM

The Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer was regarded by his friends as a master in the art of mind-wandering. He could become ‘enwrapped’ in his own pleasant reflections, wrote the German humanist Willibald Pirckheimer, at which times Dürer ‘would seem the happiest person on Earth’.  Many of us a...

By Julia Christensen, Guido Giglioni & Manos Tsakiris

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The ethics of ET
December 5th, 2017, 04:01 AM

The discovery of independent life beyond Earth would have deep philosophical implications for us, and our ideas of morality

By Tim Mulgan

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