Do you think science…

6 minutes

Cuneiform writing with Irving Finkel

39 minutes

Cooperation and evolution

5 minutes

La reina (the queen)

18 minutes

Santiago

1 minute

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

Can science understand everything? NASA scientists attempt to answer the question

‘Please define everything…’

This short documentary is built around a single question posed in 2005-6 to scientists working at the NASA Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley: ‘Do you think science can understand everything?’ Most of them pause or take a deep breath before venturing out on such thin ice. From seeking clarity on the meaning of the question, to weighing careful, nuanced answers, to relative certainty one way or the other, their perspectives provide a fascinating window on to the varying motivations and world views of scientists working at the frontiers of human knowledge.

Directors: Ruth Jarman, Joe Gerhardt

Website: Semiconductor Films

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

How writing began, and other unexpectedly funny stories about cuneiform

Cuneiform, the ancient Sumerian script that emerged in Mesopotamia’s Fertile Crescent circa 3000 BCE, is the first known system of written communication to move beyond pictograms into abstract representations of language. In this lecture, as unexpectedly funny as it is edifying, Irving Finkel, a writer and curator at the British Museum in London, elucidates how cuneiform developed into an advanced writing system with its own internal logic, contradictions and – for those who would attempt to decipher it centuries later – exasperating snags. Having hooked the audience at the Royal Institution in London, Finkel then reveals how a trilingual inscription at Mount Behistun in modern-day Iran became cuneiform’s very own Rosetta Stone, unlocking secrets of the script previously thought lost to time.

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

Evolution is not only about competition: the cellular origins of a very big idea

If the competitive nature of existence ever gets you down, you might want to consider one leading theory of how complex life came to emerge in the first place. The endosymbiotic theory of mitochondrial origin (also known as symbiogenesis) is one of the leading theories for the development of eukaryotes – the nucleus-containing cells that are the building blocks of all multicellular organisms. According to the theory, narrated here by the biologist Rob Lue of Harvard University, it was a symbiotic partnership between two primitive cells that allowed them to thrive, develop organelles for specialised tasks, and eventually give rise to complex new lifeforms. In other words, cooperation was key – and it remains so today.

Animator: Andrew Benincasa

Producer: Heather Sternshein

Script: Natalie Zarrelli

Website: HarvardX

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

Heavy is the 11-year-old head that wears the crown at an Argentinian beauty pageant

‘It gets heavier and heavier by the minute. Until the callus forms. Right, Memi?’

With an unflinching focus, the Argentinian filmmaker Manuel Abramovich traces the boredom, annoyance and pain – and perhaps confusion – that pass across the face of María Emilia Frocalassi (‘Memi’) as her mother fits her with a lavish, heavy headpiece. The 11-year-old has recently won a beauty pageant and will be competing in another held as part of carnival celebrations in rural Argentina. Intercutting the pageant preparations with Memi’s tennis and swimming lessons, Abramovich binds the whole spectacle together with a soundtrack of adults relentlessly dispensing directions and expectations. When Memi finally starts to crack, it’s perhaps not just under the weight of her enormous headdress. A winner of dozens of film-festival accolades since its 2013 release, the critically acclaimed short La Reina (The Queen) is a strikingly original and confronting exploration of adolescence, tradition and the dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship.

Director: Manuel Abramovich

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

Our biological past and our technological future play out on a single human face

In this animated self-portrait, the UK artist Emma Allen uses her face as a canvas for a remarkable, millennia-spanning stop-motion. With her features always visible but transformed by the images painted across them, Allen takes us through evolution, from primordial creatures, through large mammals, to humans, before offering a vision of what’s to come – a future in which we transcend the limits of (or perhaps lose touch with) biology. For more from Allen, watch her short video Adam on the experience and neuroscience of depression.

Video by Emma Allen

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

Can science understand everything? NASA scientists attempt to answer the question

‘Please define everything…’

This short documentary is built around a single question posed in 2005-6 to scientists working at the NASA Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley: ‘Do you think science can understand everything?’ Most of them pause or take a deep breath before venturing out on such thin ice. From seeking clarity on the meaning of the question, to weighing careful, nuanced answers, to relative certainty one way or the other, their perspectives provide a fascinating window on to the varying motivations and world views of scientists working at the frontiers of human knowledge.

Directors: Ruth Jarman, Joe Gerhardt

Website: Semiconductor Films

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter
Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Essay/
Religion
Science + religion

The science-versus-religion opposition is a barrier to thought. Each one is a gift, rather than a threat, to the other

Tom McLeish

Essay/
Deep time
The planet is burning

Wild, feral and fossil-fuelled, fire lights up the globe. Is it time to declare that humans have created a Pyrocene?

Stephen J Pyne