The secret language of trees

5 minutes

Talking heads

15 minutes

Lee Smolin: space and time

9 minutes

Another Hayride

18 minutes

Why do we, like, hesitate when we, um, speak?

6 minutes

The incredible – and still quite mysterious – way trees trade information via their roots

While researching her doctoral thesis, Suzanne Simard, now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, made an astounding discovery – trees in forests seem to possess complex information superhighways in their root systems that allow them to share information. Her 1995 doctoral thesis on the topic has been part of a revolution in how scientists view plants, leading many to suggest that they possess cognitive abilities, and even intelligence. This animation from TED-Ed details the symbiotic relationship – between tree roots and fungi called mycorrhizae – that serves as the foundation of these intricate intra-tree communication networks, allowing them to trade news on topics such as drought and insect attacks, and even detect if an incoming message has been sent by a close relative.

Video by TED Ed

Director: Avi Ofer

Writers: Camille Defrenne, Suzanne Simard

Want an unvarnished window into the world of kids? Try cutting their hair

In the Dutch documentary series Talking Heads, the host and seasoned children’s hairdresser Marko Suds provides a window into the eclectic worlds of the eight- to 12-year-old kids who populate his salon chair. The far-reaching discussions span the challenges, passions and dreams of the diverse young patrons – all while the endearing Suds carefully observes their instructions for an ideal hairstyle. In this first episode of the series, Suds cuts and communes with Marijn, who ponders meeting his sperm donor father; Taysen, who’s tired after a night spent watching a television programme about criminal fugitives; Zhuan, who has Tourette’s syndrome; and Annemarie, whose beloved father has had a debilitating stroke.

Director: Menno Otten

Websites: Keplerfilm

Time is fundamental, space is emergent – why physicists are rethinking reality

From Isaac Newton’s ‘absolute space’ and ‘absolute time’, which envisioned the two phenomena as fundamental and separate, to Albert Einstein’s ‘spacetime’, which condensed them into a single concept, the relationship between space and time has been the mystery driving fundamental physics for more than four centuries. And over the past several decades, some physicists, including Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada, have come to believe that the fabric of reality is perhaps due to be torn into yet again. In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the series Closer to Truth, Smolin discusses how developments in quantum mechanics have left physicists with questions that special relativity can’t seem to accommodate, and why the solution might be a conception of reality in which time is fundamental, and space emergent.

Video by Closer to Truth

The controversial New Age guru who believed self-love healed all – even AIDS

For gay men living with HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, their diagnosis was often accompanied by both fear for their lives and shame for having contracted a highly stigmatised disease. In Another Hayride, the US filmmaker Matt Wolf explores how the US self-help guru Louise Hay (1926-2017) gained an ardent following among HIV-positive gay men in Los Angeles, and then among people experiencing trauma throughout the country, by teaching that they could heal themselves through self-love. The short documentary is built from archival footage – the US talk show hosts Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue make cameos – and narration from the US writer and minister David Ault, who attended Hay’s weekly ‘Hayride’ support groups. Through his portrait, Wolf offers a nuanced recollection of Hay and her gospel of New Age healing, in which extraordinary compassion and magical thinking both played central roles.

Director: Matt Wolf

Producer: Sam Bisbee

Ums, likes and y’knows get no respect – but they’re vital to conversation

If you’ve ever listened to a recording of yourself speaking, the frequency with which you used fillers such as ‘um’, ‘uh’, ‘like’ and ‘y’know’ might have grabbed your attention – and perhaps your scorn. Indeed, these verbal hesitations have been viewed as undesirable since the days of ancient Greece and, more recently, the American linguist Noam Chomsky characterised them as ‘errors’ irrelevant to language. But could there be more to these utterances than initially meets the ear? In this short animation from TED-Ed, Lorenzo García-Amaya, assistant professor of Spanish at the University of Michigan, reveals how ‘filled pauses’ can give conversation partners important context clues, communicate emphasis, help tether related thoughts together, and so much more.

Video by TED-Ed

Writer: Lorenzo García-Amaya

Animator: Yael Reisfeld

The incredible – and still quite mysterious – way trees trade information via their roots

While researching her doctoral thesis, Suzanne Simard, now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, made an astounding discovery – trees in forests seem to possess complex information superhighways in their root systems that allow them to share information. Her 1995 doctoral thesis on the topic has been part of a revolution in how scientists view plants, leading many to suggest that they possess cognitive abilities, and even intelligence. This animation from TED-Ed details the symbiotic relationship – between tree roots and fungi called mycorrhizae – that serves as the foundation of these intricate intra-tree communication networks, allowing them to trade news on topics such as drought and insect attacks, and even detect if an incoming message has been sent by a close relative.

Video by TED Ed

Director: Avi Ofer

Writers: Camille Defrenne, Suzanne Simard

Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter

Photo by Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Essay/
Mental health
The seed of suffering

The p-factor is the dark matter of psychiatry: an invisible, unifying force that might lie behind a multitude of mental disorders

Alex Riley

John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and Art Davis, live in Copenhagen, 1961. Photo by JP Jazz Archive/Getty

Essay/
Quantum theory
Quantum music

Physics has long looked to harmony to explain the beauty of the Universe. But what if dissonance yields better insights?

Katie McCormick