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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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Today's Big Idea: Extreme Weather

The Big Idea for Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What do economists and meteorologists have in common? They are both trying to predict a very uncertain future in the context of a present that continues to confound us.

As David Ropeik points out, we predict the future because of "the deep psychological need for a sense of control, to keep ourselves safe." Furthermore, we end up making all kinds of errors when we make predictions because "we think we’re smarter than we are."

And yet, the cost of not being able to predict the future can be just as fatal. Consider that the World Health Organization attributes 150,000 deaths per year on the effects of global warming. Or consider that 15,000 weather records were broken last month alone, and we are still trying to understand the global impact of this "Meteorological March Madness."

The ancient practice of forecasting the weather has evolved frustratingly slow over the course of thousands of years. And yet today we are employing super-computers to predict the weather with a level of precision undreamt of before. 

And yet, it remains to be seen what role tools like this can play to help us predict long-range climate patterns and react appropriately. 

 

Perspectives

  1. 1 It's Getting Hot in Here: Understanding the Impact of the "Meteorological March Madness"
    Daniel Honan Think Tank
  2. 2 Can We Control the Weather?
    Michio Kaku
  3. 3 Prediction: We'll Continue to Make Mistakes About Predictions
    David Ropeik Risk: Reason and Reality
  4. 4 How to Predict the Unpredictable: Use Data
    Nouriel Roubini
 

Today's Big Idea: Extreme W...

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