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

Punxsutawney Phil: Canary in the Coal Mine

February 2, 2012, 12:00 AM
Groundhog

I have a question for Punxsutawney Phil, and it's not whether there will be six more weeks of winter. It's whether we actually have a winter at all this year. Sadly, the groundhog is probably as disoriented as the rest of us. While it is true that Alaska has seen one of the coldest winters on record, plants have been blooming at the New York Botanical Garden in New York City.

Unseasonably warm conditions can cause great problems for plants and animals alike. An early bloom could make it difficult for plants to survive if colder weather finally arrives. There is also a grave risk for hibernating animals who wake up too early. These animals rely on the protein hormone leptin to regulate their appetite and metabolism. When temperatures rise, leptin levels decrease, and hibernating animals begin the energy expensive process of coming out of what is essentially a deep coma. 

So when a hibernating animal pops its heads out of the ground he will be hungry, but there may not be any food to find. The reemergence of plants and animals are becoming unsynchronized events as the weather grows more erratic.   

In other words, groundhogs make for terrible weather forecasters. We should not be studying their behavior to help us decide whether to book that spring skiing vacation, but rather, to learn how these animals are adapting to a changing environment so we might improve our own adaptability. 

UPDATE: 2.2.2012: Punxsutawney Phil has apparently seen his shadow, meaning, I suppose, we might eventually get to see winter this year. The trouble is, groundhog forecasts are only about 39 percent accurate, although it is nearly impossible to measure them objectively. We'll just have to wait and see. But in the meantime, how are animals and humans both coping with erratic weather this season? That remains the big question for the crazy winter of 2011/2012. 

 

Punxsutawney Phil: Canary i...

Newsletter: Share: