How to Grow a Heart: Transforming Cells Into Human Organs

In the 21st century, biology will usher in advances in regenerative medicine. Stem cells will be at the center of discovery and application in that new field.  

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What's the Big Idea?

Unlocking the human genome is a little like learning the alphabet. It gives you all the essentials - but in order to actually put your knowledge to use, you need to know more. You need to understand the rules of language, how to form words from letters and sentences from words. In biology, these elusive and complex interactions take place in the cell. 

"What has been lost in the discussion up until now is the idea that the real unit of biology is not DNA, but is instead a cell," says Doug Melton, a biologist and co-director of Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute, in his Floating University lecture, What's Up, Doc? Is Biomedical Research Really Close to Curing Anything? "Cells are alive, cells make more cells and cells are the units that allow us to harness the future of our bodies and regenerative medicine."

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
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Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

(MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
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Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
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Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.