What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Italian volcano update (May 12, 2011): Etna keeps erupting and threatens cyclists / Planning for Vesuvius' next eruption

May 12, 2011, 11:46 AM

Last night, Italy's Etna started a new period of eruptive activity - and for those of us watching the webcams, it put on quite a show. You can see video of the new eruption at MSNBC (with quotes from a certain Dr. Behncke), the BBC and in the Telegraph, but the lava fountain and flow produced from the southeast crater were quite impressive. Of course, to add a little intrigue to the eruption, the Giro d'Italia cycling race is supposed to end at Etna on Sunday, but the ash and, well, erupting volcano, might pose some problem to the cyclists. However, race director Angelo Zomegnan says "The stretch in question is only that of the last 4 miles on Etna, but onsite teams are already working to clear the road", so it appears that the race will go on as planned. The ash from this new activity has also caused airport closures (N.B., this link has an image to a previous eruption) and flight diversions around Sicily into today.

As usual, Dr. Boris Behncke has posted a great image of the new eruption at Etna (see below) that shows the lava flow snaking down the volcano, with prominent levees on the sides of the flow, and the lava fountain that is the source of the flow. Now, this is all typical activity for Etna and it seems that we should expect to see more activity like this at the volcano if Etna behaves as it has in the past. You can see if you can catch many of the action on the variety of INGV webcams pointed at the volcano - but right now, clouds are obscuring the crater area. However, you might get lucky like I did last night (see top left).

Image of Etna erupting on May 12, 2011, courtesy of Dr. Boris Behncke.

In other news of Italian volcanoes, I read a fascinating article in Nature about the challenges facing plans for the future eruptions of Vesuvius. The city of Naples, with its population of over 3 million, sits at the foot of the volcano, so evacuation and mitigation plans for Vesuvius are vital. However, there is a lot of controversy of exactly how to plan for the eruption - and exactly what sort of eruption to expect, everything from a giant Plinian eruption such as in 79 A.D. or a smaller eruption such as occurred in 1631. This highlights the debate in hazard mitigation of "worst case scenario" versus "most likely scenario" and the best to which construct a hazard plan around. A study by Baxter et al. (2008) suggested that there is a 70% probability of an explosive eruption but only a 4% chance of a catastrophic plinian one, so the challenge is very real on how to best prepare the Naples area for the next eruption at Vesuvius.

Top left: A webcam capture of the eruption at Etna on the night of May 11-12, 2011.



Italian volcano update (May...

Newsletter: Share: