Big Think
Big Think is the leading source of expert-driven, actionable, educational content -- with thousands of videos, featuring experts ranging from Bill Clinton to Bill Nye, we help you get smarter, faster. We aim to help you explore the big ideas and core skills that define knowledge in the 21st century, so you can apply them to the questions and challenges in your own life.

1363 videos
How one company got $1 billion through secrecy, hacking, and fraud | John Carreyrou How one company got $1 billion through secrecy, hacking, and fraud | John Carreyrou
1 day ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink John Carreyrou: I don’t think it’s just about greed. I don’t think the Theranos scandal was just about greed, and I don’t think Elizabeth Holmes’ only motive was greed. I think, more than riches, what she was after was fame. She wanted to be in the pantheon of these billionaire tech founders and her idol, as I detail in the book, was Steve Jobs. I mean she absolutely idolized him and Apple. So I mean in Silicon Valley—and really in American society at large—there’s this reverence for the entrepreneur and for the successful entrepreneur. And this reverence has morphed into almost like a cult of these young bright-eyed tech founders dropping out of (usually) Stanford and going on to found their businesses and getting a lot of funding and then becoming billionaires. And she was on that same track. The problem is that on the way there she cut a lot of corners and crossed some bright red lines. The biggest one was that in the fall of 2013 she went live with her blood tests in Walgreens stores, first in Palo Alto and then in the Phoenix area. And very few of the tests on the menu were done with actual Theranos technology. Most of them, the vast majority, in fact, were done with third party analyzers bought from other companies. But then they also hacked those machines to “adapt” them to the small finger stick samples, because they wanted to maintain the illusion that they did have this innovative technology that could test, do the full range of tests from just a drop or two of blood pricked from a finger. And in hacking these commercial machines they made the testing less accurate and less reliable. And so essentially they put lives at risk. That’s one big piece of it, and that’s part of the wrongdoing here. But another part of it is that by going commercial and then soliciting funding from investors Elizabeth Holmes used the fact that her services were in Walgreen’s stores to get investors on board, because it was like the validation that “Yes, this product was for real. How could it not be? They’ve gone live with it. It’s commercial!” But I would say that there were two stages of Theranos. There was a stage when she had just dropped out with this vision, and people like Tim Draper and Don Lucas and Larry Ellison gave her money and funded her. And that was your typical early startup where chances are it’s not going to work out, because nine out of ten of these companies fail, and one succeeds, and maybe it becomes a great success. And those are the odds, and the investors who invested in the first few rounds in 2005 and 2006 knew what those odds were, and they knew that they were taking a flyer and a young kid who seemed smart and dynamic and seemed to have a great vision. Where Theranos became a fraud is much later, when in 2013 she launched the blood tests in Walgreens stores and then went back to investors to solicit more money. And that’s actually when Theranos raised the lion’s share of the nearly billion dollars that it raised over its 15 year history. More than $700 million of that billion dollars was raised after 2013, and it was based on the premise that Theranos had a groundbreaking product, and the “proof” was that the product was commercialized—it was in Walgreens stores. So on the one hand you have putting patients in harm’s way with inaccurate blood tests, and on the other you have defrauding investors, essentially securities fraud. And in this cult of the startup founder that we have (and of entrepreneurialism) we tend to forget that there’s also something called business ethics, and that these people, even if they have great ambitions and great visions they still need to play by the same rules that we all play by—by society’s rules. And this cult of the startup founder and this reverence we have for entrepreneurialism shouldn’t excuse wrongdoing. It shouldn’t excuse committing white collar crimes. You’re always going to have people who can find ways to get around rules and laws. And so I hope that the Theranos scandal remains a lesson in people’s minds, in VCs’ minds, and entrepreneurs’ minds in Silicon Valley—that cutting too many corners and not obeying regulations in healthcare is not okay.
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Does America care more about guns than kids? | Arne Duncan Does America care more about guns than kids? | Arne Duncan
2 days ago En
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How VR is changing the game of cinema How VR is changing the game of cinema
3 days ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Danfung Dennis: Yes, it’s actually too early to really have any hard and fast rules of VR. I think it’s maybe like the internet in 1998 where you could see that it was coming but it’s pretty hacked together. Everything from the cameras, the stitching pipeline, to the headsets themselves—they’ve been at this prototype phase, literally taking GoPros and sticking them together to make a 360 degree camera—to manually aligning images so they stitch correctly, and popping phones into plastic holders. I mean all of that is going away and is being replaced with the real tools. We’re getting real VR cameras, we’ve built an automated stitching pipeline, and we’re going to have headsets that are affordable and easily accessible. And so I think we’re really learning from just the difficulty of the technical challenges of creating VR, and some of those challenges are melting away. The “language” of it is actually much harder. How do we use this effectively? We’re finding things that do work. We’re finding a lot of things that don’t work. But we know that these experiences need to be longer. They’ve been pretty short, under ten minutes. We’re finding that the longer you spend in VR – and it has to be comfortable – the more immersion and feeling that you are in that world, the more your mind starts to accept it. And so we’re creating potentially 40 minutes of content, up to 60 minutes where you can go in, have these long durations and come out and have these profound experiences within that timeframe. We know that the visual fidelity needs to get much better. Right now we’re at 4K by 2K, and when stretched out 360 degrees it looks low-res. We need resolutions of 8K by 4K and frame rates of 60 frames per second. We need perfect synchronization between all of these cameras, and ambisonic audio where an audio source sounds like it’s actually coming from this position. When all of these factors start combining we’re going to have these high-fidelity experiences where the fluidity of emotion that can transfer in these worlds is going to be unparalleled. And so I think we’re just beginning on this curve of VR where the technology, the storytelling are starting to come together where we’re passing the prototype phase and we could actually use it to create these profound experiences — people come out after even ten minutes, come out of a headset and they will say, “I was so moved by that.” And a year later will come back and say, “that experience changed my life.” And I haven’t heard that before in films and images, that a short experience can have such a profound and lasting impact. And so I think there is this real potential that we’re just starting to crack. Right now it’s a little bit of radio on the television; It’s an entirely new medium, so a lot of the cinematic language from traditional documentary and cinema, it has to be rethought in this new medium of VR. From the basics of composition – there is no frame.You’re working in a 360 degree environment. Cuts can be very abrupt and kind of take time for the viewer to reorient themselves in a new scene. So even some of these real basics change. So we’re still learning what this language looks like, but we know it’s very spatial. You are feeling like you’re actually there, this sense of presence, it can be very strong. You are trying to interpret, your brain is interpreting these scenes as real and your body is reacting to them as they’re real as well. So you can have these very intense or meditative experiences in VR depending on how you use it. We first thought that the whole crew had to disappear from a shot, and so we would set it up on a tripod and everybody would leave, and we’d get what we’d get. But then that was very limiting to shoot everything on tripod. We really wanted to move the camera and move with our subjects. So we decided to leave our camera operator in the shot carrying our camera which we really streamlined in weight so that we could put it on a stabilized gimbal. This allowed us to move the camera through space which hadn’t really been done before in VR, but in a really comfortable way. It’s moving in a straightforward, in a level manner. It’s comfortable for the viewer and the headset. But it also really heightens this sense of space when you’ve got this much more information passing by you, you really start to feel the environment.
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Why Trump's anti-trade policies win him support Why Trump's anti-trade policies win him support
4 days ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So I think we should understand that a system of free trade is clearly the best system for the global economy. There is nothing else that will work as well. It drives more growth; It makes your products cheaper; It is vastly more efficient than anything else we’ve ever found. So if we move away from free trade the American economy will grow less, the global economy will grow less. I support free trade. But I fully understand that there are very legitimate reasons why lots of Americans do not, because despite all the growth of the U.S. and global economy and despite the share prices of corporations being through the roof—many at record levels—they, the average Americans, have not benefitted from free trade in the way that they said, that the leaders have said they were going to. Yes, prices of good have gone down, but if you lose your job because it went to another country and if no one is investing in your kid’s school system or in your health system or in your infrastructure locally, if you’re in a rural area or a blighted second- or third-tier urban area, there’s no reason for you to say “Oh, I’ll continue to support free trade agreements,” because you’ve been lied to from presidents and CEOs and the mainstream media and political leaders from both parties for decades now! They haven’t cared about you. So when Trump comes along and says the system is rigged—EVEN IF he’s not the answer, EVEN IF he’s not going to make it better for you—you kind of feel like yeah, the system is rigged against me! All these people have lied, and I’ll tell you, you know, my brother voted for Trump. If my mother were alive she would have voted for Trump. She read the National Enquirer every week and it felt more “real” to her than the Boston Globe did or even the Boston Herald, because the National Enquirer was all about telling people that the system is rigged against them. And so I think this has been coming for a long time. I think that one of the reasons why Trump has maintained the very consistent and strong support from his Republican base that he has is because he has been quite consistent in trying to implement many if not almost all of his campaign promises, no matter how well or badly that would work out for him. So, for example, he wants to build a wall. I think most people that understand policy understand that’s a waste of money, it would be a stupid idea, and it’s only going to symbolically serve to get people to not want to come to the U.S. —that we might want to attract, i.e. the people that really have choices. But he promised a wall and he is actually trying really hard to build a wall. He said “the Chinese are taking us to the cleaners. They’re ripping us off.” That “the Europeans are ripping us off.” His pushback against the Europeans, the Chinese and others, both in terms of trade directly and with our allies in terms of “you better spend more money on defense or else” has been much harder than we’ve seen from previous presidents. So I’m not suggesting that these policies are actually going to work; So far I would say the jury is very much out and initial results are extremely mixed. But I do believe that if you’re thinking about voting for someone because they are a different style of politician, that everyone lies to you—and we know that Trump is a very damaged individual and you don’t want your kids to grow up to be like Trump; He doesn’t lead by example—But you wanted someone who would at least shake things up and maybe break things, that wasn’t like every other politician. Well Trump’s promise of shaking things up and breaking things, back when he was running for president, does appear to actually be authentic in that desire.
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When business goals backfire: How to adjust to unintended consequences When business goals backfire: How to adjust to unintended consequences
4 days ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michael Schrage: There are several questions, essential questions that leaders and managers should ask themselves when they look at how they want KPIs to have an impact and influence on their organizations. The most important one is obvious: What’s most important to the organization? Where is value really created? Where is value really created for us internally and for our clients, for our customers, for our users, whether they be business or consumers? How do we want to measure that? What kind of performance leads to those kinds of outcomes? The big challenge, the difficult challenge, the challenge that my colleagues and I and my clients and I and my students and I debate and argue the most is: when are KPIs means, and when are KPIs ends? Sometimes we want to have key performance because that’s what excellent means. We’re always greeting customers with a smile. We’re always trying to provide the easiest most convenient, the best possible user experience. There are other times when the outcome is really what matters the most which is we get a profit on this. We get a sale for this. What are means and ends? Sometimes the KPIs link. Here’s how: “We’ve dramatically increased our sales.” That’s fantastic. Sales, sales KPI. “We’ve outperformed our sales KPI and expectation.” Oh, “three weeks later, three months later, the returns for what we’ve sold are larger than ever before; The customer satisfaction scores or the net promoter scores have dropped precipitously!” Oh my gosh, we have to manage tradeoffs between KPIs? The leadership challenge, the management challenge is not just “how do we do a better job of identifying, cultivating, deploying KPIs,” it’s “how do we identify and manage the tensions and sometimes conflicts between them?” Again, that’s why this is such a fun subject, because sometimes there can be changes where the KPIs converge or a new KPI emerges from your observation of means and ends. So there are many stories and anecdotes that can be told about KPIs that really positively and constructively transform how an organization behaves. And there are also sadly (but obviously) examples of what one might call pathological KPIs, KPIs that make sense in the moment but when you review their ultimate impact internally and externally – bad, bad. A classic example from 10-15 years ago, back when we had call centers instead of contact centers, was “time spent on calls.” That many call centers were compensated. The key performance indicator was “how do we keep the call down to two minutes, three minutes, five minutes?” And so throughput calls per hour, calls per day were a dominant KPI because that’s what productivity was going to be. What did you end up with? High throughput, very unhappy customers, even oftentimes if their situation was resolved because the feedback was “I felt rushed. I felt they were interrupting a lot. It was a bad UX. It was a bad customer experience.” There was also emerging at that time the notion of “first touch,” first call resolution. How can we get things resolved at that time, at the first call without making the person call back or without your calling them back? Interestingly if I may digress, you know what really transformed that KPI was chat programs. Because what people could do was they could do a chat and say “hey, I’m having this kind of problem. What should I do with this person?” And they were able to use their colleagues or a database or a Wiki to get an answer to do first call resolution. So this ties into the notion of not just a dominant KPI but how do we get a productive tension between KPIs? One is “time spent on call.” The second is “effective resolution” and the third is “customer satisfied.” You’re never going to get them all right but there’s going to be a sweet spot there. And in this case triangulating those KPIs to create a sweet spot was transformative for a lot of call centers that subsequently became contact centers. So remember, if you pick the wrong dominant KPI you may end up with perverse outcomes because you are incentivizing perverse behaviors. If you’ll forgive me for making a bad acronymic pun, one of the ways you shock people into this recognition is that you say “KPI doesn’t just stand for ‘key performance indicator,’ it stands for ‘key performance incentive’.” So make sure you’re recognizing and rewarding the right things, not things that can lead to perverse or counterproductive outcomes.
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The Einstein myth: Why the cult of personality is bad for science | Michelle Thaller The Einstein myth: Why the cult of personality is bad for science | Michelle Thaller
5 days ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So Jonathan you ask a question that actually gets to the heart of a lot of my ideas about science and culture. And you ask about the celebrity culture. We hear about these famous scientists, it goes Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking or Neil deGrasse Tyson; we know of these wonderful kind of larger than life personalities, and does that really reflect what the practice of science is? And in fact to me this is actually a deeper question, because I think it’s one of the ways that people are kept out of science. We hold up examples about these incredible, heroic, sort of seemingly perfect people, and then we compare ourselves to them. And this is exactly the same as comparing ourselves to supermodels and then looking at the way we look, or comparing ourselves to athletes or to incredibly famous rock stars. So much of our world right now seems to be set up to keep you dissatisfied with who you are and keep you feeling insecure. And in science I keep being asked by people, is it possible that I am smart enough to be a scientist? Do I have what it takes to be a scientist? And there’s also this sad corollary of all of the people who contact me and say, “Well I see you on television, you must be brilliant. I couldn’t possibly do what you do. I wasn’t good at math. I don’t have the sort of brain that you have.” All my life this has made me feel different and strange and not right. The very moment that I started to get interested in science I was a very small kid. I was just very curious about space, about geology and rocks, I started to be told, “Wow you’re really different, you’re not the same as all of us,” and “You’re a girl; Wow, that’s even stranger!” Even when people we’re trying to be kind, what they were doing was telling me that in some way I wasn’t right. The celebrity culture of science and the idea that you need a special personality, a special type of brain to do science, are some of the most harmful ideas about science that our culture has come up with. I often have to deal with – for example the idea of Albert Einstein: Albert Einstein was incredibly brilliant and he revolutionized our understanding of the universe. But there’s a myth about him—and you may be familiar with it—that Albert Einstein “wasn’t really part of the scientific establishment,” he was “just working in a patent office,” “he just pulled all of this out of his brain,” “it was just him working alone.” And that wasn’t true at all! Albert Einstein was in fact part of science. He was a professor, he was finishing up his doctorate when he was working in the patent office. He was part of a culture and the establishment of science. And he wasn’t working alone. Some of the major parts of his theory, for example the special theory of relativity that deals with how time and slows down when you go close to the speed of light, had been largely been formalized and set up before by people like Lorentz, and even parts of general relativity, his idea about gravitation and the curvature of space, had been done by people like LeMaitre and others. Einstein was absolutely brilliant at seeing that different theories that people were working on could come together into a wonderful coherent whole. Even he admitted he wasn’t particularly great at the mathematics and he had other people that assisted him with actually formalizing the mathematics of how gravity could work. So Albert Einstein himself would’ve said that he was brilliant in collaboration, that he actually pulled lots of things together. He wasn’t just a lone person pulling stuff out of his head from first principles just by magic. The idea that “science is done by brilliant people who are different than you” is just a way to keep people OUT of science.
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The genius behind creating totally impractical things | David Eagleman The genius behind creating totally impractical things | David Eagleman
6 days ago En
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How to become more well-connected | Jared Kleinert How to become more well-connected | Jared Kleinert
1 week ago En
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Eternal youth may be possible. Which age would you stay at forever? | Michio Kaku Eternal youth may be possible. Which age would you stay at forever? | Michio Kaku
1 week ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michio Kaku: Historically kings, queens and emperors have tried to find the fountain of youth; they failed. Ponce de Leon instead founded Florida, emperor Qin of China, apparently he sent his princes to look for the fountain of youth with the order “if you don’t find the fountain of youth, don’t come back.” And apparently he founded Japan and he founded Korea as a consequence of that. So we have a long history of people searching for the fountain of youth without success at all. In fact, the tales of Gilgamesh, perhaps one of the oldest written tales predating parts of the Bible—the tale of Gilgamesh, well he had a mission and his mission was to find the secret of immortality. So today we have two kinds of immortality: digital immortality and genetic/biologic immortality. Digital immortality I think we will attain. It is an attainable goal. And that is to digitize our entire life. One day when you go to the library instead of getting a book about Winston Churchill you’ll talk to Winston Churchill, you’ll see a holographic image of him that has all the mannerisms, the speeches and maybe the memories of Winston Churchill. In fact, one of these days your descendants could go to a library and talk to you, because you have been digitized. I mean think of your credit card transactions, for example, if I know your credit card transactions I already know where you like to vacation, what kinds of wines you like to buy and drink, what you like to do in your spare time. Think of what happens if I have the totality of your digital fingerprints, all the videos, all the vacations, everything—perhaps I can create a reasonable facsimile of you. And then, of course, the question is: is that really you? Well, to paraphrase former President Bill Clinton, it all depends on how you define “you”. If you define “you” as the biological entity with your memories then of course it is not you, but if you define your soul as entropy and information, that is, if you say that your soul is information that evolves with time via the laws of entropy, then you can be digitized—because your soul is digital. The other immortality, of course, is biologic and genetic immortality. We have artificially intelligent systems that can scan tremendous amounts of data to look for patterns so in the future we will take the genomes of millions of old people and the genomes of millions of young people, run them through an AI system that look for patterns: where is error concentrated? Which genes control the aging process? For example, take a car: where does aging take place in a car? Well, that’s obvious right? Most of the aging takes place in the engine, because that’s where you have moving parts, that’s where you have combustion, oxidation, that’s where all the action takes place. Well, in a cell… where is the engine of a cell? It is the mitochondria. And where do we find error buildup, entropy building up in a cell? And that is the mitochondria. So, bingo, we now know more or less where to look when you look for the build up of error in a cell, because that’s what aging is. Aging is the build up of error, cellular error, biological error, genetic error, error. Entropy, that’s what aging is. Now, if you take a look at the Greenland shark, the Greenland shark has one of the world’s records for a vertebrate that lives so long you could barely measure it. By looking at the eye, the eye of the Greenland shark, you’re looking at the layers, they add layers once a year just like tree rings and you can actually date the life of a Greenland shark. The ones they’ve looked at so far are over 400 years old. And so we already have examples of vertebrates that have life spans far beyond anything that we humans can muster. Now, we also have other clues, we know that telomerase, for example, can “stop the clock”. We have a clock in our cells called telomeres, they get shorter and shorter after every cell reproduction, after a certain point they simply unravel the chromosomes of the cell and the cell goes into senescence and eventually dies. That is the biological clock. Skin cells, for example, reproduce about 60 times approximately, that’s the Hayflick limit for a skin cell. But, in Menlo Park California they’ve immortalized these cells. We can now take ordinary human skin cells, apply telomerase on them, and they stop the clock; they simply reproduce forever. Now what’s the catch? There’s always a catch someplace. The catch is that cancer cells also use telomerase on the way to immortality.
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Why Congress doesn't do anything about gun violence in America | Steve Israel Why Congress doesn't do anything about gun violence in America | Steve Israel
1 week ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Steve Israel: Well, here’s why I wrote Big Guns: I had served in Congress for 16 years, and in those 16 years I witnessed a shooting at a university in Virginia, a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora Colorado, a shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut—and after every single one of those mass shootings I and virtually every one of my colleagues were confronted with the same question, and that is: when is Congress going to do something about it? When will this stop? Not necessarily “when will congress do everything about it,” but just “do something,” do universal background checks or some commonsense legislation. And when my constituents in New York would ask that question I knew that the honest answer (and the painful answer) was: we’re not. Congress is not going to do anything because of the politics that surrounded the gun safety debate. And I decided to try and answer that question in the best way I can, and that is with snark, with humor, and from the very inside of Congress. I wrote this book during hearings on gun safety; I wrote this book on the floor of the House of Representatives; I wrote this book on that little balcony off the floor of the House of Representatives where members go to rest while they’re not beating each other up inside. And so this book—really it’s a reflection of what I learned as a member of Congress, and it is my way of explaining to readers why Congress seems so paralyzed in the face of this mass violence that is effecting so many communities and so many of our constituents. Ninety percent of the American people support strengthened background checks, about 80 percent of Republicans support strengthened background checks, a majority of an RMA members support strengthened background checks, and yet when we offered this amendment for stronger background checks in the Appropriations Committee it was defeated virtually in a party line vote. And I was wrestling with this. Why would members of Congress vote against something that has such massive support? Well, I learned the lesson, and the lesson is reflected in Big Guns. After that hearing I went to one of the most sacred places on Capitol Hill, not a church but the members-only elevator. And the reason it’s sacred is because on the members-only elevator you can’t have tourists in, you can’t have the media in, you can’t have staff in, and so you reach a real level of confidentiality in that cramped space. And a bunch of members piled onto this elevator after the committee meeting, and one of the Republicans on this elevator said, “Why did you try and force us to vote for this amendment for background checks?” And I said, “Well, we didn’t force you to do anything. You voted against it. My question to you is why would you vote against it?” And this member looked at me and said, “I wanted to vote for it, but I can’t go home and explain that vote to my gun lobby voters. It would be the end of my career.” That tells you everything you need to know about why Congress seems so paralyzed. I did not want to write Big Guns as my personal screed against the NRA and the gun lobby. I thought the best and most credible way of writing this book was to bring different characters in with different viewpoints. And by the way, that’s what Congress is like. It’s different characters with different viewpoints. And I felt that the best way to tell this story was as a satire, but all satire has to be based on a kernel of truth. And the truth in this book is the fact that Congress does nothing. The book was actually based on an extraordinary and shocking event after the Sandy Hook massacre that killed children in this elementary school in Connecticut. I was reading, sitting having breakfast right after that, I was so convinced that we in Congress were finally going to do something; when first graders are gunned down it would seem that Congress would do something. And my confidence was really high and I was having breakfast and I was reading my New York Times one morning and I came upon this article, and I could have sworn that the New York Times had been infiltrated by the writers of The Onion, because it seemed so bizarre.
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Is war with China inevitable? | David Kang Is war with China inevitable? | David Kang
1 week ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink David Kang: One of the most interesting patterns in East Asian history—which is quite different from the European pattern—is that when China is strong and big there’s a lot less fighting. And when China falls apart then there’s some vicious fighting as everybody jockeys for position. So whether we go back to the transition of the Ming dynasty in the 17th century or we get to the collapse of the Qing dynasty in the 20th century, when China is weak there’s a lot of fighting. When China is strong, in many ways countries get along better. Well, the rise of China in the last 20 years in many ways has been accompanied with increasing stability around the region. If you go back 40 years ago to 1978, that’s the beginning of China’s economic reforms and its phenomenal economic growth. Before then, China was a poor country caught in the throes of a cultural revolution where maybe a million Chinese died; they were fomenting revolution and supporting revolutionary groups around the region. Since that time over the last 40 years China’s economy has exploded. 400 million Chinese have gone out of poverty. It looks nothing like it was before. So China’s domestic situation is far more stable than before. At the same time, what’s happening to trade in the region? Everybody is now trading with China. Countries may not like what China is doing politically, but they don’t fear invasion. Vietnam isn’t worried about invasion. Korea is not worried about invasion. But what do they do? They are trying to rapidly expand their economic links with China. So the region now is getting knit together in a way that it used to look like before, and so there’s more interaction among these countries, not less. One the things that’s not that surprising —but also really important—is how little we in the West, we in the United States know about East Asian history. Almost all of our theories in IR, almost all of the history we learn, whether it’s in high school or college or even graduate school, is about Europe. And that’s fine. Sure. I understand why it is. But the fact is there’s a lot of East Asian history that doesn’t look anything like European history. And if we want to understand that reason it might help to actually understand East Asian history. You know, I do think that there is an incredibly important role for area studies knowledge, for scholars who know the region who have spent their lifetime studying. In many ways this Eurocentric focus really does put us at a disadvantage in making policy towards Asia, because in some ways we are talking ourselves into conflicts that I don’t think necessarily have to exist. And the perfect example is this whole Thucydides trap. If you go to DC right now or if you read almost any foreign policy magazine—or even scholarly journals—that talk about East Asia it is essentially a conventional wisdom now. Essentially I would say scholars and policymakers from the left and from the right, almost everybody takes for granted in the United States that “China’s rise can be a threat,” that “we better be prepared to contain,” that “there’s going to be some kind of a titanic struggle.” But most of this is based not on what China is doing but is based on a belief that “it must inevitably happen, so just wait. It may not be happening now, but it’s going to happen in the future.” So even when, for example, I’ll do a talk and I’ll show evidence over the last 25 years that in many ways East Asia is more stable and defense spending is not a big as people think, I’m met with a wall of skepticism where people are like, “No, no, no, you don’t understand, just wait. It’s going to happen in the future.” It’s not based on any knowledge, it’s not based on any evidence, it’s based on a belief about the world, but that belief about the world is informed from Europe and not East Asia. And so having real knowledge about the informal rules and lessons and places to avoid is incredibly important.
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Art vs. science? The battle that never was | NASA's Michelle Thaller Art vs. science? The battle that never was | NASA's Michelle Thaller
1 week ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Fernando, I think you’re doing something that has been a real passion part of my life and that is that you’re combining science and art. And I think it was a mistake in our culture to ever separate the two. There’s a lot of mythology around that. People often talk about, for example, “right brain” versus “left brain” and a lot of people don’t realize that there’s really no scientific evidence of that at all; it’s more of an analogy than anything else. There isn’t one part of your brain that’s logical and scientific and another that creative and artistic. And I find that there’s as much reality and profound exploration of the universe that can be done through art as is done through science. I think they are different ways of humans exploring and pushing the boundaries of what we know and what we can do. And one of the things that I’ve been very proud in my life is collaborating with artists trying to actually add science into their art. And at NASA we actually have many, many artists that work for us. Some of them do things that are fairly routine in the sense that we have lots of data coming in from the Hubble Space Telescope and the artists may help us get the images looking beautiful, help us frame them right. We may have data coming in from earth science satellites just in the form of numbers, and artists help us make that into beautiful maps and simulations that help us understand the atmosphere. But it might surprise you to know that we actually have conceptual artists at NASA too. Artist that aren’t tasked with dealing with imagery or data, but they’re asked simply to interpret discoveries through their art. And one of the most amazing people at NASA is a man named Dan Goods of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and you can find him on the Internet and he’s done TED Talks on this as well. And Dan simply is a conceptual artist trying to make people understand viscerally how profound some of the discoveries we make are. He’s done art installations about planets around other stars. There’s one that gets me every time, it’s very simple: you walk into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and there’s a floor to ceiling series of just clear plastic columns and they have little LED lights inside them. And Dan has linked this—in real time—to when we are uploading instructions to our spacecraft in space and when we are downloading the data, and you actually see that as lights, little lights in the LEDs in the columns moving up towards space in a beautiful pattern. And then when we’re downloading data say from a spacecraft around Jupiter, when we’re receiving it you see the lights coming down as new information comes down from space. And as you walk around during your day at JPL you see the pulse of discovery right in front of you, and it’s real, it’s actually linked to the commands coming to and from the spacecraft. So it makes you pause and think about what you’re doing, and this is to me the real core of art to make you stop, question the reality around you, think about what’s really going on and how you can view it differently. So, many organizations take this very seriously: there are workshops, there are conferences on the intersection of arts and science, there’s even a new acronym. You may have heard of the acronym STEM in education, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And a lot of people across the discipline across the world are trying to change that to STEAM, science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. They’re not separate. They should be presented as a whole. People learn science differently. People’s minds work differently. Art can help people learn science. So there is really this wonderful synergy that can exist between art and science. So there isn’t a single institution I can point you to in terms of these people specialize in that, but know that there really is a very serious inclusion of art in the science that’s going on right now and that needs to continue, I think even for the survival of science. We have to make something relevant to our culture and relevant to people, and art is going to help us do that.
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How correcting for cognitive biases makes life more fair | Michael Li How correcting for cognitive biases makes life more fair | Michael Li
1 week ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michael Li: A sort of interesting fact is that, while today programming is viewed as an extremely male dominated field, it was totally the opposite at the dawn of computing. So if you look at who the original programmers were, they were actually women! All programmers from the very beginning were women and it was because this job was seen as being “beneath” men. And so somehow in the interceding 30, 40, 50 years, that gender of dynamics has completely shifted around. But what we’re seeing now is that sometimes it’s the implicit biases that we have which are holding back women and minorities from entering the workforce, either as data scientists or as computer engineers and software engineers. And we’ve seen a lot of research in this area that’s shown that there can be some implicit biases in how we judge people once we know their name, their gender or their race. And what we do when we assess the people who are going to be working for us is we are completely blind to these things. We actually strip away the name when we consider people’s applications. We just look at how they perform on a series of challenges that we give them that really try to test their ability to be data scientists and test their understanding of these kind of core fundamental mathematical programming concepts. And when we do that I think it actually becomes a much more fair process and it actually can help increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities who sort of make it through the screening process. Just to give you one sort of quick anecdote about this there’s a famous story about music auditions in the 1970s where orchestras had a very, very tiny percentage of their members or their players there – the people who were playing in the orchestra as women. And what happened is at some point they decided to try to break free from this and they would put down a curtain between the performer, that is the auditioner, and the judging panel that was trying to determine whether she or he should be allowed to play in the orchestra. And when they did the results were night and day. There’s a famous study that’s up on the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website published by two famous researchers from Harvard talking about this. It’s called “orchestrating diversity” and it talks about how the results were a night and day difference: the fraction for women who made it past the screening round shot up something like sevenfold between not having the curtain down and having the curtain down. And it just goes to sort of show that at this time there was an implicit bias that women weren’t really the kind of caliber of musician that you needed to be able to perform at Carnegie Hall, right? At these kind of top level symphonic performance. And when you put down a curtain and you just listened to them as opposed to being able to see whether they were a man or a woman, you then—without that kind of knowledge you suddenly were forced to make judgments just based on the music, just based on their ability and you saw that you were much more willing to let in women than before.
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How the mind makes new ideas: Spider Goats, Mario Bros, Dick Cheney | David Eagleman How the mind makes new ideas: Spider Goats, Mario Bros, Dick Cheney | David Eagleman
2 weeks ago En
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Elon Musk is fulfilling Thomas Edison's energy dreams | Michio Kaku Elon Musk is fulfilling Thomas Edison's energy dreams | Michio Kaku
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How much money is enough? | Vicki Robin How much money is enough? | Vicki Robin
2 weeks ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Vicki Robin: We talk about the old roadmap for money, and the old roadmap was born really out of the industrial revolution. It was born out of the sense of the “wild west,” of “anything is possible,” of manifest destiny, of American exceptionalism, whatever you want to say. Or you can go back even further to capitalism itself. But the roadmap is: “growth is good, more is better, whoever dies with the most toys wins.” It’s a materialist roadmap, and the part of the roadmap is not only that; it’s an empty world. “Uh oh, there were people here before the white people came. And, you know animals. There was already a living mature society—“ “No, no, no. It was empty.” And then the other part of it is that one of the essential ingredients of it that still people, even if intellectually they understand it they do not get it, is that in that roadmap the economy can grow forever and the Earth is like just sort of a toy chest. You just keep reaching in there and pulling out resources, reaching in and pulling out resources. So the economy can grow infinitely because the Earth is an infinite cornucopia of resources. The fact of the matter is that the economy is a fabrication, our economy is a fabrication, a set of rules inside a finite planet. There’s a way to measure. There’s a way to measure the human impact, the impact of human consumption on the Earth. It’s called the ecological footprint, and they can measure every little scintilla of, you know, my watch and my eyeglass. Everything I have, everything we sit in, everything we walk around on, they can measure that in terms of the amount of the planet it took to develop that. So we have measured the amount of planet we have and humans are consuming more than the amount of planet we have every year (that can be regenerated) ever since 1986. That, to me, that data about overshoot has been a central feature of my life. When I learned that, it was just sort of one of those things that’s obvious, like, “certainly we want to change.” So the old roadmap this idea that the Earth is a set of infinite resources, and the economy can harvest those resources every which way from Sunday in order to produce economic growth. That’s fundamental and then it trickles down to the human as: “More is better.” And part of that is as the economy grew, as industrialization permitted more products to be produced with less human labor there was a sort of a peaking out of consumption around the 1920s and it became a problem, like what are we going to do?
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Taboo topics make for good business: Thinx, Tushy, Daybreaker | Miki and Radha Agrawal Taboo topics make for good business: Thinx, Tushy, Daybreaker | Miki and Radha Agrawal
2 weeks ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Radha: Often people will write me an email, like a young person will write me an email like, “Hey, can we get together for coffee?” And then I won’t respond just to see if they’ll write me again. Because there’s something in that! Like I would write my mentors probably 20 times until I got a response. Miki Agrawal: I showed up, like a stalker. Radha Agrawal: Yeah. We find out like— this one guy I wanted to get in touch with, I called his landline like 20 times, he wouldn’t pick up, and then I found out where he was speaking in New York City and then I went there, and I was just, like afterwards I was like, “Hey what’s up?” And he became the head researcher of one of my big projects! And so I think the resilience and never giving up, persistence is something that sports has taught us, and I think that we can all be so sort of timid at times to continue reaching out again. Like my best friend Max, when I first started hanging out with him he was 22 at the time and I was 32 – he’s our best friend. Okay. Sorry. Our best friend Max, he was 22 and we were 32, and we met him on a vacation and when he came back to New York he would just text me all the time he would say “Hey want to hang out?” And I was like, “No I don’t want to hang out with a 22 year old kid, no thanks.” But then he just kept texting me over and over again and be like, “Hey I’m in the neighborhood!” Miki Agrawal: And just kept showing up— first person at the party, last person to leave. Radha Agrawal: Yeah. And he would show up all the time. And then finally he came to one of our parties and we realized how smart and thoughtful and interesting he was, and he’s now our best friend. So I think that perseverance is something that we aren’t often taught and it just—keep going up. And especially as women we’re so empathetic that in some ways our empathy becomes our fuel for fear.
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Trump’s not the problem. He’s a symbol of 4 bigger issues. | Ian Bremmer Trump’s not the problem. He’s a symbol of 4 bigger issues. | Ian Bremmer
2 weeks ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Ian Bremmer: The problem is not Trump. Trump is a symptom. If the problem were Trump it wouldn’t be happening in other places around the world. We actually see all sorts of countries advanced industrial democracies where people are getting angrier and they’re voting more and more against the establishment. We saw that with the Brexit referendum, which was before the U.S. presidential election; We saw it in Germany with the rise of the Alternatives for Deutschland, an actively Euro-skeptic party for the first time since World War II; We have nationalists in the German parliament; We saw it with the recent Italian elections where they threw out all of the establishment parties and instead it’s the Five Star Movement and the League, again Euro-skeptic, anti-immigration, populist political forces. This is very unusual and it’s not coincidence. So why is it happening? One reason is because you have lots of members of working and middle classes that feel like they are not doing well economically and no one in the establishment is going to help them. “So let’s vote for some change. Let’s vote against free trade. Let’s vote against the support of the establishment. Let’s bring in something new.” Second point. A lot of this is anti-immigration. Demographics have changed an awful lot in the United States, in Canada and in Europe over the past decades and a lot of people feel – people that have come before say “Wait a second! You’re not taking care of me, but you’re going to bring in these new people and these new people who I don’t necessarily like or understand or trust? These new people who are getting benefits—but what about my benefits?! It’s going to cost a lot of money to bring them in. Are they going to steal my jobs? Are they going to cause crime?!” —Even though in the United States we know that first generation immigrants don’t actually cause more crime than those that have lived here. Nonetheless the willingness to believe that those “other people are bad and a problem” goes up a lot when you feel like your government’s not taking care of you. So that’s been a big piece of it. A third piece has been the military. You know the foreign policy establishment in the United States has been very willing to support the U.S. getting into wars around the world. But most of the sons and daughters of the foreign policy establishment don’t actually fight in those wars themselves—That’s also true of the political leaders that are responsible. As we know it’s the poor people, it’s the enlisted men and women. They get sent off, their families are left broken, their communities are hindered. They come back – Iraq, Afghanistan – billions upon billions of dollars wasted on these wars, enormous numbers of people that are killed or wounded or have post traumatic stress disorder. They come back they’re not seen as heroes. The Americans and the allies didn’t win these wars. The Veterans Administration doesn’t take care of them. So as a consequence you see those people getting really angry and not voting for Hillary or Jeb. They’re voting for Bernie Sanders or for Donald Trump. And then you have technology which is that technology today is increasingly driving people apart. We get most of our information in the United States from advertising companies that view us as commodities, products. They sell our eyeballs and our time on their sites to companies that pay money to ensure that we spend as much time as possible on Facebook and on Twitter and on the rest. That’s how we get our information. We’ll spend more time on their sites if we are divided and we are narrower, and only follow the things we like, which means Democrats are watching pro-Democrat sites and conservatives and Republicans are watching pro-Republican sites. And there’s virtually no overlap. And so it’s fake news for everybody. It’s us versus them. That’s happening across Europe. It’s happening in Canada. Those four factors are driving us apart. They’re ripping at the fabric of civic nationalism across all of the advanced industrial economies. And by the way, it’s happening when the economy is doing really well. The United States today and the UK and Canada and Germany feel more divided than at any time in my lifetime. And yet that’s when we can spend a lot of money. So if that’s true, what do you think it’s going to feel like when interest rates go up and growth goes down and we start laying people off and we don’t have the budgetary space to give everybody a tax break? It’s going to get worse. So it’s very clear that this is a structural condition that we have been living with and ignoring for decades and it’s getting worse.
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Why space garbage is more lethal than a bullet | Michelle Thaller Why space garbage is more lethal than a bullet | Michelle Thaller
2 weeks ago En
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What NASA learned by sending a 77-year-old astronaut into space | Scott Parazynski What NASA learned by sending a 77-year-old astronaut into space | Scott Parazynski
3 weeks ago En
Space may be the final frontier, but it's really interesting what it does to our bodies. Scientists are studying the effects of space on the body, says former astronaut and current physician Scott Parazynski. The results are pretty fascinating, especially when you have the opportunity to take gravity out of the equation. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/scott-parazynski-what-nasa-learned-by-sending-a-77-year-old-astronaut-into-space Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink
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The best photos of Earth taken from space | Chris Hadfield The best photos of Earth taken from space | Chris Hadfield
3 weeks ago En
Flying three missions to space, the now-retired astronaut Chris Hadfield took around 45,000 photos. He shares how difficult it is to take pictures in space when your day is highly structured. But the times you can do it - there's a chance to capture something magical. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/chris-hadfield-the-best-photos-of-earth-taken-from-space Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Life on board a spaceship is so busy. People just don’t know. Mission Control schedules your time, there’s this line moving across your computer screen that shows what you’re doing every five minutes for your entire six months on a spaceship. So it is a dictated and controlled environment up there, and nowhere does it ever say, “Go look out the window.” But you just can’t help yourself. Every time you get ahead of that line, if you give yourself an extra three or four minutes you float through the station on the handrails, you pull yourself down into the cupola window, and you take another look at the world. And it is so many things all at once. It’s beautiful—it’s just raw, constantly changing beauty pouring by and around you. It’s instructional: You learn so much about the world. You see how everything actually fits together, and the history of it, and the geology and the geography of it. But it’s also a feeling of great privilege, of like awe, of like you’ve just walked into the most magnificent art gallery on earth, or into the Sistine Chapel, or into a rain forest or somewhere where suddenly you’re just overwhelmed with the place that you are. It’s an amazing stolen moment, and I stole as many of those as I could. As astronauts we train more than anybody knows. I had photographers train me. I got qualified to not just use a 35 mm digital camera but Hasselblad cameras with 70 mm film and Aeroflex cameras—and I became an IMAX cameraman and helped make two IMAX movies—and Linhof cameras and the whole gamut of complex photography. With all of those photographers talking about not just portraiture and not just inside, but how to take a good picture of the world and what parts of the world we haven’t seen yet. Some places have a lot of cloud cover, and maybe one day you’ll get a great picture of the Panama Canal or a part of the Amazon that’s never been photographed because it’s always so cloudy. So you are hyper-prepared to be one of the world’s photographers up there. You’re really trying to make sure that you’re technically competent with the camera, but you’re also artistically capable of understanding how to compose a picture, how to frame it properly, how to recognize something that’s worth taking a picture of. And you don’t always get it right. I mean the National Geographic photographers, they take thousands of pictures for every one that makes it into the magazine. Same for us. But the world is a very generous photography subject, and you have the best tripod in existence, so it’s a great place to take pictures. I was lucky enough to fly in space three times. I flew the Space Shuttle twice; I was the pilot of the Russian Soyuz on my third flight; I helped build two space stations; I’ve done a couple spacewalks. And throughout all of those 166 days in space, 2600 times around the world, every chance I could I would try and get to the window and take a picture, because who wouldn’t? It’s just too beautiful and rare a site to ignore. And so when you total it all up after all of those spaceflights, including while I was outside on the spacewalks, I think I took about 45,000 pictures. And a lot of them are terrible, just things going by or the glare of the atmosphere or out of focus, you’re just trying to make sure that somewhere in there the pictures are good. And what do you do with 45,000 pictures? No one is going to sit down and look at them all. So a couple of years after I returned from my third space flight I went through all 45,000 and as I went through the 45,000 I would flag oh yeah that’s a good picture, that’s a good picture, that’s a good picture. So I ended up with sort of a nice smaller subset of worthwhile pictures that should be looked at. And then I thought, if someone was floating next to me at the window of the spaceship, what would I want to show them? If we were going around the world once, where would I want to go, “Hey! Look at that! Wait to you see this”? “Wait till you see the great eye of the desert on the edge of the Sahara. Or wait until you see the Skeleton Coast ,or the border between the United States and Mexico, or all of the interesting parts of the world that are different than you expect to see.
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Crazy ideas and hard work: The nuts and bolts of a fulfilling life | Nick Offerman Crazy ideas and hard work: The nuts and bolts of a fulfilling life | Nick Offerman
3 weeks ago En
Nick Offerman doesn't believe in having others define your path for you. Not everyone's path has to be planned out in advance. Because if you look hard enough (and if you work hard enough), you'll find others who can show you the way. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/nick-offerman-the-world-wants-you-to-play-it-safe-heres-why-you-shouldnt Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink
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Beauty and sex: Evolution isn’t as practical as you think | Richard Prum Beauty and sex: Evolution isn’t as practical as you think | Richard Prum
3 weeks ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink A fundamental question in evolutionary biology is the evolution of ornament, especially sexual ornament. And one way to look at that—how that evolves—is to ask, “Why are certain traits preferred?” The peacock’s tail, or the song of a wood thrush? In The Origin of Species Charles Darwin proposed that organisms evolved by natural selection to become more and more adapted to their environment. In proposing this mechanism Darwin articulated the concept of “fitness,” which was an aspect of the individual that allowed it to further its own survival or fecundity. It was like physical fitness: it was something the individual could do in order to further its survival. However, later during the early 20th century with the development of modern population genetics, the idea of fitness, the concept of fitness was redefined in an abstract, mathematical way to mean “one’s relative contribution of one’s genes to subsequent populations.” In this case fitness incorporated both survival and fecundity AND a differential reproductive success—or natural selection AND sexual selection. This is okay, except that the new, revised concept of fitness kept its romantic association with the idea of adaptation by natural selection, even though it was being applied to both survival and mate choice, which Darwin saw as essentially an aesthetic process. So what that means is in the early 20th century evolutionary biology and selection became synonymous with natural selection. This had a number of problems, which, for example, it built right into the machinery of evolutionary biology the idea that mate choice is ALWAYS adaptive, or is (or should be) about adaptation. 100 percent of evolutionary biologists from about 1890 to 1938 were either ardent eugenicists or happy fellow travelers—Full stop. And that unfortunate past is really part of our history as a discipline. And I think evolutionary biology has a special responsibility to scrutinize the intellectual developments during that period in the way in which those concepts influence the way we think about evolution today. Animals have an opportunity for sensory perception, cognitive evaluation, and choice, and based on their choices certain kinds of ornament will evolve. According to the beauty happens theory, beauty evolves merely because it’s preferred. And what that means is that in a population mate choice will create some norm, some standard that is preferred within the population. But also that standard is unstable over time; it can change. Now, this theory “Beauty Happens” goes back to Charles Darwin, who proposed after The Origin of Species an alternative or new theory for the evolution of ornament through mate choice or sexual selection. When Darwin proposed that mate choice was a force in evolution—back in the Victorian era—the idea was a big loser among his colleagues. They were very skeptical that animals could be even capable of choice, let alone the kind of aesthetic judgments that Darwin proposed. Under the Wallacian view, all beauty is merely another kind of practical utility. That beauty, like the peacock’s tail, is preferred because it indicates something about that individual: either that he has good genes, or a good diet, or no sexually transmitted diseases—all sorts of things that mates need to know. The challenge, of course, is to try to figure out what’s actually happening in nature. Modern evolutionary biologists are quite comfortable with the idea that animals are making choices, yet they are still by and large confident that the kinds of choices that animals make will ALWAYS be controlled by or determined by natural selection, that is, that mate choice will ultimately lead to the evolution of adaptive—or “honest”—ornaments. This flattening or oversimplification of the Darwinian worldview directly contributed to the eugenic history of evolutionary biology. That is, during the late 19th and early 20th century, 100 percent of evolutionary biologists believed that human diversity had evolved as a result of adaptation to diversity of environments—and this meant that human populations, ethnic groups and races were actually adapted to different environments in a “hierarchy of quality”. This of course was—this eugenic theory actually failed to be supported and has been scientifically rejected, and yet aspects of the “logic” of eugenics were built into the early or fundamental concepts of modern evolutionary biology through the concept of fitness. So, how do we proceed forward? I think the best way is to define natural selection and sexual selection as distinct mechanisms, sometimes interacting.
