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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.

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Renewable Energy: Beyond Wind and Solar

October 27, 2011, 2:15 PM

What's the Latest Development?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative turns five next month. To celebrate, the college is examining which renewable technologies can be scaled to make a truly significant difference in the global energy supply. Biofuels and tidal power hold the least promise, according to the Institute. The former currently makes land unavailable for growing food and may also encourage the cutting down of forests; the latter simply supplies too little. The most energy that could ever be captured using waves is less than one terawatt. 

What's the Big Idea?

Geothermal and advanced nuclear power hold the most promise for substituting fossil fuels in the coming decades. The Earth constantly produces 44 trillion watts of power which is three times humanity's current energy use. Hot dry rock technology can be used to heat water deep underground, bringing steam to the surface to turn turbines. For the next several decades, nuclear power faces obstacles, not the least of which are political. The Institute reminds us that harvesting energy requires energy: no system is pollution-free. 


Renewable Energy: Beyond Wi...

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