Big Think's Top 25 +1 Videos


Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Deny Evolution

If adults want to deny evolution, sure. That’s fine. Whatever. But those adults better not make their kids follow in step because we as society need them to be better. Bill Nye, everyone's favorite Science Guy, explains the importance of promoting evolution education for America's future voters and lawmakers.

My Man, Sir Isaac Newton

Are you at least 26 years-old? If so, you are older than Isaac Newton was when he invented calculus... on a dare! (If you're younger than 26, better hurry up.) Big Think expert and overall cool guy Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why Newton is the greatest physicist who ever and likely will ever live.

Will Mankind Destroy Itself?

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku sees two major trends today. One eventually leads to a multicultural, scientific, tolerant society that will expand beyond Earth in the name of human progress. The other trend leads to fundamentalism, monoculturalism, and -- eventually -- civilizational ruin. Whichever of these two trends wins out will determine the fate of mankind. No pressure, everyone.

Ricky Gervais on the Principles of Comedy

Comedy isn't just about making people laugh, says actor Ricky Gervais. It's about making people think. And while different forms of comedy require different approaches, the crux of any good performance will always be rhythm.

Reading the Bible (Or the Koran, Or the Torah) Will Make You an Atheist

Author and magician Penn Jillette was asked to leave his Christian youth group by a pastor who told his parents: "He's no longer learning about the Bible from me. He is now converting everyone in the class to atheism." The reason? Jillette did his homework and was turned off by the hostilities of the text. It can be intimidating to come out as an atheist, especially in a religious community. Jillette found that having "out" atheist role models helped him feel unalone.

Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever

Punk legend Henry Rollins describes the biggest turning point in his life: the moment he decided to leave his job as manager of a Häagen-Dazs store and eventually become the lead singer of Black Flag. It was the courage to take a risk, plus a whole lot of luck, that got Rollins to where he is today.

5 Programming Languages Everyone Should Know

Java is "heavyweight, verbose, and everyone loves to hate it," but programmer Larry Wall still thinks you should know it. In this video, he offers suggestions for people interested in learning languages, as well as suggestions for those significantly less invested in computer programming.

The Importance of Unbelief

If you assume there’s no afterlife, Stephen Fry says, you’ll likely have a fuller, more interesting "now" life. The actor and comedian details the positive influence philosophers have had on his life, as well as his journey of understanding both what he believes and why he believes it.

Why be happy when you could be interesting?

We don't really want what we think we desire, says philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

James Gleick on the Common Character Traits of Geniuses

This video is part of a series on female genius, in proud collaboration with 92Y's 7 Days of Genius Festival.


The personalities of Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman were, on one level, extremely different. Biographer and former New York Times reporter James Gleick says Newton was argumentative, had few friends, and likely died a virgin. Feynman, on the other hand, loved dancing and going to parties, and had many friends in the scientific community. But in regards to their working habits, both men were solitary and had the ability to concentrate with a sort of intensity that is hard for mortals to grasp. At bottom, Gleick says geniuses tend to have a yearning for solitude which, though fruitful for their professional work, made the task of daily living more burdensome.

The Importance of Doing Useless Things

From poetry and ballet to mathematics and being clever, life is laden with frivolous pursuits that hold no bearing on our ability to survive. Yet, insists Richard Dawkins, if it weren’t for the development of these impractical activities, we wouldn’t be here.

Why monogamy is ridiculous

Dan Savage: the idea that one instance of infidelity should ruin a relationship is a new—and misguided—notion.

Dan Harris: Hack Your Brain's Default Mode With Meditation

Dan Harris explains the neuroscience behind meditation, but reminds us that the ancient practice isn't magic and likely won't send one floating into the cosmic ooze. He predicts that the exercise will soon become regularly scheduled maintenance, as commonplace as brushing your teeth or eating your veggies. Harris, an ABC News correspondent, was turned on to mediation after a live, on-air panic attack. His latest book is 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story.

How Intellectuals Betrayed the Poor

For 40 years academics were duped into idolizing the idea of unfettered markets, says Cornel West, and now our society is paying a terrible price.

Why Some Races Outperform Others

A psychologist explains the latest research into education disparity.

Why It's So Hard for Scientists to Believe in God

Some scientists see religion as a threat to the scientific method that should be resisted. But faith "is really asking a different set of questions," says Collins.

Why Facebook Isn't Free

Internet pioneer Jaron Lanier argues that free technologies like Facebook come with a hidden and heavy cost – the livelihoods of their consumers.

