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

Photographer Edward Burtynsky Chronicles the Erosion of the Natural World

August 6, 2010, 12:00 AM

Photographic artist Edward Burtynsky, who is particularly known for his sweeping images of desolate industrial landscapes and their implications for the ruin of the natural world, recognizes that there is a certain "melancholy" in his work. On some level, he says he has realized that his work is "a lament for the loss of that place that we’ve called nature, that it’s losing out in this battle between what we need and what is available and where it is found ... I began to see nature as really just an open cupboard where you know we’re raiding the cupboards and taking everything as absolutely fast as we can and now

In a portion of his Big Think interview, Burtynsky walks us through the backstories of how he created several of the images in his series on oil, and why he chose the scenes that he did. Referring to one of them, he says he thought going into ship wrecking yards would allow him to "step back into a Dickens novel at the beginning of the industrial revolution and kind of get a peak at it in today’s world." Instead, he found it was "like peeking back to the beginning of the industrial revolution where nobody knew about safety or no one cared one bit about the environment."

Burtynsky says a good photographer is also a reporter, because if you want to make great images, you need to have an inquiring mind and ask a lot of questions. "If you just accept the world the way it is and don’t question it, then I can’t see how you can go very far creatively," says Burtynsky.  He also walks us through his process of finding subjects and figuring out how they can best be photographed. He says he goes through questions like: "How do I go from a general idea to this specific place in which I’m going to make a photograph of and there is a whole bunch of criteria I might put to it.  Is it visual?  Is it interesting?  Is there a sense of scale within it?  Is there any particular reason?"

He also talks about how one should look at a photograph and interact with images, saying that you have to "give yourself over to the visual experience" and try to understand an image's intellectual and psychological context.


Photographer Edward Burtyns...

Newsletter: Share: