Support Aeon

‘I support Aeon because I value excellence over up-to-the-minute, depth over speed, beauty over fact-dropping.’

Ole S, Germany, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Make a donation

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Make a donation

The love competition

15 minutes

An interview with Simone de Beauvoir

40 minutes

73 cows

15 minutes

ORIGINAL

The forgotten (female) quantum pioneer, Grete Hermann

4 minutes

My dead dad’s porno tapes

14 minutes

Contestants have five minutes in an fMRI to love someone ‘as hard as they can’

Can you look inside the living brain and tell what someone is feeling? For the first time in history we have fMRI – a technology that promises to show the neurochemical traces of joy, rage, love and hate, as they cascade through the brain. Filmmaker Brent Hoff enlisted the Stanford Center for Cognitive Neurobiological Imaging to hold the world’s first ever ‘love competition’. Seven contestants had five minutes in an fMRI machine to love someone ‘as hard as they can’. The idea that love can be measured may seem deeply unromantic: the results were anything but.

Director: Brent Hoff

Producer: Malcolm Pullinger

Contestants have five minutes in an fMRI to love someone ‘as hard as they can’

Can you look inside the living brain and tell what someone is feeling? For the first time in history we have fMRI – a technology that promises to show the neurochemical traces of joy, rage, love and hate, as they cascade through the brain. Filmmaker Brent Hoff enlisted the Stanford Center for Cognitive Neurobiological Imaging to hold the world’s first ever ‘love competition’. Seven contestants had five minutes in an fMRI machine to love someone ‘as hard as they can’. The idea that love can be measured may seem deeply unromantic: the results were anything but.

Director: Brent Hoff

Producer: Malcolm Pullinger

‘I’m against all forms of oppression’: Simone de Beauvoir, in her own words from 1959

The French philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) was at the height of her influence after she published her landmark feminist treatise The Second Sex (1949) and her acclaimed novel The Mandarins (1954). In the wake of the the Second World War, alongside Albert Camus and her lover Jean-Paul Sartre, she had set out to usher in a new society built around ideals of freedom and justice. In doing so, the trio had also helped to ignite movements in the US and France whose adherents sought to spread Existentialist philosophy through writing and art – or, at very least, have a raucous good time. By the time this interview with de Beauvoir aired on Canadian television in 1959, Camus and Sartre had already fallen out over Communism and abandoned the Existentialist label. Still, de Beauvoir is able to make a compelling point for the value of ideology even as she distances the values of the Existentialists’ cause from, in the interviewer’s words, the ‘noisy, rowdy jazz-loving young people’ they inspired. In this wide-ranging interview, de Beauvoir also discusses her views on the intersection of philosophy and political activism, and the condition of women worldwide, offering insights into the cultural moment as well as her deeply help beliefs on philosophy and the human condition.

For more on de Beauvoir, read this Aeon Idea.

Can you be a beef farmer if the animals are your friends?

After his father died in 2011, Jay Wilde inherited his family’s small beef farm in the English county of Derbyshire, and quickly found himself in an excruciatingly difficult position. A vegetarian for more than 25 years, his deep concern for animals only increased as he spent endless hours with his herd. Coming to recognise them as individuals with rich inner lives rather than just ‘units of production’, Wilde eventually found the emotional burden of sending his cattle to the abattoir too crushing to bear. In 73 Cows, Wilde and his wife Katja recall how they came to make the logistically and financially challenging choice to transition to vegan-produce farming. Melancholic yet stirring and gently hopeful, this short documentary by the UK director Alex Lockwood deftly traces the complexities of Wilde’s decisionmaking process. In doing so, it reaches far beyond the English countryside, asking viewers to reckon with the moral intricacies of eating animals.

Director: Alex Lockwood

Splitting the truth: the philosopher that physics forgot

In the early 20th century, Newtonian physics was upended by experiments that revealed a bizarre subatomic universe riddled with peculiarities and inconsistencies. Why do photons and electrons behave as both particles and waves? Why should the act of observation affect the behaviour of physical systems? More than just a puzzle for scientists to sort out, this quantum strangeness had unsettling implications for our understanding of reality, including the very concept of truth.

The German mathematician and philosopher Grete Hermann offered some intriguing and original answers to these puzzles. In a quantum universe, she argued, the notion of absolute truth must be abandoned in favour of a fragmented view – one in which the way we measure the world affects the slice of it that we can see. She referred to this idea as the ‘splitting of truth’, and believed it extended far beyond the laboratory walls and into everyday life. With a striking visual style inspired by the modern art of Hermann’s era, this Aeon Original video explores one of Hermann’s profound but undervalued contributions to quantum theory – as well as her own split life as an anti-Nazi activist, social justice reformer and educator.

Animation by Kaleida Studio

Directed and Animated by Julie Gratz and Ivo Stoop 

Designed by Julie Gratz    

Produced by Kellen Quinn 

Writers: Sally Davies and Elise Crull

Sound designers: Eli Cohn, Ben Chesneau, Maya Peart

Narrator: Jan Cramer

What you can tell about a person from the junk they leave behind

The Canadian filmmaker Charlie Tyrell delves into his late father’s belongings in an effort to better understand the man’s inscrutable inner life, including his somewhat cold and distant demeanour towards his three children. Finding no answers in those titular, poorly hidden VHS tapes, Tyrell tugs at the roots of his family tree, uncovering an intergenerational cycle of abuse that makes him reconsider his complicated relationship with his father. Crafted with humour and heart, Tyrell’s inventive and deeply personal collage of animations, archival footage and audio recordings was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018, among others.

Director: Charlie Tyrell

Producer: Julie Baldassi

Writers: Josef Beeby, Charlie Tyrell

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter
Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Essay/
Neuroscience
The inner voice

From a very early age, children learn to talk to themselves. That voice in your head is the thing that makes you, you

Philip Jaekl

Essay/
Neurodiversity
Autism from the inside

Too many depictions of autistic people rely on tired clichés. The neurotypical world needs to take note of our own voices

Katherine May