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How immigrants and their children affect the US economy | Robert Kaplan How immigrants and their children affect the US economy | Robert Kaplan
3 weeks ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink GDP is comprised of growth in the workforce and then growth in productivity. So if you have slowing workforce growth that tells you that’s going to create a real headwind for GDP growth. It means that if you’re going to have more than sluggish GDP growth, you’re going to need more growth from productivity. Immigrants and their children, based on our work at the Dallas Fed, have made up more than half of the workforce growth in the United States in the last 20 years. Immigrants and their children. And it’s our judgment that in the next 20 years that percentage will be even higher, because the existing workforce is aging and will age out of the workforce. So while it’s very controversial and a sensitive subject, obviously, we’re going to need to come to grips in this country at some point with immigration reform that helps us find a way to grow immigration. And I believe that is going to be an essential element also of growing the workforce in the years ahead. The ten year treasury is lower, interest rates generally are lower than we’ve historically become accustomed. There’s a number of reasons for that but one of them is I think the markets are expecting relatively sluggish GDP growth in the years ahead and one of the primary reasons for that is slowing again workforce growth. So Japan is a great example of an economy that is suffering from aging demographics to a greater extent even than the United States. And as a result of that their GDP growth has steadily declined, and the problem is culturally and structurally there’s not a lot they are able to do—meaning they’ve worked on getting women back into the workforce or getting them to participate to a greater degree in the workforce, but that’s basically run its course. And they are not culturally receptive to immigration. Back to the United States. We’ve also had a trend in the U.S. where women increasingly joined the workforce, and that helped workforce growth. But that trend has also plateaued. And the reality is unless we take some action we’re going to have very sluggish workforce growth in the years ahead. So what are some actions that could be taken to address it? Number one: we call it skills training, workforce development, middle skills training. That means there’s a skills gap in the United States. There are more skilled job openings than there are supply of skilled workers. Most surveys we do and that we read show that many companies are finding they cannot fill skilled jobs. So if you could get discouraged workers trained in what’s likely to be a local partnership between a junior college, a high school, and local businesses, and you could get them trained and back into the workforce, that grows the workforce. And to the extent you retrain people who are already in the workforce, that grows productivity. The second thing that historically this country has done to grow the workforce has been immigration. Obviously fertility helps but it helps 20-25 years from now with a lag. And so if we don’t take some action we’re going to have slowing workforce growth in the next 20 years and it’s going to create a headwind for GDP growth.
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How futuristic ion rockets supercharge space exploration How futuristic ion rockets supercharge space exploration
3 weeks ago En
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Why the wars America starts are unwinnable | Danny Sjursen Why the wars America starts are unwinnable | Danny Sjursen
3 weeks ago En
Danny Sjursen—a prominent U.S. Army strategist and also a former history instructor at West Point Academy—posits that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't winnable. So... why don't we leave? As he puts it: "We have the inertia of a military-industrial complex, which makes a lot of money for a lot of people and keeps a lot of people employed, on one end, and then we have the sunken cost fallacy on the other side, where we say “We’ve committed so much we can’t possibly leave.” Danny is brought to you today by the Charles Koch Foundation. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org. NOTE: The views expressed in this video are those of the guest speaking in an unofficial capacity and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Command and General Staff College, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US government. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/danny-sjursen-why-the-wars-america-starts-are-unwinnable Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Danny Sjursen: Iraq and Afghanistan are very different wars. They’ve been equally ill-advised in my opinion. Iraq, what I saw in Iraq was a civil war, a straight forward civil war. And I remember a moment in 2007, three of my soldiers were already dead, about eight had them wounded in a unit of just 20 soldiers, so we were pretty battered, we were pretty beaten up. And there was a moment when we were retrieving bodies, quite frankly, because in the night the two militias would just kill these teenagers and attack each other and in the morning the bodies would be there for us to find. And so I was recovering bodies as we often did, and on the way back from the recovery of these bodies we were hit with an IED, and so I realized: not only am I policing a civil war that only started because of the American invasion, but I’m being attacked by both sides in the civil war because of my presence, because of the American occupation. So America’s occupation had unleashed a civil war. I don’t think it was on purpose, but it was an ill-advised invasion. We didn’t understand Iraq or its inner dynamics, its ethno-sectarian milieu, we did not understand that. So I think for Iraq what turned me off was watching the civil war unfold and America’s helplessness to truly respond. Afghanistan I would call “the unwinnable war,” and again, that’s my opinion, but if you look at Soviet record in Afghanistan or the British record in Afghanistan it has gone poorly for ANY occupier over the course of several hundreds of years of history. It would take more soldiers than we are capable of providing; it would take more money than we could afford. And what we’ve done instead is we’ve sort of muddled our way through an ongoing insurgency with the Taliban. And here’s the problem in both in Iraq and Afghanistan: the governments we put in place, the governments that we—instead of democratically elected but America creates the conditions for these governments—We back certain parties. The governments that we’ve put in place are generally considered illegitimate, corrupt only marginally effective in both Iraq and Afghanistan. So what we have in Afghanistan is the unwinnable war, 17 years after the war starts. And the Taliban is stronger today, in control of more provinces today—and there is nothing that 15,000 Americans soldiers can do, besides die of course, they can do that—but there’s nothing that 15,000 American soldiers can do besides muddle along and keep the insurgency going and just keep everything at sort of a stasis. We’re not winning. And so if we’re not winning then I think that we have to take a hard look at our interventions in Iraq in Afghanistan. And if we’re going to take a hard look at Iraq and Afghanistan we ought to take a very hard look at our other undeclared wars in Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and everywhere else that we’re currently either bombing or flying drones over. So when you talk about why we’re there, because this is an important question, what are we doing, if not winning? I wish it was as simple as what some sort of conspiracy theorists or certain parties think, it’s all about the oil or it’s all about the money. And all of that is a part, but I think it’s much more complex.
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The problem with moral outrage on the internet | Alice Dreger The problem with moral outrage on the internet | Alice Dreger
3 weeks ago En
"A big problem with moral outrage on the Internet is that it leads people to think they’ve done something when in fact they haven’t done something," says author Alice Dreger. Sure, you might get a little rush out of updating your status to the day's hot take, but all you're really doing is virtue signaling. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/alice-dreger-slactivism-the-problem-with-moral-outrage-on-the-internet Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink People often substitute moral outrage displayed on the Internet for actual action. So there are a few instances in which outrage in social media have led to actual change. The #MeToo movement is a good example of that, where we’re actually seeing real meaningful change; where people who are creeps have been fired, businesses have gotten much more serious about harassment policies, so there’s been some positive aspects of that. But it is often the case that when something rises in social media and there’s an outrage moment, the people who are the ones you really are guilty of whatever we should be outraged about basically get a pass if they just wait for about 24 hours. It goes away, nobody knows about it, and it moves on. So a big problem with moral outrage on the Internet is that it leads people to think they’ve done something when in fact they haven’t done something. And because it’s sort of compelling and exciting to stay online and display your virtue over and over again, whether that’s from one political point of view or another political point of view, you’re wasting a huge amount of time that could actually be going towards actual social change. So you’re not, for example, registering people to vote, you are not thinking through a policy concept and developing a clear policy, you are just being outrage-able. Now maybe not a lot of people are qualified to do things like policy development, they’re not in a position to pass laws, so they feel like they’re at least doing something, but when they’re doing that over and over again what they’re doing is they’re creating a feedback loop system where the people who do have power are probably reacting reiteratively to where there’s loudness and loudness is not always where the best thinking comes through. So the Internet is a wild and crazy thing, a beautiful thing; it has been wonderful for some parts of democracy, but it also is a tremendous distraction and it can also be really dangerous in terms of leading people to think what is not true is true. So, one thing I think you have to do when you’re doing activism if you want it to be effective is you have to actually think about what the goal is. And that sounds really obvious, but it’s often the case that activist have a sort of lofty amorphous goal like stop climate change or stop sexual abuse. Those are great goals, but they’re not really clear and they’re not something you can say to yourself, “How am I going to get there, and how am I going to know when I’ve done it?” So it’s really important to sit down carefully and think, “Okay you have this big huge goal, but what are the specific objectives that you’re going to try to achieve, and how are you going to move towards trying to achieve those? “How will we know when we’re making progress?” I think part of what happens for some people in activism is they identify with a cause in such a way that the cause is themselves, and as long as they’re expanding energy they think they’re achieving something, because they feel good about themselves because they’re getting more attention. That should not be the goal. Glorification of the activists should never be the goal. It is the case that good activist movements often have somebody charismatic in the lead, it’s also often true that that person has narcissistic personality disorder, so people who don’t [have it] need to be really careful about thinking, “How do we actually get towards meaningful goals that represent actual social change?”
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Is all money just a ponzi scheme? | Vicki Robin Is all money just a ponzi scheme? | Vicki Robin
4 weeks ago En
"Money, it's a gas," wrote Pink Floyd's Roger Waters for their hit 'Money'. Author, speaker, and social innovator Vicki Robin would probably agree: she posits that most people don't understand the true, human, working value of money. Because when she breaks it down like she does here in this video, you might be tempted to reevaluate your own spending habits. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/vicki-robin-a-long-con-ponzi-scheme-how-money-rules-the-world Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink We all know: it’s like everything from “Money is status,” “Money is power,” “Money is sex appeal.” I just read that “The more beautiful the woman the bigger the diamond and the uglier the man who gave it to her,” you know, so it’s—why is that? That has nothing to do with the daily transactions! That is something emotional. That’s how the man believes he’s going to feel with a beautiful wife, how the woman feels when she’s got an expensive rock on her hand. These are all feelings, they’re status, like, “I made it,” proving yourself to your third grade teacher or your nemesis in high school or your parents. There’s so many ways in which we project onto money the ability to not only make us happy but to make us “better” or better than other people or safe, or—so many deep gut level emotional feelings are playing themselves out in our relationship with money. And, you know, fine. I’m not saying it shouldn’t happen. “We will all be very conscious and we will not have any emotions in our relationship with money.” I’m not saying that. I’m just saying the more aware you are of what you’re projecting onto money in terms of meeting emotional and psychological and even spiritual needs the clearer you’re going to be in those daily transactions. In fact that’s part of why once you start to become conscious of money and stuff in your life this way, you stop spending so much money. But around that is another level: there is the cultural narrative, the rules of the game of our economy, of the financial system which in so many ways governs not just our daily lives but who wins and who loses, who has power and who does not have power, who gets to say what the game is, who gets to play by the rules and break the rules. I mean this is a cultural context. It has nothing to do particularly with what’s going on in our individual traumas and histories, it has to do with a longer historical moment in time, and the basic meme of the financial system is growth. I mean it’s really—in a way it’s sort of a very long-con Ponzi scheme, because it has to keep growing in order to keep meeting its obligations. Money is produced—I mean the actual pieces of paper and metal, the credit that you have isn’t just like you go to a job and somebody gives you some pieces of paper, it’s—money is loaned into being by banks. Banks have the authorization to create money but it’s not like they have to have $1,000 in the vault in order to lend you $1,000. No, they have to have $100 in the vault to lend you $1,000, and then they lend you the $1,000 with interest. So in the world of money everything has to grow. Everything has to keep growing or it’s Game Over, which is a difficulty for us now because of the capacity of the planet to support this ideology. So that’s that construct of money, which is fascinating. People study economics and financial systems were mesmerized by how people have played this system to the detriment of many people except for themselves. And then but what we say is that outside of that whole thing, those are all stories. What we actually know for sure as individual human beings we know that we have a body, that we know that we’re alive, and that we invest some of the minutes of our lives, some of the vital force of our lives in a process that produces money for us. However it produces it, whether it’s a job, whether it’s investments, whether it’s dog sitting, whatever it is whether it’s stealing the Topkapi diamond. It’s like whatever it is, we invest some of our precious life energy in this thing called getting money. So money for us is your life energy. The value of money to you is how much of “you” you invested in getting it. And once you understand that, once you understand that money is something that’s abstract and seems unlimited, like, “if I go into debt it doesn’t matter, I’ll just keep having jobs and I’ll keep paying it off.” I mean it’s just an endless sort of stumbling process. But you understand that your life is limited, you know. We’ve got—I’m going to say 85 years on the planet because now I’m 73 so I don’t say 75 anymore. So we’ve got a certain limited time on the planet. We’re going to spend a third of it sleeping. We’re going to spend another third of it commuting and showering and sitting at a desk and doing somebody else’s bidding. That’s not a lot of life.
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Living on Mars: A 4-step guide for humans | Michio Kaku Living on Mars: A 4-step guide for humans | Michio Kaku
4 weeks ago En
Physicist Michio Kaku discusses the main difficulties humans face in colonizing Mars and how to overcome them. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/michio-kaku-living-on-mars-a-4-step-guide-for-humans Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Well, the question is, if we’re entering a new “golden age” of space exploration what is the main bottleneck that we face? The main bottleneck has to do with life support and the human. See, we’ve already sent robots to Mars. We’ve already sent objects the size of a bus to the planet Mars, but now we’re talking about humans, which require a whole support network, and so we have to realize that things that we don’t even consider at all with the robots become central and a bottleneck for humans. Humans will have to live in an environment where there’s radiation; where there’s loneliness; where the journey can take two years; where temperatures are below freezing; where the atmospheric pressure is only one percent the atmospheric pressure on the planet Earth, and eventually we want to create a base there. We’re not going to go there just to plant the flag and come back and crow about it, no! We want a self-sustaining planet, a base on Mars that can support people. This means it has to be done in several steps. The first step would be to create a base on Mars with power. Solar power could provide the energy, and lava tubes, underground lava tubes might be able to provide caves by which astronauts could live and create the first outposts underground. That’s the way it was done in the movie 2001 [A Space Odyssey]. The moon base on the moon in that movie was underground, providing a natural barrier to radiation. And then once you have the base set up you have to begin the process of creating a self-sustaining agriculture there. I mean what are you going to eat on Mars? You can’t order a hamburger, because everything has to be shipped from the planet Earth. You want to create an agriculture and this means genetic engineering. This means creating genetically-modified algae and plants that can consume the rich carbon dioxide atmosphere, live in a very cold environment, and thrive. We’re going to have to genetically modify our plants so that we can create an agriculture so that it is self-sustaining on Mars. Then we have to create mining operations. We have to mine the ice. Ice can provide oxygen for breathing, water for drinking, and hydrogen for rocket fuel. And so we have to begin a mining operation so that we have the materials to build cities, materials to build bases, oxygen to breathe, water to drink, and hydrogen for rocket fuel. Then the last step in the process—and this will take maybe another hundred years—is to send satellites orbiting around Mars to begin the process of melting the polar ice caps. This is called space solar power. We have the blueprints already; the problem is cost. But the costs are dropping for sending payloads into outer space—dramatically—and so people are once again dusting off these old plans to create satellites around Mars that can beam energy and begin the process of melting the ice caps. Now, once you raise the temperature of Mars by about six degrees, once the temperature of Mars rises six degrees it becomes autocatalytic, it takes off, it becomes self-feeding, because the more heat you have on Mars the more carbon dioxide you loft into the atmosphere, which creates more greenhouse effect, which allows you to melt even more ice to raise the temperature even more, so you have a positive feedback loop. The question is: can we reach six degrees? That’s the key point. If we can raise the surface temperature of Mars by six degrees we can create this artificial spiral by which it feeds on itself and we can begin the process of terraforming Mars. And so remember: robots don’t need terraforming, humans do. And so to make Mars suitable for humans that’s going to be the big problem.
