Who Botched the Italian Job?

One would expect the 150-year anniversary of the Italian state be something of a celebration. One would be wrong. The country is divided culturally, politically and economically.

Tim Parks, a long-time British resident of Italy, says Italian identity is ultimately contrived—a fact which may preclude any unified stance on national issues from corruption to immigration. Looking as far back as the country's post-Roman Empire days of warring city-states, Parks says there is an ironic Italian spirit that champions subdivisions of society ahead of a national identity: "As a nation, Italians will strike temporary bargains among themselves, but they don't seek genuine conflict resolution. They seek to win, or at least not to lose, and so prefer to keep the conflict open, much as if they were involved in a soccer league, with matches to be won or lost each year by fair means or foul."

​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.

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  • 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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Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

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  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

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Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
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Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
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