Fieldwork: comb jellies

7 minutes

Mary-Jane Rubenstein: multiverses, pantheism and ecology

27 minutes

Bayes’s theorem, and making probability intuitive

16 minutes

In the absence

29 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Symphonie diagonale

7 minutes

Take a shimmering, surreal swim with what might be the Earth’s oldest animals

Until recently, mainstream thinking in biology had long held that sponges were the first animal to emerge on the evolutionary tree. But over the past decade, a new wave of research argues that ctenophores, a phylum of sea invertebrates found in saltwater around the world, might be our oldest and most distant relatives. Featuring entrancing camerawork of ctenophores recorded by the US artist Charles Lindsay at Hope Island in British Columbia, Canada, Fieldwork: Comb Jellies offers a close-up look at the translucent creatures that have prompted the tree of life to be redrawn. As the jellies move across the frame, the quick movements of the fused cilia (or ‘comb rows’) they use to propel themselves diffracts the light into a rainbow, giving them an ethereal glow. Combining audio recorded at source with processed sounds from a variety of underwater microphones, Lindsay’s glitchy and immersive sound design gives the impression of a deep-sea swim on an otherworldly planet.

For more on ctenophores, read the Aeon essay Aliens in Our Midst.

Video by Charles Lindsay

If you think that modern cosmology leaves no room for ‘god’, start using your imagination

‘We’re not so much abandoning the idea of the gods, we’re just trying to pull them all the way into the Universe.’

From the possibility of infinite universes to the prospect of panpsychism, puzzles have arisen in physics that can take science to some very counterintuitive places. According to Mary-Jane Rubenstein, assistant professor of religion and feminist, gender and sexuality studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, new theories and breakthroughs at the forefront of cosmology need not – and moreover, should not – elbow out theology from the conversation about our place in the cosmos. Instead, as she argues in this wide-ranging interview recorded at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival from the Institute of Arts and Ideas in 2019, science should encourage us to build more durable myths and theologies to suit our times.

What is it to be Bayesian? The (pretty simple) math modelling behind a Big Data buzzword

If you’ve ever tripped up over the term ‘Bayesian’ while reading up on data or tech, fear not. Strip away the jargon and notation, and even the mathematics-averse can make sense of the simple yet revolutionary concept at the core of both machine learning and behavioural economics. As this video from the YouTube channel 3Blue1Brown skilfully explains, at its most basic, Bayes’s theorem is a tool for assessing degrees of probability based on prior conditions. And there are ways to make it altogether more intuitive than the statistical formulas might suggest. Although the theorem dates back to its 18th-century namesake, the English statistician and philosopher Thomas Bayes, it has gained increasing relevance in the Big Data revolution.

Video by 3Blue1Brown

‘They told us to stay put’: the South Korean ferry disaster that sank lives and trust

On 16 April 2014, the ferry MV Sewol sunk off the coast of South Korea, killing 304 people – the vast majority of them high-school students on a field trip. Like many other tragedies, the event made headlines around the world before quickly fading from the international news cycle. In South Korea, however, facts about the incompetence, government failures and lapses in responsibility that led to the Sewol’s sinking emerged slowly over the course of several years, prolonging pain and stoking anger to the present day. The documentary In the Absence by the South Korean director Yi Seung-Jun is a devastating account of the sinking and its aftermath – from the first signs of trouble at sea to the years-long struggle by bereaved families demanding accountability and justice. Combining original material with real-time audio and video of the tragedy, the film offers an extraordinary, chilling account of the consequences of following instructions from inept authorities – and the profound breakdown of public trust that follows such a disaster.

Director: Yi Seung-Jun

Producers: Gary Byung-Seok Kam, Park Bong-Nam

Website: Field of Vision

Dadaism ridiculed the meaninglessness of modern life – with captivating results

Dadaism was an avant-garde artistic movement born amid the wreckage of the First World War in Europe and formed in reaction to the perceived meaninglessness of modern life – in particular, of capitalism and its violence. The Swedish artist Viking Eggeling’s stop-motion animation Symphonie diagonale is considered both a Dadaist masterpiece and an early example of experimental animation. Basing the imagery on drawings he created alongside the influential German artist and fellow Dadaist Hans Richter, Eggeling revised and screened several versions of the short from 1922 up until his death in 1925. Shown as a silent film upon its release, this version of Symphonie diagonale features an original score, exclusive to Aeon. The contemporary Illinois-based composer William Pearson intends his music to react to Eggeling’s original vision in both style and composition, with playful, occasionally mechanical organ sounds, and melodies forming in sequence with the visuals emerging on screen.

Director: Viking Eggeling

Composer: William Pearson

Researcher: Tamur Qutab

Take a shimmering, surreal swim with what might be the Earth’s oldest animals

Until recently, mainstream thinking in biology had long held that sponges were the first animal to emerge on the evolutionary tree. But over the past decade, a new wave of research argues that ctenophores, a phylum of sea invertebrates found in saltwater around the world, might be our oldest and most distant relatives. Featuring entrancing camerawork of ctenophores recorded by the US artist Charles Lindsay at Hope Island in British Columbia, Canada, Fieldwork: Comb Jellies offers a close-up look at the translucent creatures that have prompted the tree of life to be redrawn. As the jellies move across the frame, the quick movements of the fused cilia (or ‘comb rows’) they use to propel themselves diffracts the light into a rainbow, giving them an ethereal glow. Combining audio recorded at source with processed sounds from a variety of underwater microphones, Lindsay’s glitchy and immersive sound design gives the impression of a deep-sea swim on an otherworldly planet.

For more on ctenophores, read the Aeon essay Aliens in Our Midst.

Video by Charles Lindsay

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