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A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

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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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Question: What was the inspiration behind your “Looks Simple” trick? 

Penn Jillette:  Teller and I were fascinated by how stupid magic is, that magic is going through all these elaborate machinations to make something look one way that's really another. And it struck us as really funny to do a magic trick that accomplished reality.

And we went through many, many things. We were going to originally do it with cooking or something like that but after weeks of trying to write this bit we came up with the idea of how about taking out a cigarette, lighting it, putting a cigarette out, and then pulling out another cigarette and lighting it. How about if we did that trick exactly like that with all accomplished by trickery. Stuff you could do simply. And that seemed to have such a purely existential feel to us. Going through incredibly complicated machinations to get to a very simple end.

Recorded on June 8, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman


"Looks Simple"—But It Isn't

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