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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.

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The lichenologist

6 minutes

How LSD helped a scientist find beauty in a peculiar and overlooked form of life

Kerry Knudsen, curator of lichens at the University of California Riverside, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the composite organisms in which algae or cyanobacteria grow symbiotically inside a fungus. The Lichenologist finds Knudsen in the lab and on excursions to Santa Cruz Island and Joshua Tree National Park, where he describes his abiding love of nature, partially precipitated by experimentation with LSD, and of working in the field, a joy he attributes to ‘the intense feeling of reality, of just being here’. Shot and scored with an appropriately psychedelic flair, the UK director Matthew Killip’s film finds much to marvel at in both Knudsen and the lichens themselves.

Director: Matthew Killip

Support Aeon

Ideas can change the world

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

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.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

Essay/Biology
The minds of plants

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

Laura Ruggles

Essay/Earth Science
Life goes deeper

The Earth is not a solid mass of rock: its hot, dark, fractured subsurface is home to weird and wonderful life forms

Gaetan Borgonie & Maggie Lau