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

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life Continues

June 8, 2010, 12:00 AM
When Jill Tarter was growing up, she remembers walking along the beach with her father, gazing up at the night sky. Well before she would become a leader in the search for extraterrestrial life at the SETI Institute, she says she always assumed the stars up above her were someone else’s suns. "On some other beach, on some other planet there would be a small creature walking along with their parent and gazing at our sun in their night sky and wondering whether we were here just as I was assuming that they were there," Tarter said in her recent Big Think interview.

Now director of SETI (an acronym that stands for the "Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence"), Tarter admits she come upon her career by accident. As a graduate student who knew how to program an old computer, she was called upon to help with an engineering study at Stanford and NASA Ames that used radio telescopes to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. "I have this opportunity to try and answer a question that people have asked forever and how could you not? So yes, I remembered how to program that computer and I began working with this group and I got hooked and I’m still hooked," says Tarter.

How close are we to figuring out if we're alone in this universe? The jury's still out. "Detection of an extraterrestrial signal indicating someone else could happen tomorrow. It could happen never," says Tarter. But she still gets up every morning to work on finding an answer, because, as she says, the best plan is stick around long enough.

This interview with Jill Tarter is part of Big Think's "Moments of Genius" series, which gives exclusive insight into the fascinating minds of some of the greatest math and science thinkers of our time. So far, the series has also featured Martin Cooper, inventor of the cell phone; David Ho, the AIDS researcher famous for pioneering combination therapy in treating HIV-infected patients; Arlie Petters, a mathematical physicist at Duke who’s out to prove that there’s a fifth dimension; Nathan Wolfe, who led a team that discovered the origins of malaria; Katie Salen, who started a game-based school in New York City; Leonard Kleinrock, who's known as the father of the Internet; and Justin Rattner, who created what was once the world's fastest computer. "Moments of Genius" is sponsored by Intel.

The Search for Extraterrest...

Newsletter: Share: