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Diverse, numerous and vital to life on Earth, plankton are microscopic, mostly single-celled organisms that live in sunlit regions of watery environments. Through photosynthesis, these small lifeforms produce half of the world’s oxygen. Over the past several decades, however, the climate crisis has caused worrying disruptions in plankton populations, with their numbers decreasing in open oceans and increasing in near-shore waters, sometimes leading to harmful algal blooms.
The Dutch photographer and filmmaker Jan van IJken’s short film Planktonium uses high-definition microscopy to bring the beauty and wide variety of plankton into view. As he focuses on just one species at a time, some resemble familiar cellular forms, while others appear as if creatures born of an alien planet. Paired with an ethereal ambient composition by the Norwegian artist Jana Winderen, the film offers a stunning perspective on this hidden, essential world. For more awe-inspiring glimpses into nature from van IJken, watch Becoming and The Art of Flying.
Beauty and aesthetics
Not just a meme, but a masterpiece – why the Mona Lisa earns its exalted place in art
How the Hindu myth of Annapurna, goddess of food, connects sustenance with spirituality
Computing and artificial intelligence
Who, exactly, authored this AI-generated spin on Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo?
Biography and memoir
Meet the Liverbirds! The bittersweet tale of Liverpool’s all-female answer to the Beatles
Take in the sounds of silence via this unique performance of John Cage’s infamous piece
‘My people!’ A Trinidadian’s love letter to his island, just before its 1962 independence
A unique theatre performance explores what touch means in an age of lockdown
Ageing and death
How an end-of-life doula found her vocation as a companion for the dying
Artists can flourish after brain damage. What does this say about neurology and aesthetics?