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

1

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

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

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

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

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
Close

What Paleontology Teaches Us About Our Own Future

January 4, 2014, 8:00 AM
Shutterstock_110802431

Paleontology is an amazing field because there’s this curious fact that our planet buries its dead.  That didn’t have to be the case but it does turn out that in many parts of the planet when an animal or plant dies it can be buried by things like landslides or mudflows or river mud or tar or ice. 

If buried rapidly enough that organism or the remains of that organism remain in the ground until later erosion exposes it for paleontologists to come along and find.  What we didn’t know before is that things go extinct.  Before we knew about fossils we didn’t know there were things that lived that don’t live now.  So it’s framed not only our understanding of evolution but of extinction. 

We’ve discovered extraordinary things. We’ve discovered things like snakes with legs and whales with legs and dinosaurs that are 90 feet long and things that we would have never imagined had ever lived but did live because they left their bodies buried in the Earth’s outer layers.  

What that means is that Darwin’s insight that all things are related is deeply relevant to the genome and our understanding of how our bodies work. This is also recorded in depth in the Earth’s past.  

Since we’ve only been digging fossils for the last couple of hundred years and there haven’t been that many paleontologists digging. The amazing thing is that most of the amazing fossils are yet to be found.  They continue to show up in construction sites and roadways and excavations or as the result of focused expeditions to various places where people dig and look for fossils. 

We’re literally learning as much about the evolution of life on Earth by looking at what happened in the past as we are at looking at the breakthroughs in genomics and DNA of living things. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

 

What Paleontology Teaches U...

Newsletter: Share: