Support Aeon

‘Content that goes beyond the two-hour news cycle. Thinking that grounds.’

Adam Ward, Canada, 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

Kite fight

5 minutes

The truth about algorithms

3 minutes

Lonesome Willcox

12 minutes

Jonah stands up

16 minutes

Want a whole new body? Ask this flatworm how

5 minutes

‘Since we don’t have wings we fly kites’ – aerial combat above Rio’s favelas

‘When we fly a kite up high we feel free.’

Kites are hugely popular in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, where they are made using cheap materials and easily flown in the breezy, coastal skies. But instead of leisurely trying to keep their home-made creations afloat, flyers engage in competitive ‘kite fights’ with the aim of cutting their opponent’s line with their own. While the sport pits rooftop against rooftop and neighbourhood against neighbourhood, its overall effect is to bring people in the favela together around a tradition that’s about fun and freedom above all else.

Director: Guilherme Tensol

Producer: Fernanda Coelho, Mañhana Laborda, Délio Santiago

Website: Mosquito Project, Victory Journal

Algorithms are opinions, not truth machines, and demand the application of ethics

It can be easy to simply accept algorithms as indisputable mathematic truths. After all, who wants to spend their spare time deconstructing complex equations? But make no mistake: algorithms are limited tools for understanding the world, frequently as flawed and biased as the humans who create and interpret them. In this brief animation, which was adapted from a 2017 presentation at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London, the US data scientist Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction (2016), argues that algorithms can be useful tools when thoughtfully deployed. However, their newfound ubiquity and massive power calls for ethical conduct from modellers, regulation and oversight by policymakers, and a more skeptical, mathematics-literate public.

Director: Nice Shit Studio

Producer: Abi Stephenson

Dispatches from a cowboy past: a one-room classic country radio station (barely) holds on

Before KHIL was pulled off the air by its new owners in October 2018, the radio station for Willcox in Arizona had been broadcasting classic country music to the small town’s residents and passersby for more than half a century. While much of the United States has moved on from sparsely strummed songs of whiskey and heartbreak, such music still very much defines this remote place: the singer and Western star Rex Allen (1920-99) is Willcox’s most beloved native son, and the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum and Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame its most notable attraction. In Lonesome Willcox, the US filmmakers Ryan Maxey and Zack Wright profile Mark Lucke, KHIL’s unlikely lone employee in the station’s waning days. Living and working from the studio, Lucke keeps the classic country crooners alive for the town’s mainly elderly population, who sense their heritage and way of life being buried beneath the Arizona dust. But while Lucke finds satisfaction in playing songs that lift the locals’ spirits, he has a complicated relationship with the boozy, ne’er-do-well characters that populate them, following his own abusive childhood.

Directors: Ryan Maxey, Zack Wright

Exit, pursued by Death: a young artist and rabble-rouser mines comedy from mortality

In her short documentary Jonah Stands Up, the US director Hannah Engelson profiles her friend Jonah Bascle: a creative, defiant spirit and New Orleans native who is dealing with a terminal heart condition related to his muscular dystrophy. The setup might sound familiar, but the short film and its subject are refreshingly subversive, refusing to fall into tired clichés about confronting disability and illness with bravery. A scrappy and heartfelt DIY production, the film uses animations inspired by Bascle’s artwork, footage of his standup comedy sets, and emotionally raw doctor’s visits to tell his story. Through Engelson’s tribute, Bascle is never presented as an inspirational force, but rather as the many things – a 20something artist, a disability-rights advocate, a rabble-rousing political candidate, a friend – he was in life.

Director: Hannah Engelson

The blob with a superpower: cut a flatworm in four pieces and watch it regenerate four-fold

Planarians are small flatworms that live in wet and humid areas around the globe. Although these creatures are relatively simple, their small, soft bodies possess one of the most amazing secrets in the animal kingdom. Cut a planarian into as many as 279 pieces and, within a few weeks, each bit will regenerate into a full new worm – head, eyes, digestive system and all. This incredible ability raises interesting questions for philosophers, who might wonder which, if any, of these worms is the ‘original’, and for medical researchers, who are hoping to harness the adaptability of planarian’s powerful regenerative stem cells to help regrow tissue, and potentially even limbs, on humans. Read more about this video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Gabriela Quirós

Narrator and Writer: Lauren Sommer

‘Since we don’t have wings we fly kites’ – aerial combat above Rio’s favelas

‘When we fly a kite up high we feel free.’

Kites are hugely popular in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, where they are made using cheap materials and easily flown in the breezy, coastal skies. But instead of leisurely trying to keep their home-made creations afloat, flyers engage in competitive ‘kite fights’ with the aim of cutting their opponent’s line with their own. While the sport pits rooftop against rooftop and neighbourhood against neighbourhood, its overall effect is to bring people in the favela together around a tradition that’s about fun and freedom above all else.

Director: Guilherme Tensol

Producer: Fernanda Coelho, Mañhana Laborda, Délio Santiago

Website: Mosquito Project, Victory Journal

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter
Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Essay/
Stories & Literature
The great disillusionist

In an age when so many people are at a loss to give life meaning and direction, Giacomo Leopardi is essential reading

Tim Parks

Essay/
Stories & Literature
Pagans against Genesis

Confused, inferior and philosophically unsound: the Greco-Roman critique of the Old Testament could have been written today

Pieter van der Horst