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

426 - Mysterious Nebraska-Shaped Field in... Nebraska

December 8, 2009, 8:11 PM


A few miles northwest of the small town of Minden, in the seemingly endless Nebraska plains, lies a field shaped like the state itself. By intelligent design or as an accident of agriculture? 

Either option seems unlikely in a landscape so utilitarian that efficiency has imposed symmetry upon it. These plains are cut into perfect squares, with sides exactly a mile long. The straight lines dividing the squares are semi-anonymous roads, named after numbers and letters.

The only other pattern thriving in this checkered landscape is the circle, touching the edges of many squares (as seen on the left of this picture): a sign of the popular method of centre-pivot irrigation. As pretty as that might look from the sky, all these squares and circles are practical first and foremost. This is not a topology of frivolity. Why lose a bit of perfectly arable land only to sculpt something as pointless as a map?

Is Nebraska Field a coincidence, then? When not being centrally irrigated, each of the mile-by-mile blocks is often divided into smaller fields, mostly rectangular but not really symmetrical. That sort of describes the shape of Nebraska – but still, chances of a field mimicking it so perfectly seem very remote indeed.

Nebraska is rectangular in an oblong sort of way, with straight borders everywhere except in the east, where it is bounded by the Missouri River. An immediately recognisable feature on its western border is the square chunk bitten out by Colorado, allowing that state to be completely rectangular. 

The field mimics all these shapes: the straight lines north, west and south, the indentation in the southwest, the slightly slanting eastern border, near what looks like a little, elongated lake. And all in the right proportions too.

Nebraska in United States

So: coincidence or design? It has to be one or the other. But the only thing we know for sure are the circumstances of the Field’s discovery. “It was a complete coincidence, which is the best part,” says Adam Kommel, who sent in this map. “I was just goofing off on Google Maps during the weekend, seeing if I could find the largest all-green spot in the middle of the country. I zoomed in a bit and all of a sudden I just saw it.” 

The mysterious Nebraska Field does not seem to have achieved even local fame. The town of Minden only boasts a Pioneer Museum, and each December hyper-decorates itself to defend its reputation as Christmas City. Any extra information on the Nebraska Field and its creator/owner would therefore be greatly appreciated! 

Many thanks to Mr Kommel for finding and sending in this rather peculiar map-in-a-map. Overview map taken from Wikipedia's Nebraska page.


426 - Mysterious Nebraska-S...

Newsletter: Share: