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David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
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Bryan Cranston
Actor
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Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
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Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Americans' Last Hope For Prosperity Lies In Winning a Game Show

In this month’s Vanity Fair, David Kamp charts how our centuries-long obsession with the American Dream may be dying. To take stock of where the American Dream stands today, let's turn to one of its most unmediated representations, the game show.

Kamp argues that the heady ambitions inherent to the concept of the American dream were quite possibly the key to its undoing.


While classic shows like The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune offer name-brand appliances, family vacations, and bundles of cash like chapters in the “rags to riches” version of the American narrative, today even the modest intellectual and analytical skills needed to excel at these shows are no longer necessary.

In newer, modern diversions like Deal or No Deal, all the participant needs is the ability to take risks. While a disembodied voice dares players to quit while they're ahead, a populist audience prods them to keep going, keep gambling, because at the end of the day it’s better to have gambled and lost it all then to settle for anything less that extreme largess. The Dream has fallen into the realm of high stakes gambling with an irresistibly low buy-in.

Our latest version of the Dream falters by raising expectations of success to soaring hubristic heights, deifying fame and fortune as the ultimate prize. During the consumer credit boom of the post-war era, the idea that each succeeding generation would exceed the prosperity of the last morphed into something exponentially more ambitious and unattainable.

Should we continue revisiting the Dream so that, as Kamp argues, “the perpetuation of a contented, sustainable middle-class way of life…remains happily constant from one generation to the next”? Middle-class dreams, after all, are pretty rarefied aspirations for the majority of the globe. For now, it seems, yes. There are few other alternatives on which to pin our hopes in economic times like these. But whether faith in an old dream will be sufficient remains to be seen.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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A Map of Lexical Distances Between Europe's Languages

A Finn and a Spaniard walk into a bar...

Strange Maps

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What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Could this former river island in the Indus have inspired Tolkien to create Cair Andros, the ship-shaped island in the Anduin river?

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

An eight-metre-long Whale shark swims with other fish at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium on February 26, 2010 in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan.

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Japanese researchers discovered that the whale shark has "tiny teeth"—dermal denticles—protecting its eyes from abrasion.
  • They also found the shark is able to retract its eyeball into the eye socket.
  • Their research confirms that this giant fish relies on vision more than previously believed.
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