How to Tell if You’re a Writer

For John Irving, the need for a daily ration of solitude was his strongest "pre-writing" moment as a child.

Your Behavior Creates Your Gender

Nobody is born one gender or the other, says the philosopher. "We act and walk and speak and talk in ways that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman."

Are You a Liberal Snob? Take The Quiz

Charles Mrray designed this quiz to have a salutary effect on bringing to people’s attention the degree to which they live in a bubble that seals them off from an awful lot of their fellow American citizens.

Why You Should Watch Filth

John Waters defends the creation and consumption of obscene films, and recommends some of his personal favorites.

What Are You Worth? Getting Past Status Anxiety.

Writer Alain De Botton says that status anxiety is more pernicious and destructive than most of us can imagine, and recommends getting out of the game altogether.

Sheila Heen on the Psychology of Happiness and Feedback

Sheila Heen, a Partner at Triad Consulting Group and a lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, explains the psychology behind feedback and criticism. Heen is co-author of "Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well."

Are You a Psychopath? Take the Test.

Psychologist Kevin Dutton presents the classic psychological test known as "the trolley problem" with a variation. Take the test and measure you response on the psychopathic spectrum.

Here's How to Catch a Liar, If You Really Want To

It’s very complex as to whether or not we really want to catch a liar. We think we do. What if we find out that both of our presidential candidates are lying? Then what do we do? I’m not saying they are; I never comment on anyone in office or running for office. Only after they’re out that they’re fair game. . . . Clinton said, "I didn’t have sex with that woman" and then gave her name. "That woman" is putting her at a distance from himself.

Why I Came Out at Age 81

As a teenager in the '40s, James Randi "would have gotten stoned" for being gay. But when he outed himself to the world in 2010, the reaction was "wonderful."

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What does COVID-19 mean for the energy transition? While lockdowns have caused a temporary fall in CO2 emissions, the pandemic risks derailing recent progress in addressing the world's energy challenges.


The current state of the sector is described in the World Economic Forum's Energy Transition Index 2020. It benchmarks the energy systems of 115 economies, highlighting the leading players in the race to net-zero emissions, as well as those with work to do.

With pressure to get idle economies back to “normal", the short-term shift to a more sustainable energy sector could be in doubt. But the current crisis also presents an opportunity to rethink how our energy needs are met, and consider the long-term impact on the planet.

Unprecedented change

The past decade has seen rapid transformations as countries move towards clean energy generation, supply and consumption. Coal-fired power plants have been retired, as reliance on natural gas and emissions-free renewable energy sources increases. Incremental gains have been made from carbon pricing initiatives.

Since 2015, 94 of 115 countries have improved their combined score on the Energy Translation Index (ETI), which analyzes each country's readiness to adopt clean energy using three criteria: energy access and security; environmental sustainability; and economic development and growth.

But the degree of change and the timetable for reaching net-zero emissions differ greatly between countries, and taken as a whole, today's advances are insufficient to meet the climate targets set by the Paris Agreement.

Sweden is the nation most ready to transition to sustainable energy.

WEF Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2020 edition

The 10 countries most prepared for the energy transition

Sweden tops the overall ETI ranking for the third consecutive year as the country most ready to transition to clean energy, followed by Switzerland and Finland. There has been little change in the top 10 since the last report, which demonstrates the energy stability of these developed nations, although the gap with the lowest-ranked countries is closing.

Top-ranked countries share a reduced reliance on imported energy, lower energy subsidies and a strong political commitment to transforming their energy sector to meet climate targets.

The UK and France are the only two G20 economies in the top 10 however, which is otherwise made up of smaller nations.

Powerful shocks Outside the top 10, progress has been modest in Germany. Ranked 20th, the country has committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants and moving industrial output to cleaner fuels such as hydrogen, but making energy services affordable remains a struggle.

China tops the market for solar energy.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China currently has the world's largest solar PV capacity

China, ranked 78th, has made strong advances in controlling CO2 emissions by switching to electric vehicles and investing heavily in solar and wind energy - it currently has the world's largest solar PV and onshore wind capacity. Alongside China, countries including Argentina, India and Italy have shown consistent strong improvements every year. Gains over time have also been recorded by Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Kenya and Oman, among others.

But high energy-consuming countries including the US, Canada and Brazil show little, if any, progress towards an energy transition.

In the US (ranked 32nd), moves to establish a more sustainable energy sector have been hampered by policy decisions. Neighbouring Canada grapples with the conflicting demands of a growing economy and the need to decarbonize the energy sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder of the impact of external shocks on the global economy. As climate change increases the likelihood of weather extremes such as floods, droughts and violent storms, the need for more sustainable energy practices is intensified.

Policy-makers need to develop a robust framework for energy transition at local, national and international levels, capable of guarding against such shocks.

"The coronavirus pandemic offers an opportunity to consider unorthodox intervention in the energy markets, and global collaboration to support a recovery that accelerates the energy transition once the acute crisis subsides," says Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy & Materials at the World Economic Forum.

"This giant reset grants us the option to launch aggressive, forward-thinking and long-term strategies leading to a diversified, secure and reliable energy system that will ultimately support the future growth of the world economy in a sustainable and equitable way."

Reprinted with permission of the World Economic Forum. Read the original article.

  • The "red pill" came into prominence as a way to break free of mental slavery in the 1999 movie, "The Matrix."
  • In a new essay, Julian Walker points out Neo's powers only worked inside of the simulation—reality is a different story.
  • The red vs blue pill question is a pop culture phenomenon, often used in questionable circumstances.

Pop culture always translates strangely, though it appears we've hit peak "Idiocracy." Earlier this month, Brad Parscale, Donald Trump's campaign manager, compared the incumbent's re-election campaign to the Death Star. Trump retweeted his face on Thanos's body. In both situations, the dark lords do not triumph. Given current polls these sentiments may be prophetic, though we have to wonder what the inciters are thinking.

Why the administration would use these particular images has been debated. Some believe they're "owning the libs" by forcing a conversation on their blatant ignorance of science fiction and comic book mythology. Thanos's creator, Jim Starlin, was not nearly as kind in his assessment, expressing consternation over a "pompous dang fool using my creation to stroke his infantile ego."

Starlin is not the only creator upset by the misappropriation of an archetype. On May 17, Elon Musk urged his nearly 35 million Twitter followers to "take the red pill." Ivanka Trump giddily replied, "Taken!," prompting Lily Wachowski, co-creator of "The Matrix," to express anger over the usage of a term she coined.

Once a symbol enters public consciousness there's no telling where it ends up. Nazi Germany infamously co-opted the Sanskrit term, svástika, meaning "auspicious" or "conducive to well-being," for its genocidal program. Likewise, "redpilling" first emerged in a toxic subreddit where men try to feel better about themselves by denouncing women, liberals, and everything else failing to live up to their basement-level standards.

In the warped imaginations of members of The Red Pill, the rabbit hole referenced by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in "The Matrix" is an alternative world in which women run everything while men are mere subordinates. While it appears Musk was referencing his plan to reopen Tesla's Fremont-based factory against California state orders, his tweet's lack of context makes the sentiment ambiguous. The same holds true for Ivanka Trump's buy-in, a wink at Musk in his quest to rally commerce, plant workers be damned.

That's Julian Walker's take on this phenomenon. In a Medium article that's been circulating—garnering a retweet from William Gibson and praise from Jason Silva—Walker recalls feeling validated by the red pill scene in the 1999 movie. Morpheus offers Neo (Keanu Reeves) an opportunity to break the bondage of mental servitude. Capped by the adrenaline-fueled screams of "Wake Up" by Rage Against the Machine, this theme inspired a wave of Gen Xers to combat the influence of Big Corporate Interests on Big Government.

As with many messages, the meaning was thwarted by none other than Big Corporate Interests, even if those interests are solar powered instead of crudely extracted. Strangely, as Walker points out, the red pill has been adopted by conspiracy theorists representing both alt-right circles and the leftist "wellness" community. Musk's equivocation speaks truth to power to keyboard warriors intent on combating the ills of vaccines, 5G, reptilian overlords, and coronavirus hoaxes. Ambiguity is always necessary when logical thinking and the clarity of proof are absent. It is the conspiracist's native tongue.

In his essay, Walker points out that Neo doesn't actually awaken to the prophesied new world. In fact, quite the opposite: "The reality that Neo wakes up to is actually super-vulnerable and weak."

Walker went further during our conversation last week. The red pill is a spiritual initiation common in mythological storytelling. Upon entering the Matrix, Neo comes into harmony and discovers an awareness of energy through the ancient discipline of martial arts. Inside of the simulation he develops the ability to flow like water, deflecting any dangers thrown at him. Walker continues,

"What usually gets left out and forgotten is that he only has that while he's in the simulation. When he's inside of the Matrix, he learns how to bend the rules of the Matrix. But the real world is horrible. When he's not inside of the Matrix, the reality he's been woken up to is really scary and dark."

Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix"

Keanu Reeves stars in "The Matrix"

1999 Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Film.

In the Bhagavad Gita, the archer Arjuna experiences an existential crisis while on the battlefield. He's tasked to kill his friends and cousins in what he believes to be a useless war. Krishna tells him to man up. As the world's most famous bowman, Arjuna's duty is death. The godhead, revealing his terrible form to the stunned archer, says he creates and destroys life like a man puts on and removes clothing.

Designed to honor class and duty in Indian society, the message is clear enough: All men die, often while being churned through the mechanism of war. Arjuna draws his bow and becomes the hero—temporarily; he too dies before achieving the crown. Only his brother, Yudhisthira, reaches the door of Swarga Loka.

We cheer when Neo downloads Taekwondo, Kempo, and even Drunken Boxing, yet what Morpheus reveals is much more pedestrian—and much more powerful. As Walker writes, "The grim reality he wakes up to is sackcloth clothes on emaciated and frightened human bodies, in an industrial wasteland."

Neo is all-powerful inside of the Matrix, much like keyboard conspiracists in the safety of subreddits. As much time as some spend there, however, it's not reality. "The signifier of the red pill," Walker concludes, "has the content of whatever is projected upon it in terms of the person's perspective." When you wall yourself off from oppositional thought—as we used to call it, debate—the red pill becomes whatever you want it to be.

We won't shelter at home forever, though Big Tech makes it easy to shelter inside of your mind, at least until the archer comes for you. Interestingly, Arjuna didn't reach heaven because of his pride. He murdered his cousins and friends but could never overcome himself. He was, as Morpheus warned Neo, a slave in a system much bigger than he would ever be. There is no escape, only courage. Arjuna never reconciled that fact.

Neo recognized that knowledge gained inside of the Matrix has to be brought back to the real world—a world, today, marked by the hundred-thousandth American death due to the novel coronavirus. The red pill opened his eyes to destruction and decay in society. Neo vowed to open the eyes of his peers upon his return. Strangely, he didn't promise them more cars.

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Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter, Facebook and Substack. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

In this Big Think Live session with Keith Ferrazzi, moderated by Bob Kulhan, Ferrazzi will dive into management and leadership methods, explaining what it means to "lead without authority."


How can we rethink the organizational structures that keep us in unproductive silos and learn to build true teams instead? How can we be more emotionally intelligent in meetings? And, as an exclusive for Edge subscribers, Ferrazzi will teach a lesson on collaborative problem solving.

Keith Ferrazzi is the founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a management consulting and team coaching company that works with many of the world's biggest corporations. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Ferrazzi rose to become the youngest CMO of a Fortune 500 company during his career at Deloitte, and later became CMO of Starwood Hotels. He is a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fortune and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who's Got Your Back, Never Eat Alone and his new book Leading Without Authority. His mission is to transform teams to help them transform the world.

Bob Kulhan is an elite improviser, an adjunct professor at Duke Fuqua B-School, author of Getting to "Yes And", and the founder and CEO of Business Improv® – a 21-year-old consultancy linking improvisation to business through behavioral sciences and ROI for blue chip companies. BI is a world-class leader in experiential Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) Digital Asynchronous Learning and Open Enrollment programs.

  • Years ago, California Institute of Technology professor Konstantin Batygin was inspired to embark on a journey of discovering what lurked beyond Neptune. What he and his collaborator discovered was a strange field of debris.
  • This field of debris exhibited a clustering of orbits, and something was keeping these orbits confined. The only plausible source would be the gravitational pull of an extra planet—Planet Nine.
  • While Planet Nine hasn't been found directly, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. And Batygin is confident we'll return to a nine-planet solar system within the next decade.


    In a cave tucked into the limestone hills of the Asturias region of Spain, there lie the remains of a group of 13 Neanderthals that date to between 50,600 and 47,300 years ago.

    The site is infamous among anthropologists who study the Paleolithic period for the evidence of what appears to be the massacre and possible cannibalization of a family: Their bones seem to have been hacked at by stone tools and hammers, probably by another group of Neanderthals, to remove their flesh and marrow.

    But more importantly, for this story, those bones also reveal something of the sex life of the cave's inhabitants. Anomalies and deformations, along with the DNA buried within their bones, suggest that the members of this group (and their parents) were mating with their close kin.