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Sloths: Evolutionary losers or the true king of the jungle? | Lucy Cooke Sloths: Evolutionary losers or the true king of the jungle? | Lucy Cooke
1 month ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So it’s no secret that I’ve got a soft spot for sloths. I founded the Sloth Appreciation Society; our motto? “Being fast is overrated.” I think the sloth is the true king of the jungle. But its reputation has been besmirched for centuries. Every since it was first discovered people have misunderstood sloths. The first explorers that went to the New World and saw sloths described them—in no uncertain terms—as absolute losers. There was a conquistador, a Spanish conquistador, I think he was the first to describe the sloth, said it was “the stupidest animal that could be found on the planet.” Then they were saddled with a name that speaks of sin, and just misunderstood for an incredibly long time. And again, they are an animal that people think of as being some kind of evolutionary loser; because they’re slow we think that they are therefore kind of stupid and useless. “Well, they can’t run from danger so how do they survive?” Well, they actually survive very well indeed, which is why I think they are the true kings of the jungle. Because there was a survey done in a Panamanian rainforest, and they found that it was something like a third of the mammalian biomass in that particular forest was made up of sloths. So that’s like you take all the mammals from the forest—a third—a third of that mass would have been taken up by sloths. So all the rest was all the rats, all the ocelots, all the tapirs, everything else took up two thirds, but a third of it was sloths, which is just a huge amount! I mean that’s a very successful creature. Partly we just don’t realize that because they’re very hard to see, they’re very stealthy. So one of the things, the great things about being really slow is you don’t really get noticed, which—if you’re trying not to be eaten—is really quite a good idea. So monkeys for instance: you are always aware of monkeys. When they turn up there’s a lot of crashing around and fruit being thrown to the ground, and they make a lot of noise. The sloth is moving very slow, with extraordinary control. I always watch them and think “Wow the core control of that animal is amazing!” It’s like watching Swan Lake in slow motion, I mean they really just move so fantastically slowly. But those slow movements, we think, slip under the radar of the Harpy eagle as it’s swooping around the canopy; they simply don’t get noticed. And I think one of the reasons why the early explorers so misunderstood the sloth is because they were viewing it the wrong way up! So I think when the conquistadors first arrived in the New World they would have been brought examples of animals, they wouldn’t have gone into the jungle and observed them in situ, they would have been brought animals. And with the sloth this is an inverted quadruped; it is designed, it has evolved to live its life upside down, because that’s incredibly energy efficient. If you live your life upside-down the only muscles that you really needed to work are these ones, so they can hook on and hang like a happy hairy hammock and just get on with the busy business of digesting their very indigestible food. They’re basically sort of dangling fermenting bags of food. But that upside-down existence requires very little energy, so they have almost got rid of the muscles that are like triceps, that hold us erect; they just have the muscles that you use to sort of draw yourself along.
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What America gets wrong about China and the rest of Asia What America gets wrong about China and the rest of Asia
1 month ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink We instinctively use the lessons of European history to explain Asia’s future, and it is incredibly difficult to make the argument that we should look at Asia’s history if we want to understand where Asia is going to go in the future. The most common way that we think about power transitions in international relations is to look at a war between Sparta and Athens from 2500 years ago—the Peloponnesian War in ancient Greece. There, a rising power caused fear in a declining power and they ended up inevitably fighting. Thucydides wrote about this in his famous History of the Peloponnesian War, and almost ever since then what IR scholars and international relation scholars and historians have done is used the example of the Peloponnesian War as the most foundational way in which we think about rising powers: “Rising powers are inevitably ambitious. Declining powers are inevitably fearful and they always clash at some point.” Well, when we get to modern China today the example seems to fit perfectly, which is: China is a rising power, it’s very ambitious; America is a declining power, it’s very fearful; and so at some point there’s almost an inevitable chance that the two are going to come into conflict. And in fact you hear this over and over again. And yet in a way—isn’t it weird to think about a primitive infantry battle between two Greek villages from 2500 years ago that would have any implications for what contemporary modern China, how they’re going to behave today? I mean in a way it seems like quite a stretch. And in many cases I think that simply taking the lessons of history in this way biases us towards looking towards conflict in ways I don’t think actually are necessarily going to play out, particularly in contemporary East Asia. That is, what we do, is we always take European history as the sum of all things, and somehow what happened—again, 2500 years ago in ancient Greece—is going to predict what’s going to happen in modern East Asia. And I don’t think that’s the case at all, especially when we look at how East Asian history worked. If we were to take East Asia on its own terms instead of using Europe to explain Asia—why don’t we look at East Asia? And if we took it on its own terms one thing that we would find is that first of all China is not really rising; China has always been big! Sometimes it goes into a period of decline and then it comes back, and this is more return than a rise, so it’s not anything new to the countries in the region. In many ways what happens is: China’s dominance, China’s massive size has been a fact of life in East Asia for literally centuries, so this is nothing new. So it’s not at all clear to me that we should view this as a “rising power” any more than we would view the United States as a “potentially rising power.” The other problem is if we use East Asian history one of the biggest lessons we would learn from East Asian history is that the dangers that arise to countries in the region are almost always internal, not external. So even for rising and declining powers, the fears or the threats, they are as much domestic as they are internal. So almost every single one of China’s dynasties over the centuries, the Tang, the Ming, almost all of them fell because of internal rebellion. If I‘m a Chinese leader today I‘m as worried as much about internal issues as with external issues. And in fact one thing we know is that China spends more on internal security than it does on external defense. So even now it’s not clear that China’s ambitions are all directed outwards, they’re probably just as concerned about internal. If we look at the United States, if we were to take it the lessons from East Asian history and say “Wow, instead of the inevitable war that Thucydides wrote about, what if we were worried about the lessons from East Asian history, which is the Japanese shoguns all fail from internal rebellion, Korean, Vietnamese dynasties almost all fell from internal rebellion as well? So what would the lesson for today be? Self-inflicted wounds in both the United States and China may matter more than any titanic struggle between them. And in fact if I was to look at the United States today the challenges that we face are far more internal than they are from China. Yes, China and the United States haven’t worked out a totally stable equilibrium. We have things at the margins we have to deal with. Maybe some uninhabited rocks in the South China Seas, maybe some trade disputes, but those are not things that are going to lead to a titanic struggle for global dominance, and I don’t see any war between China and the United States along those lines.
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Colonize Mars? Elon Musk, SpaceX and NASA are making big plans. Colonize Mars? Elon Musk, SpaceX and NASA are making big plans.
1 month ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Hey Justin, you ask a really neat question about Elon Musk. There have been wonderful things that he’s been talking about colonizing Mars, obviously putting a Tesla in space, which is playing David Bowie, which I love. He’s a really wonderful person and an inspiration to a lot of us. And one of the misconceptions that a lot of people have is that federal space programs like NASA and commercial space programs like SpaceX run by Elon Musk are in some type of a competition. I am a fan of all things space and one of the things that has been so fun for me in the last few years is the collaboration between those two different realms of space travel. For example, NASA routinely buys SpaceX rockets to put our payloads and our satellites up into space. And that means that as a NASA scientist I’ve gotten to go to several launches and landings of these Falcon rockets. And that’s amazing. It used to be that you would go to a launch and a big rocket would go off and everybody would cheer and then you would get in your cars and you’d drive home and it was all done, the amazing thing now is seven minutes later everybody just walks to the other side of the building and watches the first stage of that rocket land. And that is something that is mind blowing. Your eyes basically it does not compute you cannot believe what you are seeing because this giant thing comes down from space faster than you can imagine. And this is something that’s a several story high building it’s a big thing it comes careening down and just before it gets to the ground it stops, settles down and then gently lands. And one of the things that I love is that you don’t even hear the sonic boom until after you see it land. You watch this thing come careening down then stop, land gently and then you hear boom, boom because it broke the speed of sound coming in. And that is something that I am just really amazed I lived to be able to see. I love SpaceX and I love NASA’s collaboration. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that NASA is one of SpaceX’s major customers. We actually buy the rockets and we’d even paid for some of the development of the rockets as well. So it was never a question of one or the other, it was the idea is that we’re collaborating the more companies going into space, hey the better for us the lower the cost of the rockets and the more efficient an industry we have and hopefully the more people that think space travel and space exploration are good things. Then there are the questions about whether Elon is going to build a giant rocket that can take hundreds of people to Mars, and this is something that as a scientist I am naturally skeptical person that’s how I was trained, right now what I see is a really cool idea it reminds me a lot of my favorite science fiction stories, but it’s basically just that, an idea. I think there’s a long way to go before we actually see any significant colonization, any significant number of people going to Mars. First we need to get one single person to Mars or a small team of people. And that is something that has proven very, very difficult. It’s not so much a question that we can’t build rockets to take us there because even today we have rockets that might have the capability of doing that, the problem is how you would keep a crew of people alive for the journey to Mars and then also alive on the surface and get them back. That would be very expensive and because the astronauts would not be protected from the radiation of space right now we really don’t know how to keep them alive. It’s not impossible, there’s a lot of work that can be done, but when I see people thinking that SpaceX is almost ready to send people to Mars that’s where I have a bit of a wait and see attitude. I would love to see people on Mars. I would love to see SpaceX take people to Mars. I think the Tesla up there heading out toward the asteroid belt is so cool. But, there’s a long way to go and it’s not easy. I think we’re not going to get there from a single company or a single nation. I think that for something as large as a mission to Mars we need to collaborate on a global scale, work with the Europeans, work with other emerging space markets, maybe work with several different companies not just one. It’s not a single entity, it’s a planet going out and exploring something as big as colonizing Mars. I mean it’s an amazing civilization scale activity. I am somewhat skeptical that in my lifetime I will see people walking on Mars. I hope we do. I’m not holding my breath.
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Why asking childlike questions is so important to science | Hope Jahren Why asking childlike questions is so important to science | Hope Jahren
1 month ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I think it's surprising and really pleasing to think about those things that you do know but you haven't turned them over in your mind. It's almost like a rock that when you flip it over you see all kinds of bugs and dirt and the whole thing is just moving, et cetera—And it's the same rock you've just flipped it over. So here's an example. So, an oak tree. Maybe you've had an oak tree in your life or your yard or whatever, so I do the experiment where I say, what if every single acorn that oak tree ever produced turned into another tree? What if every acorn that was ever produced by every tree turned into another tree? Well, animals would never have evolved. I mean the earth would be so packed we'd be so up to our eyebrows in trees, nothing else could move. And that allows me to step into the very interesting story of how plants approach reproduction so differently than we do. They put out mind-boggling numbers of offspring. And then those offspring have very, very low odds of success. They have very low odds of germinating. And of the ones that even start to grow, a vast, vast subset will actually root. And of those a vast subset will grow to any kind of height. And then of that, another tree, right? And then if an oak tree produces acorns for a hundred years in a row, all it needs is one of those acorns to become the replacement tree to still have an oak inhabiting that chunk of the planet. So then what is a seed? Why make a seed? So the seed, and you've seen hundreds of thousands of seeds just in one month probably, let alone in the food you eat, you come across seeds all the time but each one of those seeds is an impossible thing. It's a piece of hope that's produced with almost no chance of success. And then you can flip that over and say, every tree that you see was once a hopeless seed like that. And so the trees in front of us are this impossible thing. It's this impossible journey that almost never happens, and yet it results in something that's the biggest, oldest, longest living life form on the terrestrial surface. And so I think the real joy for me is that I can take things that are already familiar to you and by sharing the story of how I've learned to look at them, you can see those things you've been seeing a little differently with a little more joy and a little more connection. And tahat's what I really like to do. So I talk about curiosity-driven research as questions that we try to answer: “Why is that tree growing successfully in that place but never in that place?” That's a curiosity question. It's the kind of question a little kid could come up with. “Why don't we have those trees at our house?” Now buried in the answer might be something that could give us better fruit someday that we can sell in the marketplace and feed hungry people with, but that result, that application to growing food for people is buried several steps below that answer. My part of that is to look at that first answer: “What is that tree? What does it do? Why is it there?” And we call that the curiosity-driven piece because that answer will be basically turned over to other experts who know how that might play out into something that is important for the marketplace. But there's no substitute for that first step, for that little kid question. And all the work that goes, you've got to get a bus ticket and go to that place, you got to go to that place, you've got to count them, you've got to bring some of the tissues back. There's an expense associated with that particular type of work, and I talk very much in my book about where that funding is coming from and how it's diminishing rapidly and how it's not nearly enough to support all the curiosity that the public has and all the science that we've trained a generation to do.
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How science separates fact and emotion | Heather Heying How science separates fact and emotion | Heather Heying
1 month ago En
Heather Heying knows that a true understanding of the world comes not from the answers alone. Sure, they help, but the questions are of equal importance. And the right questions can make science that much more appealing and three-dimensional. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/heather-heying-why-vs-how-what-kinds-of-questions-are-the-most-important Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Heather Heying: I started most of my programs, when I was teaching, with an exercise that I call 20 Questions, which I borrowed in part from the Organization for Tropical Studies, which does this exercise with graduate students who it’s got in Costa Rica or other tropical field sites. It involves taking people out—you have to have access to nature, you have to have access to a fair bit of nature—Taking people out and asking them in advance to just take out pen and paper; no phone, water if they need it but no food. Promise them that they’re not going to die out there, and be true to your promise, make sure that you don’t abandon them. You take people out and you drop them in some spot, and if you have a group of people you drop them out of sight of one another and you say, “Sit here for two hours. I will be back in two hours. But for these two hours just sit here and be, and let your senses start to tell you what you’re experiencing.” For a while (and depending on how long it’s been since you’ve really spent time in nature), it’s just going to be your brain yammering at you telling you that you have things to do, this is a waste of your time, that you’re bored, that you wish you weren’t being told to do this. At some point, two hours is usually long enough for that to fade away. And so the instruction is let that all that wash over you, but try then to start watching and hearing, and smelling if you like, what it is that is going on around you. And at whatever point you feel like it start writing down questions that you have about what you’re experiencing. The goal is to write down 20, but if you write down five that’s fine, if you write down 40 that’s fine too, and try to make the questions be about what’s going on external to your head as opposed to questions that your own brain is generating that has nothing to do with what you’re actually experiencing right now. So, people spend two hours out in nature doing this and I’ve done this in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve done it in the San Juan Islands, in the high desert of Washington, in Ecuador, in Panama, in the Amazon, all sorts of places, and you get different results in each of these places, because the questions that people can ask when there are parrots around (versus mountains) are quite different. But you pick them up you say “Okay you're free now.” And you're free “either for the rest of the day and we’ll come back together bring your questions tomorrow”, or “at least for a few hours, like you don't have to think about this but go just let this percolate.” We come back together, say it’s in the afternoon of the same day, you break people up into groups four or five and say, “Okay give your questions to the person on your left and have them choose their favorite question from your list, and you choose your favorite question for the list.” And so in a group of five end up with ten questions that people really, really like that they had written down. And now start to categorize them. In the case of an educational environment that’s about discovering evolutionary truths I tend to ask them to categorize questions on the basis of, is this a factual question? Is it a ‘what is’? “What was that bird?” “What is the name of that cloud formation?” Is it a ‘how’-style question, a proximate question? Like “How does the bird find the flower?” Or is it a ‘why’-style question, an adaptive question, an ultimate level question? “Why is that bird moving back-and-forth between those two flowers the entire time I was here?” And so you have the students categorize, which begins to establish borders around types of questions. And you can begin to see that the “what” questions are the kinds of questions that with the right expert or the right search term you can pretty quickly answer, the kinds of questions that people who are newly spending time in nature are going to ask about, “what is that,” are probably answered already out there by someone and probably a lot of people know the answer to and it’s discoverable, and it doesn’t go very far very interestingly. “What is it?” We’ve got a name for it. There you go. Move on. But the “how” and the “why” questions are where we can really start to explore how we know what’s true, how we make claims of truths. This is the basis of epistemology: how is it that we make claims of truth, and how would we begin to know if what we think is true is actually true?
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The art of argument | Jordan Peterson The art of argument | Jordan Peterson
1 month ago En
Do you really want to win an argument, or do you want to find mutual ground and understanding? Canadian psychologist and author Jordan Peterson feels that in most cases it's the latter. It might take some getting used to, he posits, as acquiescence by its very nature means admitting that you're wrong in some way. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/jordan-peterson-why-winning-isnt-the-real-purpose-of-arguing Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Jordan Peterson: So how do you deal with situations where your words are likely to be used out of context, let’s say. And that’s a situation I’ve encountered. Well, you see, you encounter a situation like that very frequently. Everyone does in their life. If you’re having a discussion with someone you live with, for example, so someone you have to be with for a long time – a lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband—sibling for that matter. You’re going to have contentious discussions about how to move forward and it’s very frequently the case that your words will be – that you’ll be straw-manned. Your words will be taken out of context. The other person (and you too!) will try to win instead of trying to solve the problem. What you have to kind of decide is – well two things. The first thing is: you’re probably wrong in some important way. And you might think “Well, so what?” But no, it’s not so simple. Being wrong in some important way is like having a map that doesn’t correspond to the streets. If you’re wrong in some important way, when you go to where you’re going you will get lost and you might end up in a neighborhood that you don’t want to visit! So it actually matters if you’re wrong. And so now if you’re talking to someone who is acting in opposition to you, it’s possible that during your contentious discussion they will tell you something—about how you’re wrong—that’s accurate. Now you’re not going to be very happy about that, because like who wants to discover that they’re wrong? But it’s better to figure out that your map is inaccurate than it is to get lost. And so one of the things you have to remember when you’re discussing things with people, even if they’re out to defeat you, let’s say, is that there is some glimmering of the possibility that you could walk away with more knowledge than you walked in with. And that’s worth – that can be worth paying quite a price for. And so I’ve had the opportunity to engage in public debate of an exceptionally contentious nature for let’s say 18 months nonstop, fundamentally. And it’s been very stressful. But the upshot of that is that my arguments are in much better shape than they were, and—I shouldn’t say that. My THOUGHTS are much more refined than they were at the beginning of this process. It’s not my arguments are in better shape. That’s not the right way to think about it. It’s that I’m clearer about what I know. I can articulate it better. And that’s all forged in the heat of conflict. If you’re discussing a contentious issue with someone you love and that you have to live with and put up with, you want to listen to them. Because what you really want to do is establish a lasting peace, and you might even have to make their arguments for them. Maybe you’re more verbally fluent than your partner (which doesn’t mean, by the way, that you’re more right, it just means you can construct better arguments on the fly. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re more accurate). You might have to help your partner formulate their arguments so that you can really get to grips with what it is that they’re trying to say. So that you can alter the way that you’re constructing your own narrative and your joint narrative, so that you’re not butting heads unnecessarily as you move forward through life. It’s not a very good idea to win an argument with your wife. That isn’t what you want, because then you have a defeated partner. And a defeated partner is not happy. And a defeated partner is often out to reclaim the defeat. And so as a strategy for moving forward with someone who you’re going to wake up beside 5,000 times it’s not a very advisable strategy. It’s better to listen, to flesh out the argument on both sides, and to see if you can come to a mutually acceptable negotiated settlement. And that’s the case in most encounters in life if you can manage that. But it’s easy to want to win.
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Why now is such a cool time to be alive | Chris Hadfield Why now is such a cool time to be alive | Chris Hadfield
1 month ago En
What does it take to be chosen by NASA to fly to space? Astronaut Chris Hadfield explains the path to becoming a space-farer and what you can do with all the knowledge you gain once your flying days are over. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/chris-hadfield-space-exploration-is-about-much-more-than-discovering-outer-space Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink It is a really interesting moment in space exploration right now. The technology has just started to get good enough that we can really start having reliable and relatively inexpensive access to the rest of the universe. It’s never happened before in all of human history. It’s opening doors of possibilities for business, for improving the quality of life around the world by allowing us to communicate and understand the world better, but also for us as people to start leaving the world like we never have before. It’s a really interesting moment and it’s only going to continue to accelerate. Things will never be this slow again. And be part of it! Become part of that amazing capability that we’ve built for ourselves of the cool stuff that’s just coming down the pike. It’s a pretty cool time to be alive right now, especially if you’re interested in exploring the rest of the universe. Flying in space is a huge amount of work. It’s decades of work getting all of the university degrees and life experience so that NASA will even look at you when they’re selecting astronauts. In the last astronaut selection 18,300 people applied for 12 positions, so how do you even get your foot in the door? But if you’ve done enough things in your life that you’re competent enough that maybe they’ll look at you and then they phone you and say “We’d like you to be an astronaut,” now suddenly you’re starting a whole new phase of life. You come over this watershed and now there’s probably ten or 15 years of work ahead of you to get ready and be competent enough to be trusted to fly a spaceship, and then some day get into a rocket, and it takes you above the atmosphere and the engines shut off, and you’re there! And you’re doing all your work and flying the rocket and docking with the space station, but at the end of it what do you do with that experience? Now you’ve done all these incredibly complex and extremely dangerous things in order to push back the edge of human capability and of our understanding of the world itself, but now what do you do with the sequence of things that have turned you into who you are and the things that come in through your eyeballs and you’ve tried to understand?
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How social media changes identity, personality, memory | Parker Posey How social media changes identity, personality, memory | Parker Posey
1 month ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I wanted to find a place for myself to cast myself in a book and me starring on paper and play with the persona of the movie star, which I think people are interested in and find entertaining. I always did. And I come from—my family, they’re performative people. But I think every memoir is a self-mythologizing act, and in this digital time right now, the new screen time, the rise of this new screen—what are we losing? And what can we make to connect us even further to our own mythologies and our own stories and our own family? So when I was writing this I saw my trajectory and my family and my grandparents in these stories, so the act of writing was an interpretation and a period of catching this kind of energy in these stories. And it’s performative too, and that was also something that was coming through with the act of writing, was wanting to connect with people and maybe even travel with it, which I think could be really fun. A really casual karaoke party where people really “mean” the song and they’re not performing it, and they’re not imitating—and just play. You know, chill out, leave your cameras. There’s no one in the audience; we’re all going to be on stage now, isn’t that what this new screen is allowing us to make—even more fiction? It’s an interesting time. For me it’s like a separation and there’s a difference between a façade and a persona. A façade is evil but a persona is something that you play with. A façade is something you can’t really break through. But I think all these archetypes are all inside of us to work through, to really listen to, to be conscious of, to play with. And we should be playing with it. We should be acting out—in a safe space. Why is Halloween so popular? What is everyone getting out of dressing up for Halloween or Comic Con? There’s a real desire to break out of our skins and to be something bigger, something different.
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The oil wars: How America's energy obsession wrecked the Middle East The oil wars: How America's energy obsession wrecked the Middle East
1 month ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink --- So for a long time oil has played a special role in American foreign policy and military strategy. Oil is a uniquely important commodity in global affairs. It’s an input to everything in our modern way of life; it’s very important for protecting our prosperity; and at a certain level oil is essential for high-quality military power: to fight you need access to oil. And in the Cold War the United States was concerned that the Soviet Union could interrupt American access to Persian Gulf oil, which we needed in order to defend Europe, defend our own interests against the Soviet Union. And so we took it on as a military mission to protect key sources of oil supplies around the world, especially in the Persian Gulf, from outside interference (so from the Soviet Union being able to threaten them). Now, of course, for a long time the Soviet Union hasn’t existed. That particular scenario hasn’t posed a challenge for the United States, but the United States has feared oil has continued to play a role in American foreign and military policy because the United States has feared that political disruptions in Middle East—internal instability, the threat of extremist fundamentalist Muslim control in the Middle East, if that came about—could pose a threat to American oil supplies that especially would hurt our prosperity, that they could make us poor. And so we’ve used military force to try to reduce instability in parts of the world, especially the Persian Gulf, where we’re afraid that instability would threaten global oil markets. That policy has both been largely unnecessary and largely ineffective. So it has happened that there was a moment where it seemed to work very well when we sent troops in 1990 to defend Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein who had just concord Kuwait, and then we liberated Kuwait in the Gulf War but did not continue to attack Iraq. And the result of this was to maintain access to Persian Gulf oil, to maintain the independence of a number of Persian Gulf oil producers. And that made sense in a bunch of ways. But then since that time we’ve actually become a primary threat to stability in the Middle East rather than a primary guarantor of stability in the Middle East, in that when we invaded Iraq we set in motion a lot of events, created a much more salient internal stability challenge for many countries in the Persian Gulf by hardening and militarizing domestic conflicts in a lot of these countries—between Sunnis and Shiites, between different brands within Sunni Islam—we’ve created internal instability that we can’t address very well from outside. The United States lacks the detailed information to understand and manipulate the politics of these countries. Instead we get manipulated by local actors that, in a sense, makes the instability worse. So if you think of it this way, in the United States we spend a lot of time thinking about and studying American politics and elections, but we don’t understand American politics very well. Even with all of the background cultural knowledge we have an understanding of our own politics—nobody expected President Trump to rise as a phenomenon and become president—We don’t understand our own politics! How can we expect to understand and manipulate the politics of far away countries in the Persian Gulf where we don’t know the local percentages as well, we don’t know the situation on the ground, we don’t know what contributes to people’s political activism? Although we can actually be fairly sure of one thing that contributes, which is, they don’t like the feeling that they’re being pushed around by outside influences like the United States showing up and telling them what to do. And so we can create hostility to the United States by saying, “Oh we’re showing up to defend the stability of Middle East oil supplies,” but we can’t actually defend Middle East oil supplies from local instability in the Middle East very well, and so we’ve actually created a lot of the problems in the oil market. However, all of that said, the global oil market protects us so we don’t actually have to worry as much about that kind of instability in any particular oil supplier. So what happens in the oil market is when there’s a disruption in one country of the world that reduces their oil supplies, their ability to supply the global market, to supply consumers like us in the United States, when there’s that kind of a disruption other suppliers compensate. So suppliers that aren’t disrupted see an opportunity to make more money for themselves by increasing their oil output to compensate for the fact that one of their competitors has reduced their oil output.
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Self-healing DNA may protect astronauts from killer radiation | Michelle Thaller Self-healing DNA may protect astronauts from killer radiation | Michelle Thaller
1 month ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michelle Thaller: So Peter, you ask a really good question about radiation perhaps being a limiting factor in human exploration. And honestly this is something that people are working on very hard right now. It is indeed a challenge. The astronauts on the space station are actually fairly well-protected from radiation. The earth has a liquid metal core that generates a strong magnetic field around the earth, and amazingly the space station, which is about 200 miles above us, is still in that protective magnetic field. So when you’re just orbiting the earth on a space station the astronauts may get slightly higher doses of radiation, but they’re actually fairly well-protected. What happens if you go beyond the earth’s magnetic field though is that all of a sudden you’re vulnerable to the radiation of space. And specifically it’s our wonderful friend the sun—I mean none of us would be here without the energy and the light of the sun, but the sun actually outputs a lot of high-energy particles and these create high radiation levels anywhere where there isn’t a protected magnetic field. So for example, if you went to the moon, and in fact astronauts went to the moon in the 1960s and the 1970s, had there been a very powerful solar storm when the astronauts were there it may have made them very sick and might have even killed them. So in some sense it was good luck that when the astronauts were up on the moon not protected by the earth’s magnetic field the sun was relatively quiet. However, on a trip to Mars, which might take months (up to six months), you’re not going to be able to rely just on good luck. There will be solar activity. There will be bursts of high-energy particles from the sun. So how do you protect astronauts from that? And we’re working on technology—In some cases it’s a special kind of sleeping bag that you can get into and zip yourself up and have some protection, other ideas one of the best protectors against radiation is water. So if you have liquid water tanks on one side of your spacecraft you might be able to shelter from a solar storm by putting the water tanks between you and the sun. But if you’re actually going to be living and working in space for a long time, this really is a problem. If we were to send astronauts to Mars, for example, they wouldn’t be protected from the radiation unless they could dig under the ground and actually build their habitats—even just as much as ten feet down would be enough. But that’s hard. The Martian soil is very hard and rocky and not easy to dig through, and before you could go there you’d have to send construction equipment to actually build all of these habitats. So we understand that this is a problem. It’s one of the things that is limiting our exploration of the solar system. The robots that we build that go to Mars, like the Mars Rover or the spacecraft, there’s one orbiting Jupiter, they have to be extremely protected and shielded from the radiation of space. In fact our mission to Jupiter right now is called Juno and the instruments are inside a 700-pound box of almost pure titanium to protect it from the radiation around Jupiter. Even with that protection we only expect the instruments to last about two years; the radiation is that intense.
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Pablo Escobar’s hippos: Why drug lords shouldn’t play God | Lucy Cooke Pablo Escobar’s hippos: Why drug lords shouldn’t play God | Lucy Cooke
1 month ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So, a few years ago I went to go and investigate rumors of hippos, rogue hippos running riot in rural Columbia. Now hippos don’t naturally live in South America, they are from sub-Saharan Africa; but these hippos had been transported to Colombia by Pablo Escobar. So Pablo Escobar, like many powerful men, fancied himself as a bit of a Noah’s Ark, a kind of twisted Noah, in fact, and he wanted to build his own menagerie at Hacienda Napoles, which was his ranch where he controlled his drug empire in between Bogotá and Medellín in the Andes in Colombia. And legend has it that he gathered together this menagerie by stealing a Russian cargo plane, flying it (or having it flown) to Africa where he loaded it up with loads of illegal wildlife, and then had to get it back to Colombia before the tranquilized animals woke up. And amongst this cargo of creatures was one male hippo that was nicknamed el Viejo, and three females. And he transplanted these enormous beasts into a pond at his Hacienda, and they loved it. It turns out that Colombia is a hippo paradise, because actually all hippos really want is some nice shallow water to wallow around in and plenty of grass to eat, and Colombia has plenty of that. It also has no other hippos, so no other competition, and no natural predators. So the hippos flourished in their new paradise and very quickly the four became eight, became 12, became 16. And what happens with hippos is you have a male who has a harem, so every time one of el Viejo’s sons reached sexual maturity he would boot him out of the pond, and that young male hippo would then head off in search of hippo love elsewhere. Now of course in Africa this is completely normal and hippos head off from their family group and young males will go in search of hippo love and start their own family. But of course in Colombia there are no hippos out there. So these males, these young males are being spirited away from Hacienda Napoles in one of the many, many rivers in that part of Colombia, which acts like sort of hippo superhighways, so they’re sort of pinging them out into the countryside and then they arrive and they can’t find a mate. They’re quite cantankerous beasts at the best of times, but these are sort of frustrated horny male hippos desperately looking for love where there is none. I went to Colombia to investigate this story and visited one of these rogue males that had installed himself in a pond next to a kindergarten. I met the kids from the school who told me that they no longer liked to bathe in that particular pond—too right! And one of them told me about how his grandmother had been chased by the love-lorn beast for quite some time earlier in the week. So they’re kind of running amok basically. So what do you do with this situation? You’ve got rapidly multiplying hippos—and the extraordinary thing about what’s happening in Colombia is it’s changing their behavior, because in Africa you have this very fierce dry season, which puts the brakes on hippo reproduction. So I think they reach sexual maturity, I can’t remember it’s like five or seven years let’s say, but in Colombia they were reaching sexual maturity significantly earlier and having babies every year instead of every two years. So they were multiplying at this much faster rate because they didn’t have the same constraints on them that they do in Africa, so you’ve got a bit of a problem; you’ve got a massive invasive species. Now with most invasive species the solution is to get rid of them, because basically they upset ecosystems and so they need to be removed. But the problem with hippos though is that they star in Disney movies. So there was this sort of rogue male, and the first one that they put down there was a public outcry, and so they had to come up with a different plan. And I met with the Colombian vet who was in charge of implementing the radical plan B, which was the castration program. So Carlos Valderrama was given the onerous task of having to castrate one of these rogue males.
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Being black in the US vs the UK: There's a big difference | Alvin Hall Being black in the US vs the UK: There's a big difference | Alvin Hall
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Author and award-winning TV presenter Alvin Hall explains to us the differences between being black in the UK versus America. He feels that he wasn't able to break through in American media because America, he feels, still has a lot of inbuilt racial prejudice. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/alvin-hall-being-black-in-the-us-vs-the-uk-theres-a-big-difference Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Alvin Hall: Two facts. One, I define myself as a black man first, because that’s what you’re going to see when you look at me. Being gay is something I define myself second, third, I can’t decide really. But it’s not everything I am. It’s a part of a complexity that I am. And that’s not backing away from the fact that I’m gay. It’s just that there are other aspects of my personality which are much more important to me and how I negotiate the world. My career in the UK and other parts of the world really came about because someone there saw my talent at being able to talk about money, personal finance, cultural issues, and my curiosity, and opened the door for me. I don’t think that I would have had the same opportunity in the United States. Why not? Partly because when people look at me they don’t see my skill sets and they’re always filtered through their own prejudice. In the UK and other parts of the world – not all but many – people will give you credit. They’ll give you the opportunity— even if it’s the opportunity to fail, but it’s an opportunity that you can turn into success. I don’t think that what happened with my career in the United Kingdom would have happened for me in America. I don’t think that the affection that the people in the UK have for me would have come to me in America. I think that people saw my curiosity, saw my hunger, saw my ability to talk about things honestly and openly, and genuinely and they appreciated that. I will never know why we couldn’t convince Americans to embrace that side of me and I stop - and many years ago I stopped wondering. I just stopped. When I use the term “coded” I mean when people know and don’t know they are bigoted, racist, or generally prejudiced but they try to hide it. So you have to be very much aware of eye movements, facial tics, hand movement, body language, even sometime word choices, because that word choice can often telescope to you, suddenly, exactly what you’re dealing with. And often the people who use those terms are so unaware that they don’t even know the import of what they’re saying. But if you know that means you can adjust yourself to the situation. They are not likely to change, and you will gain nothing by calling them out on it except next time it’ll be more subtle. So often when I see it, I adjust me because as I learned from that therapist many years ago, it’s me I have to change. It’s me I have to alter, not them.
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Will Elon Musk or NASA get humans to Mars first? | Michio Kaku Will Elon Musk or NASA get humans to Mars first? | Michio Kaku
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The acclaimed theoretical physicist Michio Kaku says that the next great space race could come not from NASA alone but with help from the private sector. Specifically, he posits that inventor, free-thinker, and all-around Silicon Valley disruptor Elon Musk "has the vision, the energy, and the checkbook" to turn these seemingly far-out ideas into a reality. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/michio-kaku-how-the-new-economics-of-space-exploration-changes-everything Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink We are entering what I call the next golden era of space exploration. The first golden era was back in the 1960s, but it was unsustainable. In 1966 the NASA budget consumed five percent of the entire federal budget! It was impossible to sustain that level of spending; now it’s about .5 percent. However, now with the injection of new ideas, fresh enthusiasm from the private sector, from Silicon Valley billionaires, have a whole new different landscape. Just recently we had that sensational launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket financed by zero, zero amount of taxpayer’s dollars. Costs have dropped since the 1960s. For example, take a look at India, developing nations like India and China they’re already dreaming about Mars. In fact it has already sent a probe to Mars is just a few years ago. And it shows you that the economics have changed. And now with the introduction of reusable rocket we’re now talking about opening up the heavens to perhaps a whole new economic landscape that is ten percent the cost of the past. To put me in orbit around the earth costs about $10,000 a pound; that’s my weight in gold. Think of my body made out of solid gold, that’s what it takes me just to go around the earth in near orbit. To go to the moon would cost about $100,000 a pound. To put me on Mars would cost at least a million dollars a pound. That is unsustainable and that’s where the reusable rockets come in because we’re now talking about dropping the cost by a factor of ten. Instead of $10,000 a pound, SpaceX wants to bring it down to $1000 a pound. December of 2019 NASA will send the LSL booster rocket and the Orion Module around the moon on a robotic unmanned mission; just a few years after that the first astronauts will go back to the moon after a 50-year gap. Late in the next decade we hope to have a lunar orbiter, a lunar orbiter that gives us a permanent presence in outer space. Not just the space station, but a lunar orbiter. And from that we want to go all the way to Mars. And so NASA has already now looked at the blueprints, made by Boeing aircraft, concerning what it would take to send probes to Mars. In fact, we may even have a traffic accident around Mars because of the fact that SpaceX, not to be outdone, they’re proposing their big rocket to take us not just to the moon with the Dragon space capsule and the Falcon Heavy rocket, but a new rocket, the BFR rocket, to take us all the way to Mars—even bypassing the lunar orbiter. So we’re talking about a whole new political and technological landscape that, by the 2030s, sometime in the 2030s we will be on Mars. We have not just new energy and new financing and money coming from Silicon Valley, we also have a new vision emerging. For Elon Musk of SpaceX is to create a multi planet species. However, for Jeff Bezos of Amazon, he wants to make earth into a park so that all the heavy industries, all the pollution goes into outer space and Jeff Bezos wants to set an Amazon type delivery system connecting the earth to the moon. And so he wants to lift all the heavy industries off the planet earth to make earth a paradise and to put all the heavy industries in outer space. Now, I once talked to Carl Sagan and he said that because the earth is in the middle of a shooting gallery of asteroids and comets and meteors it’s inevitable that we will be hit with a planet buster, something like what hit the dinosaur 65 million years ago. We need an “insurance policy.” Now, he was clear to say that we’re not talking about moving the population of the earth into outer space, that costs too much money and we have problems of our own on the earth like global warming. We have to deal with those problems on the earth, not fleeing in outer space. But as an insurance policy we have to make sure that humans become a two planet species. These are the words of Carl Sagan. And now, of course, Elon Musk has revived this vision by talking about a multi planet species. He wants to put up to a million colonists on the planet Mars sent to Mars by his rockets financed by a combination of public and private funding. And remember he has the vision, the energy and the checkbook to make many of these ideas into a reality.
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Being happy has nothing to do with money (or drugs) | Nick Offerman Being happy has nothing to do with money (or drugs) | Nick Offerman
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You have to pursue a discipline of one form or another to be happy in your life, says Nick Offerman as he explains his life's philosophy and why he loves woodworking. Just don't chase after perfection and learn to love mistakes. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/nick-offerman-what-is-happiness Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Well I often espouse a general philosophy in my life of pursuing a discipline of one sort or another. But it’s not to ever approach any level of perfection. You start, you go in knowing that as human beings we never can achieve perfection, and so I feel like mastery of any skill or art form really more involves becoming much better at covering your mistakes. But no matter how much of a virtuoso a person becomes I feel like if they’re still in the mentality of a student pursuing their discipline then they’ll never finish ripping out a Beethoven symphony or playing a game of basketball and say, “There, I’ve done it. That was the perfect rendition.” Instead what keeps us living and what keeps me vitally engaged is a constant pursuit of betterment. So I gave up on perfect a long time ago, and now I’m just chasing halfway decent. Part of this philosophy I’m talking about came to me naturally. I grew up in a family out in the country in Illinois. Both my mom and dad grew up on farms. I grew up working on my mom’s family’s farms. And so we were very frugal. It was very Little House on the Prairie in the 70s and 80s which means we had a television but we were still raising as much garden as we could and everything – we got this free farmhouse in exchange – my dad had to build some cabinets for this farmer and we hired a guy to roll this house six miles and then we spent our lives there improving it. We painted it every couple of years; we built a little barn. And so I don’t know, just by naturally learning to enrich in my own life through my parent’s activities—I complained about it a lot. I wasn’t a 12 year old saying, “Hey dad, is there something I can dig up for you this weekend?” I was griping like any kid! I wanted to stay in and watch cartoons, and so we would work out a deal. And the thing that I see as a major difference between my childhood and a lot of society today is that we’ve become so good at comforting ourselves. Consumer luxury has become sort of a given. In most walks of life in this country you can choose to live a life of ease where you never have to really try very hard. You can cruise through school as long as you get passing grades. You can get some job with which you can cover your living expenses and that allows you to just watch TV, play video games, to amuse yourself, to engage in leisure all of the time you’re not earning your living. And to a certain frame of mind that might sound attractive. But I’ve kind of tried it at times. A lot of marijuana was also involved in my particular formula, and I quickly learned that it’s depressing. I don’t know, for me I quickly thought, “What are you doing with your life? Are you just going to watch cool movies… and then die?” Again to a certain part of the id I think that sounds like a great idea. “Let’s just hang out and watch The Big Lebowski over and over.” But for me thankfully because of my chemistry I came to understand that even if I wasn’t succeeding, even if I was making woodworking projects in an alley in Los Angeles 25 years ago, I was improving.
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Is democracy really the best form of government? | Steven Pinker Is democracy really the best form of government? | Steven Pinker
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Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Probably the most famous product of the Enlightenment was the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution, a blueprint for a form of governance that tried to get the benefits of government—seeing as how anarchy is worse because you get spirals of vendetta and feuding and violence—You don’t get the coordination of large scale economies without some kind of governance; Trying to get the benefits of governance without the perennial hazard that anyone given a bit of power will aggrandize their power and become despotic. So the checks and balances of American democracy were a way of – I think of it as negotiating a middle route between the violence of anarchy (and anarchy does lead to violence—We were never noble savages that lived in harmony. Regions of the world without government are almost invariably violent) but also avoiding the violence of tyranny. Mainly you give someone power, they’re going to use it to maximize their benefits, their power, their longevity of their reign at the expense of people. Democracy is a way of steering between these extremes, of having a government that exerts just enough violence to prevent people from preying on each other without preying on the people itself. Now in practice no one has ever developed a democracy that works particularly well if judged in absolute terms. Democracies are always messy, they’re always unequal. They always involve lobbying and power grabs. But all the alternatives so far have been worse. Democracies seldom go to war with each other. They have higher standards of living. They have higher levels of happiness. They have higher levels of health. And they’re the obvious preferred destinations for people who vote with their feet. The whole world wants to live in a democracy. It’s an ongoing project. It’s currently under threat from a number of directions, but there’s never been a time in which we’ve had a well-functioning democracy in terms of meeting all the criteria in a high school civics class.
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Should we block out the sun to stop climate change? | NASA's Michelle Thaller Should we block out the sun to stop climate change? | NASA's Michelle Thaller
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Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Lisa, I share your concern about climate change. This is something that’s one of the biggest challenges that humanity has ever faced, and it’s something that in the next couple of decades and centuries we’re going to have to really band together and work together to solve. And when you ask a question like you did, about “how might you solve climate change,” it actually gives me a lot of hope because it means that young people like you are really starting to think about ideas about how we could address climate change. You said, “could you build a giant disk and put it between the earth and the sun and have it act as a kind of sunshade actually cooling down the earth?” That’s a wonderful idea. There are some things about that that would be quite difficult and one thing is that the sun is actually very large, it’s much larger than the earth, so it actually projects light around anything that you put up there. You’d have to put a very, very large disk up there. It might have to be something roughly the size of the planet in order to shade the planet effectively against the sun. So that’s something that might be possible, but it would be very expensive and difficult to construct. But I love the fact that you’re thinking about it. It does however to me sort of not address the underlying problems with climate change. A lot of people have ideas similar to yours that, what if we could just block out some of the sun’s light, would that actually make climate change go away? And one of the ideas people have is possibly launching lots and lots of particles of dust up into the atmosphere. We observed that when there’s a volcanic explosion and the earth naturally puts lots and lots of dust up into the atmosphere, the earth’s climate cools. We observed this in the ‘90s when Mount Pinatubo erupted and we actually had a decline, a little bit of a notch on the global warming, just due to this volcano putting lots and lots of stuff up into the atmosphere. So could we do that artificially could we just darken our atmosphere to actually have less sunlight get through? The answer is yes, we probably could, but it would be a huge effort. A single volcano puts up many, many thousands of tons of dust up there, so this would have to be something continuous: lots and lots of rockets or aircraft distributing dust across the atmosphere. And the thing that kind of frightens me is that we really don't understand our atmosphere enough to know what that sort of cooling would do. The atmosphere stores heat, it creates winds and of course the air moves around, there are storms; scientists spend a lot of time studying how the atmosphere stores heat, how the weather forms, and when you darken the atmosphere I’m not sure what it would do to our weather. It would be a very dangerous experiment to do if you couldn’t control it. And the same thing with building a disk: I’m not sure that darkening the earth is a very good idea; it may change things like weather patterns or even ocean currents, the winds, all of that. It also doesn’t get at the problem of carbon dioxide. Now the reason our atmosphere is getting warmer and warmer and warmer is because we humans are putting lots of carbon dioxide up into the atmosphere and this acts as what we call a greenhouse gas. Sunlight can get through the atmosphere but the carbon dioxide traps it and it can’t release itself back into space so it gets warmer and warmer over time. Carbon dioxide doesn’t just warm the atmosphere, it also affects our oceans. When ocean water combines with carbon dioxide it creates something called carbonic acid and it makes the oceans more and more acidic over time and this is a really big problem for marine life. There are things like algae, the algae in the oceans are responsible for most of the oxygen that we breathe, and the algae are having trouble forming because of the higher acid levels in the ocean.
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Why more military spending is a bad idea | Christopher Preble Why more military spending is a bad idea | Christopher Preble
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Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Christopher Preble: It’s true the U.S. military is a costly enterprise. It cost us more as a share of our total output during the Cold War, but in absolute dollar terms we’re spending about as much now as we spent during the Cold War, so the cost to maintain primacy has remained relatively high. And the question is, could we spend much more on the military to cover some of the gaps between what we ask our military to do and the resources they have to carry out those missions? I think the answer is: we could spend more, but it’s not in our interest to do so, just spending more on the military won’t ensure that the military, for example, will be able to succeed, and some of the conflicts that it hasn’t yet achieved decisive victory. I think it actually speaks to the limits of military power, that you can spend a lot and you can have the most exquisite military in the world, which we absolutely do, and yet that same military struggles to defeat determined adversaries wielding crude weapons in places like Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan. And I think that really does speak that just spending more money on the problem is not likely to solve the problem, it is likely to encourage us to get more deeply involved in some conflicts that might genuinely be intractable and that ultimately aren’t vital to U.S. national security. I think that for a country as powerful as the United States, and especially a country with global interests and with a large and capable military, it’s really important to define ahead of time when that military will be used. I use some basic criteria that are consistent with things like the Weinberger Powell Doctrine from the Cold War and early post-Cold War period. Things like: what’s the national security interest at stake? What are we asking our military to do? Will the public support the mission even if the mission gets difficult and costly? Related, how are we going to pay for it? Will the war be paid for by, for example, a war tax or will we pay for it through debt like we did in World War II? Those sorts of questions are important to ask before we send our military into harms way. And I think that’s, again, the nature of the U.S. military, because it exists and it is so large and strong and in many places simultaneously, it’s fairly easy for that military to become involved in conflicts before we ask any of those questions. And so I think it’s really important for the American people and for American policymakers to keep in mind some basic criteria for when we use force. The last point I’d make is that war is a perilous enterprise. It involves the threat of violence and the destruction of property and therefore we shouldn't enter into it lightly. And so I think when I think of restraint and an instinct of non-intervention, it's more about just a sort of skeptical eye, it's a sort of hesitance to use force. That doesn't mean never using force, it means thinking through it very, very carefully before we do. I think that one of the great disservices we do to the military is to expect the American people to support it at all costs for any reason, and not expecting the American people to actually scrutinize the missions that we ask of the military to do. In other words the greatest service that we can do to our veterans is to make sure that there are relatively few of them. That those who do go to war in defense of vital U.S. national security interests are doing so for the right set of reasons and I think it would almost be unpatriotic it seems to me for Americans to not think carefully about the wars that we ask our military to fight.
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Want stratospheric success? Here’s how astronauts utilize diversity. | Scott Parazynski Want stratospheric success? Here’s how astronauts utilize diversity. | Scott Parazynski
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Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Scott Parazynski: I guess the best advice that I could give to creating really successful teams is to constitute them with people that don’t think like you, don’t look like you, don’t come from the same place as you, have different educational backgrounds, different cultures. The more diversity we can create in a team the better, because you don’t really know where your blind spots are. So that’s one of the most successful strategies that I’ve used and I would recommend to you. Situationally appropriate leadership is kind of the mainstay of the success that I’ve seen on all of my space shuttle missions. It’s not always the person that has the title that has the knowledge or the situational awareness to make the critical decision. Many times in a normal flow of activities you can work by consensus, but there are times when a leader has to lead, and it may not be the person who is designated the commander. It may be the person who has the deepest systems knowledge, it may be the rookie astronaut who has the knowledge or the insight or even just an orthogonal view that everybody else—because they have tunnel vision from their years of experience—that they could not see. We don’t know what we don’t know, and so I’ve often asked, after working with a team for a while, “How is it going? Am I saying too much, too little? Is the creative spirit of the team working?” And I’ve gotten actually really good feedback in the past, and early on in my career actually I was told, “You really need to talk less.” And actually I paraphrased it—and I discussed in my book—“You need to shut up more,” and that’s a hard thing to hear. But as someone who wants to get the best out of his or her team you really need to listen to everybody around the table, and even if you have “the right answer” immediately sometimes it’s good to sit back and let the junior people speak and really take turns. Another thing that we’re now spending more time thinking about is the cross-cultural issues. The space program is no longer a U.S.- or a Russian-only domain, but it’s mixing in many cultures, European, Japanese—you have Canadian astronauts and of course Russian cosmonauts flying with us, and there will be other nations flying aboard the International Space Station in the future as well. So really having a sensitivity, an understanding of those intercultural kinds of issues is really important. I’ve seen this in other aspects of my life as well. I actually worked as a Chief Technology Officer at a major medical research institute and I created these innovation teams that were comprised of not just physicians and traditional engineers but nurses and respiratory technologists and physical therapists and even lawyers and business people, people that don’t necessarily think alike, but it was really fascinating to see the people that came up with these really wonderful ideas. Oftentimes it was the nurses who came up with the best ideas. They’re on the front lines of medicine and they see the things that are going well in healthcare and the things that aren’t. They come up with these jerry-rigged innovations that turn out to be really, really useful in patient care. I always place great value in creating multidisciplinary teams and really try and focus on empowering situationally appropriate leadership.
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Marijuana prohibition is racist and criminal, harms kids, and ruins lives | Johann Hari Marijuana prohibition is racist and criminal, harms kids, and ruins lives | Johann Hari
1 month ago En
Author Johann Hari makes a great case for the legalization of marijuana. Not only would it create a new stream of tax revenue, but it would substantially lower the crime rate and practically kill the black market overnight. One has to ask, especially after watching this video: for a drug with zero fatalities, why is marijuana illegal in the first place? Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/johann-hari-ending-the-prohibition-of-marijuana-an-empirical-approach Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Johann Hari: In the late 1920s a young man outside Tampa in Florida picked up an axe and hacked his family to death. His name was Victor Lacarta. At that point cannabis was not illegal in the United States. And a man called Harry Anslinger had taken over the Department of Alcohol Prohibition just as alcohol prohibition was ending. So he inherits this huge government department that has just lost the war on alcohol. It’s riddled with corruption, and he wants to keep it going. He had previously said that cannabis was not dangerous, we shouldn’t worry about it. He suddenly decided that cannabis was the most evil—literally these are his words: “The most evil drug in the world.” He said it’s much worse than heroin. He said, “if Frankenstein’s monster met cannabis on the staircase it would drop dead of fright.” And he latched onto the case of Victor Lacarta. With the help of kind of the Fox News of his day, which is called the Hearst Newspapers, he announced that ‘Victor Lacarta had smoked cannabis. That’s why he hacked his family to death with an axe. And this is what will happen if we allow cannabis to spread, and we need to ban and prohibit cannabis.’ It was in the wake of that case that cannabis was banned. Years later somebody goes back, a researcher went many years later, decades later, a researcher went back and looked at Victor Lacarta’s files. There’s no evidence he even smoked cannabis. His family had been told he needed to be institutionalized a year before because he was severely mentally ill, but they decided to keep him at home. The origins of the war on drugs, which I wrote about in my book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, overwhelmingly looked like that. If you’d asked me when I started to do the research for Chasing the Scream why was cannabis banned I would have guessed they would have given the reasons then that if you stop someone on the street now they would give, you know, we don’t want kids to use drugs, we don’t want people to become addicted. What’s fascinating is that stuff virtually never came up when they were banning cannabis, right, or indeed the other drugs. It was overwhelmingly a kind of racial panic and absurd hysterias about what was going to happen. Now the one thing you can say in defense of the war on drugs and the war on cannabis in particular is we’ve given it a fair shot, right? The United States has spent a trillion dollars, it’s imprisoned more people than any other country in human history including Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. It’s destroyed whole countries like Columbia. At the end of all that we can’t even keep drugs out of our prisons, where we pay someone to walk about the wall perimeter the whole time. Which gives you some idea of how well we’re going to keep it out of a country with 2,000-3,000 mile borders. There is an alternative for how we can think about cannabis. There are places that have legalized cannabis and we can see the results. So I spent a lot of time in Colorado, in Washington state. I actually spent time in places that have legalized other drugs – heroin, for example, has been legalized in Switzerland with extraordinary results. There have been zero overdose deaths on legal heroin in Switzerland in the more than 13 years since they legalized. But with cannabis specifically, again we can see the results. When you ban cannabis several things happen. The first thing that happens is, you will have noticed, it does not disappear. It’s transferred from licensed legal businesses to armed criminal gangsters. Those armed criminal gangsters have to operate differently to a licensed business. So you will have noticed the head of Budweiser does not go and shoot the head of Heineken in the face, right? Your local liquor store does not send people to go and stab people in the local bar, right? Exactly that happened at the alcohol prohibition, right? I mean exactly that. And it ended the day alcohol prohibition ended. Why? Because when you ban drugs they have to operate in an illegal market where there’s no – and I learned this from lots of drug dealers I spent time with for Chasing the Scream, not just for fun. Though there was some fun in there as well.
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How to stop politics from controlling your emotions | Tim Snyder How to stop politics from controlling your emotions | Tim Snyder
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Has the constant barrage of political news got you down? Yale University historian Timothy Snyder reminds us that looking at things from a historical perspective—and comparing your own perspective to this—can help you from becoming overwhelmed... and keep your emotions in check when you browse your newsfeed. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/timothy-snyder-3-ways-to-avoid-the-emotional-drain-of-politics-today Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink History is actually the one thing I think which allows you to get out ahead. It’s very ironic, because when people think about history they think, “Well, history means that things are going on in the world and a historian is off reading dusty books,” which, fair enough, I would love to be reading lots of dusty books right now. I will concede the point. But when you’ve read all those dusty books, what happens is that you have the ability to see certain patterns, you have a sense of what fits together and what doesn’t fit together. Isaiah Berlin wrote an essay on the possibility of the scientific history, in which he said that “history is not about knowing what happens, it’s about knowing what can’t happen.” That is extremely useful. So a historian will never look at a problem and say, “This is entirely new,” a historian will look at a problem and try to find the familiar aspects of it. And that’s a very big advantage over other forms of analysis, because if you look at something and say that it’s totally new, that disables the mind right away, it also tends to disable, I think, political action. Because if something is totally new it’s very easy to take the next step and say, “Well if it’s totally new then what can I do about it?” Or you can say, “Since it’s totally new all things are permitted,” which can also lead you in some really unproductive direction. So the first thing the historian will do is we’ll say, “Whatever this problem is, it’s not entirely new.” When a historian is confronted by something very surprising like the 2016 campaign in the United States, the historian is likely to say, “Well, the things that this candidate is saying aren’t true, but the possibility this kind of campaign could work is a real possibility.” So the historian is freed from, or should be freed from the conviction of the day, and the historian automatically looks back to other moments where similar things like this coalesced. So for example, we’re in a second globalization. There was a first globalization in the late 19th and early 20th century. The second globalization began, our globalization began, with all kinds of promises that technology and export-lead growth would lead to enlightenment and liberalism—the first globalization did too. The first globalization crashed. It crashed into the first World War, the Great Depression, the second World War, Stalinism, the Holocaust. A historian looking at today won’t think “Well that whole pattern is going to repeat itself,” but the historian looking at it today can say, “Yeah, a politician who says that globalization is a problem not a solution, a politician who says that globalization is a matter of particular people plotting against us as opposed to objective threats to the country or objective problems, that kind of politician has a chance. That can work. Things like that have worked before.” And once you see that it can come together that way, it’s not that you’re sure, it’s not that you predict it (although I have made some predictions that were right), but it’s more that you can see it coming together, and then that allows you to get out ahead, and you can think, “Okay, well, if this is going to come together this way then I can also steal from the past people’s correct reactions to it or people’s wise reactions to it. I can use those things from the failure of the first of globalization, I can just borrow them, I can now extract them and put them in the 21st century,” which is what I did in On Tyranny. So rather than saying, “Okay I’m going to wait” – because by the time the pattern actually coalesces it’s too late! You have to see that the pattern might be coalescing and then start messing with the pattern, that the way that you see in coalescing comes from history, and the tools that you use to start messing with it also come from history. So in that way, ironically, history can allow you to get out ahead of something, whereas the journalists naturally have to describe that—that’s their job. The social scientists they’re going to wait to categorize it, and they’re kind of trapped. I mean another irony is that historians are comfortable with novelty, because we know things change all the time. When your perspective is a thousand years or even a hundred years, you know stuff changes. You know there are turning points.
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Are millennials lazy whiners or victims of circumstance? | Michael Hobbes Are millennials lazy whiners or victims of circumstance? | Michael Hobbes
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Writer Michael Hobbes says there are too many stereotypes about millennials. What is missing is the realization that millennials are going to be in financial trouble. The conditions that allowed previous American generations economic prosperity are simply not there. Since millennials are bound to start taking power, they need to avoid the mistakes of their parents. Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/michael-hobbes-3-inconvenient-truths-about-the-millennial-generation Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michael Hobbes: So, there are three things that every millennial should know. The first one is that there is no evidence for any of the stereotypes about us. If you look at entitlement, if you look at selfishness, if you look at public opinion polling there’s as much evidence that we’re “worse than our parents” as there is that we are werewolves: There is none. Whereas there’s a mountain of evidence that things are harder for our generation than they were for our parents or our grandparents, and that it’s getting worse. So how many articles have you read about how more millennials are living with their parents now than ever? There are twice as many millennials living on their own—making less than $30,000 a year—than there are millennials living with their parents. We don't read any articles about that. So what we need to do is acknowledge that all of these stereotypes come from anecdotes, that they are older people who have seen a millennial on a skateboard or have had an intern who was a young person who they didn't like very much and have decided that that is representative of an entire generation, and we need to resist that. It wasn’t always like this. When my dad bought his first house he was 29, living in Seattle; he was a university professor and his house cost 18 months of his salary. Now, if you’re a young person living in a big city you know that that is science fiction. In the vast majority of America, especially in cities, it will cost you six, seven, ten, 12 years of the median salary to buy the median home. So this idea that we’re different from our parents because WE have changed is completely false. What has happened is the economy has profoundly shifted underneath us. Housing, healthcare and education are all three times more expensive now than they were in 1968. Those are the prerequisites of a middle class adulthood, of a secure adulthood, a real life, and our parents like to point out that things like refrigerators and TVs are a lot cheaper—and they are, that’s great—but the things we actually need in our lives are much more expensive, and our wages have not kept up. So, one of the things that we forget, and especially our parents forget, is how much cheaper college used to be. When my dad was in college he worked for ten hours a week in the cafeteria, and that was enough for his tuition and a little bit of his rent. That doesn’t sound familiar to anybody I know. And what has happened since then is the cost of education has gone up between 400 and 1200 percent, depending on the kind of school you go to. Meanwhile, minimum wages haven’t really budged, general wages haven’t really budged, and the price of everything else has gotten higher too. So in the early ‘70s it took around 300 hours of minimum wage work to afford a four year education. By the 2000s it took 4,400 hours of minimum wage work to afford a four year education. So tell your parents that next Thanksgiving when they complain to you about not going to college. I think there’s a tendency when we talk about millennials, and especially when we talk about poor millennials, to talk about our choices rather than our options. So again, the evidence—like did my grandparents know what their pension was when they were 25? I don’t think they did. I think that by the time they checked they had one, whereas this generation gets blamed for not saving more for retirement. The reason why that’s considered a huge problem is because there’s no such thing as the defined benefit pension anymore. A lot of our grandparents have a situation where they get 80 percent of their last salary for the rest of their lives. That is nonexistent for our generation. So we are now being given the responsibility of saving up to compensate for the fact that the economy doesn’t take care of us anymore. We’re being blamed for the fact that we can’t take care of ourselves. But what have wages done since 1980? They’ve been flat. What has happened to the cost of everything? It’s gone up.
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