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

The pigeon, the antenna and me

3 minutes

How pigeon droppings nearly derailed a massive discovery in cosmology

Great cosmology research requires accounting for an enormous number of variables, everything from nuclear detonations to bird droppings. In this animation from Nature, the American radio astronomer Robert Wilson discusses how a pair of pigeons living in a large antenna frustrated attempts to measure the minimum brightness of the sky. Even once the pigeons were removed, the measurements still weren’t right. The issue, it turned out, was cosmic microwave background radiation left behind by the Big Bang – a discovery that would eventually earn Wilson part of the 1978 Nobel Prize in physics.

Video by Dog & Rabbit

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