    Lately, much news from the field of paleoarchaeology and anthropology has centered on Neanderthal bedfellows. You would be forgiven for thinking that paleoanthropologists think about little other than paleo-sex. Within the past several years, genetic evidence has emerged that Neanderthals interbred on more than one occasion with both anatomically modern humans and our newfound ancient relative, the Denisovans. One finger bone fragment from Denisova Cave in Siberia is now famous for belonging to a teenage girl who had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.

    But evidence also shows that while some Neanderthals were apparently breeding well outside of the family group, some were also finding mates much closer to home.

    In the remains from El Sidrón Cave, paleoanthropologist Luis Ríos and colleagues found 17 examples of congenital anomalies—structural malformations of various body parts that occur while an individual is developing in the womb.

    One young El Sidrón individual, for example, had an oddly shaped patella, the bone that forms the kneecap: It had three lobes rather than just one. This Neanderthal probably had a limp. An adult male in the same cave had a markedly narrow nasal passage and a "retained deciduous mandibular canine," writes Ríos and his co-authors—this adult Neanderthal never lost one of his lower canine baby teeth. That tooth developed a painful cyst, which left its mark on the bone of his jaw. Microscopic striations on the tooth itself suggest that he coped with the pain by avoiding chewing on that side of his mouth.

    One possible explanation for these skeletal abnormalities is that they resulted from extremely stressful environmental conditions, such as brutally cold weather and scarce food. A pregnant mother experiencing a lot of physical stress and nutritional deprivation might give birth to an infant with some of the same conditions seen at El Sidrón.

    Inbreeding leads to a problematically small gene pool

    But DNA tests from these bones indicate that inbreeding and a small population size were likely factors contributing to the physical peculiarities in this family. The 13 El Sidrón Neanderthals share much longer segments of their DNA than would be expected if they were the offspring of non-relatives.

    Genetically, the three adult males in the group were closely related enough to be brothers, cousins, or uncles, while the four adult females in the group came from three distinct genetic lines. While all individuals were likely distantly related to one another (think third or fourth cousins), it is likely that the males exchanged females with another local, slightly less closely related group.

    Today inbreeding carries connotations of "kissing cousins" or intimacy between even closer familial relations. But the term simply means mating between relatives, which increases the number of common ancestors in a family tree and the likelihood of inheriting deleterious genes from those common ancestors. Even third or fourth cousins are genetically similar enough for issues to arise.

    The younger El Sidrón individuals (ranging in age from 5 to 15 years of age, along with one infant) were likely the offspring of at least some of the adults. At least one of these children, the young male mentioned above, possessed skeletal malformations that were likely passed down from parents who were fairly closely related.

    The tangled familial ties of the El Sidrón Neanderthals are not a unique situation; DNA evidence from other Neanderthals elsewhere in Eurasia also shows elevated instances of shared DNA segments around this time, suggesting that mating between individuals who shared recent ancestors was fairly frequent, and possibly unavoidable, if local populations were small.

    In general, inbreeding leads to a problematically small gene pool. Rare harmful traits that might disappear in larger populations tend to be amplified if close kin interbreed. Yet inbreeding has happened throughout human history, especially in the royal families of different cultures. Just look at the Habsburg family line in Spain or the royal families of Ancient Egypt to see the effects of keeping family bloodlines "pure."

    Neanderthals were not the only ancient hominins to mate with their close relatives. Anatomically modern humans have also been found with skeletal evidence of inbreeding, such as abnormally bowed thigh bones, deformed arm bones, and even a case of a toddler with a swollen brain case consistent with hydrocephalus.

    At the time that these congenital malformations appear, between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago, modern humans were traveling out of Africa. They fanned out across vast geographical regions, and, at times, were quite isolated from one another. Populations might have been separated by hundreds of kilometers at a time, only rarely encountering one another. This might be a simple reason why inbreeding occurred: Pickings were slim.

    During the time that the El Sidrón Neanderthal family occupied their cave, it is likely that they were also fairly isolated. Their mating patterns probably had much more to do with small population size and low population density than any sort of cultural practice. There is no way to know if cultural taboos against mating with close relatives existed back then.

    Interestingly, most of the individuals in the El Sidrón family group lived well past infancy despite physical conditions that, in some cases, would have made it difficult for them to get around and perform their day-to-day tasks. This family cared for one another, sharing physical burdens and helping each other to survive. Their relations, and their care, are recorded in their bones.

    This column is part of an ongoing series about the Neanderthal body: a head-to-toe tour. See our interactive graphic.

    This work first appeared on SAPIENS under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license. Read the original here.