Coronavirus: The economics of contagious disease

How should we think about the tension between opening the economy back up and preserving public health?

What are the major missteps the global community is making that will need to be addressed to prepare us for future pandemics? Is the US economy ready to reopen?


What are the major missteps the global community is making that will need to be addressed to prepare us for future pandemics? Is the US economy ready to reopen? In this Big Think Live session with Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, you'll learn about the public health assumptions that must be rethought and how we can mobilize ourselves and our systems for a more sustainable long-term future.

Ask your questions for Jeffrey Sachs during the live Q&A!

Catacombs of Paris: The city of darkness finds its new raison d'être

Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.

Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain
Strange Maps
  • People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
  • They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
  • Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
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Baby's first poop predicts risk of allergies

Meconium contains a wealth of information.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that the contents of an infants' first stool, known as meconium, can predict if they'll develop allergies with a high degree of accuracy.
  • A metabolically diverse meconium, which indicates the initial food source for the gut microbiota, is associated with fewer allergies.
  • The research hints at possible early interventions to prevent or treat allergies just after birth.
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Asteroid impact: NASA simulation shows we are sitting ducks

Even with six months' notice, we can't stop an incoming asteroid.

Credit: NASA/JPL
Surprising Science
  • At an international space conference, attendees took part in an exercise that imagined an asteroid crashing into Earth.
  • With the object first spotted six months before impact, attendees concluded that there was insufficient time for a meaningful response.
  • There are an estimated 25,000 near-Earth objects potentially threatening our planet.
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Big think: Will AI ever achieve true understanding?

If you ask your maps app to find "restaurants that aren't McDonald's," you won't like the result.

Credit: GABRIEL BOUYS via Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • The Chinese Room thought experiment is designed to show how understanding something cannot be reduced to an "input-process-output" model.
  • Artificial intelligence today is becoming increasingly sophisticated thanks to learning algorithms but still fails to demonstrate true understanding.
  • All humans demonstrate computational habits when we first learn a new skill, until this somehow becomes understanding.
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