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A day in Pompeii

9 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

From eruption to obliteration – the sights and sounds of 48 fateful hours in Pompeii

Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 CE, Pompeii was a thriving Roman port city and commercial hub near modern-day Naples, and home to an estimated 15,000 people. Closer to the mountain’s base and on the other side, the nearby town of Herculaneum, estimated population 5,000, was smaller, wealthier and a popular resort for elite Romans. After the eruption, both remained buried, their memories lost to time, until they were excavated and identified in the 18th century. In the years since, the continuing excavation of their eerily preserved buildings, artifacts and human remains have given archeologists and researchers an invaluable window into ancient Roman life.

The only firsthand account of the eruption comes from the author and lawyer Pliny the Younger. In his correspondence with the historian Tacitus, Pliny describes helplessly watching from nearby Misenum as the tragedy unfolds: 

Some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world. 

This animation, produced in 2009 for an exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, brings his harrowing words to stark and vivid life. Transporting viewers back to the morning of the eruption, the video recreates sights and sounds from that fateful day through to the following night, at which point both Pompeii and Herculaneum already lay buried deep in volcanic ash and debris.

Video by Zero One Studio

From eruption to obliteration – the sights and sounds of 48 fateful hours in Pompeii

Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 CE, Pompeii was a thriving Roman port city and commercial hub near modern-day Naples, and home to an estimated 15,000 people. Closer to the mountain’s base and on the other side, the nearby town of Herculaneum, estimated population 5,000, was smaller, wealthier and a popular resort for elite Romans. After the eruption, both remained buried, their memories lost to time, until they were excavated and identified in the 18th century. In the years since, the continuing excavation of their eerily preserved buildings, artifacts and human remains have given archeologists and researchers an invaluable window into ancient Roman life.

The only firsthand account of the eruption comes from the author and lawyer Pliny the Younger. In his correspondence with the historian Tacitus, Pliny describes helplessly watching from nearby Misenum as the tragedy unfolds: 

Some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world. 

This animation, produced in 2009 for an exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, brings his harrowing words to stark and vivid life. Transporting viewers back to the morning of the eruption, the video recreates sights and sounds from that fateful day through to the following night, at which point both Pompeii and Herculaneum already lay buried deep in volcanic ash and debris.

Video by Zero One Studio

‘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

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Essay/
History
Madhouse genetics

What the archives of mental-health asylums reveal about the history of human heredity and the evolution of genetics

Theodore M Porter

Essay/
Political Philosophy
The voice of Hobsbawm

How the Marxist ideas of a British historian ended up on the bookshelves of Indian civil servants and Brazilian housewives

Emile Chabal