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

Neil Degrasse Tyson: Science is in Our DNA

May 3, 2012, 12:00 AM

What's the Big Idea?

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson believes in the power of science -- so much so that he gets hate mail for it. From children. As director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, Tyson made the controversial decision to remove references to Pluto as the ninth planet in the museum's exhibits. To the chagrin of fifth graders everywhere, My Very Excellent Mother would no longer be Serving Up Nine Pizzas. "When you conduct science, it is the natural world that is the ultimate decider in what is true and what is not," he says.

Watch the video here:

Which is exactly the reason science has had such a profound influence on history. Universities may describe music, literature, and painting as "the humanities," but no activity is more fundamentally human than science, says Tyson. "We explore our environment more than we are compelled to utter poetry when we’re toddlers."

What's the Significance?

His big idea? Every child is born a scientist. As soon as we learn to walk, we begin asking questions, turning over rocks, plucking the petals off of flowers. The drive to curiosity is in our DNA. It's curiosity that first compels us to explore the world around us, and it's the joy of discovery that sustains that desire. Finally, the need to understand our discoveries leads us to experiment and analysis.

Even the distinction between art and science is practically illusory, says Tyson. "The only difference is that when you do science you can’t make up anything and assert that it’s true. If you’re writing a novel you can pretty much make up what you want as long as people will buy it literally and figuratively, buy the storyline, buy the book with that storyline, fine."

As a result, in many cultures the arts have an individualistic bent, celebrating the singular vision of a masterful auteur. No one but Van Gogh was ever going to paint Sunflowers in just that way. Who but Joyce could have written the passionate, personal, and semi-autobiographical Ulysses

Science, on the other hand, is an anonymous enterprise -- a collective cultivation of our innate and global humanity. "If I discover a scientific idea, surely someone else would have discovered the same idea had I not done so," explains Tyson. "That’s what we do as human beings, and we do that more thoroughly and better than any other species on earth that we have yet encountered."

There's a reason math is known as the universal language, binary code is comprised of numerals, and the first robots were designed to look and act like people. Science and technology are forms of expression which help us pursue truth. And fortunately, we're beginning to be sophisticated enough to move past our fears about what we might create. "This notion that a robot might turn on us... that’s not the robots we’re creating. Sky Net coming online and achieving consciousness? Okay, keep doing the movies," says Tyson. "I already have access to information -- it’s on my smart phone a few fingertips away -- from all gathered knowledge of the human species on earth.  It’s called the Internet.  I'm already there." 

How can technology enhance, rather than take away from our humanity? Big Think has posed this question in an online Expo called Humanizing Technology, which seeks to identify the technologies that do the best job of fulfilling our core human needs. You can view the series here

Image courtesy of Andrea Danti/Shutterstock.com.


Neil Degrasse Tyson: Scienc...

Newsletter: Share: