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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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Big Think's Top Videos of Summer 2012

September 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

Popcorn is required for reading this post. So is a good wifi connection on a beach near you as we hope you're enjoying the last days of summer, which we hope will be filled with relaxation, but also mental stimulation.

That is why we have compiled the top 10 videos from the summer featured on Big Think. How were the top 10 decided? You voted by clicking on them, and it's a good selection, covering religion and skepticism, genetics, philosophy, physics and human biology, among other topics. Enjoy!

1. Neil deGrasse Tyson: Atheist or Agnostic?

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson claims the title "scientist" above all other "ists." And yet, he says he is "constantly claimed by atheists." So where does he stand? “Neil deGrasse, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic.” 

Watch the video here:

2. Kadam Morten: Buddhism as a "Science of the Mind"

It’s early days still for the neuroscience of meditation, but Kadam Morten, a teacher in the New Kadampa tradition of Buddhism, argues that the Buddha (Gautama Buddha, who lived in India approximately 2500 years ago) was the creator of a “science of the mind.”

Watch the video here:

3. Jaron Lanier: In Defense of Life: Alan Turing, the Original Hacker.

This summer marked the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth. According to computer scientist Jaron Lanier, the right way to understand Alan Turing's famous "Turing Test" is to understand that it "began in the mind of somebody who was in a deeply, deeply uncomfortable possible situation, who was very close to suicide, and that it amounted to a flight from life, but also a defense of life." 

Watch the video here:

4. Bryan Sykes: What Does Everyone Need to Know About Genetics?

According to Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, it's perhaps too deterministic to say that your genes determine everything you do. It’s more like the deck of cards that you're dealt at birth. What you do with that deck, like any card game, depends a lot on your choices, but it is influenced by those cards, those genes that you got when you were born.

Watch the video here:

5. Slavoj Zizek: We Need Thinking

Slavoj Zizek answers the question, "Do you think science has replaced philosophy in discovering the bigger questions of life?" Philosophy is not dying, he says -- in fact, we need it more now than ever.

Watch the video here:

6. Jane McGonigal: Three Reasons Why You Should Play More Games (And Work Fewer Hours)

"We have this idea that playing games is kind of a waste of time," says Jane McGonigal. However, research shows that games help us tap into positive emotions like curiosity, optimism, creativity, and even love. They also make us more likely to cooperate with someone in our real lives after we’ve played a social game with them involving a cooperative mission. And lastly, we're more likely to set an ambitious goal for ourselves after we’ve succeeded in a game. 

Watch the video here:

7. Jesse Bering: The Porn Movies in Our Minds

The science writer Jesse Bering tells Big Think that humans have an "advanced social cognitive system" that allows us to "play back scenes in our heads, like a dirty movie theater." This cognitive ability makes us unique among animals, and it is a mechanism we use very often. 

Watch the video here:

8. Dr. Michio Kaku: This Super Camera Captures What is Beyond Human Comprehension

Dr. Michio Kaku says "there is a whole universe out there where events take place on a scale of billionths of a second and another timescale where events take place over a timescale of billions of years - and the sad thing is that we humans, our human brain, is unaccustomed to dealing with these true extreme universes that we never see." And yet, now we have a new camera "that can take a trillion frames per second and actually capture these processes that are beyond human comprehension."

Watch the video here:

9. Henry Rollins: The One Decision That Changed My Life Forever

Many successful people can point to a risky decision they made that paid off. In the case of Henry Rollins, a serial artistic entrepreneur and iconic self-made man, the decisive moment was especially stark.

Watch the video here:

10. John Seely Brown: How World of Warcraft Could Save Your Business and The Economy

Learning guru John Seely Brown is not being even slightly ironic when he says that he’d hire an expert player of World of Warcraft (the massive multiplayer online fantasy videogame) over an MBA from Harvard. 

Watch the video here:

Daniel Honan, Megan Erickson and Jason Gots contributed to this post. Videos were produced and directed by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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