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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  • Using specially cultivated embryonic stem cells, scientists generated mice whose cells had extra-long telomeres.
  • Telomeres are stretches of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that helps protect the genetic information inside.
  • Lengthening telomeres in embryonic stem cells could pave the way toward slowing aging without genetic modification.


Scientists successfully extended the average lifespan of mice by breeding them using embryonic stem cells with extra-long telomeres. The findings are significant because the researchers managed to extend lifespan without genetic modification, and they also shed light on the aging process and techniques that might someday slow it.

The study — published October 17 in Nature Communicationsfocuses on telomeres, which are stretches of DNA found at the end of chromosomes.

Because telomeres protect the genetic material inside chromosomes, they've been likened to the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces. But telomeres have also been compared to bomb fuses, or "molecular clocks," because they become shorter each time a cell divides, eventually shrinking so much that the cell dies or stops dividing. This shortening of our telomeres is associated with aging, cancer, and death.

Biohacking: Why I’ll live to be 180 years old

"Telomere shortening is considered one of the hallmarks of aging as short telomeres are sufficient to cause organismal aging and decreased lifespan," the researchers wrote. "Telomere length is determined genetically and both average telomere length and the rate of telomere shortening varies between species. In this regard, humans are born with shorter telomeres than mice, but mice telomeres shorten 100-times faster than humans."

For years, scientists have been exploring how lengthening telomeres might help stave off disease and aging in animals, and, perhaps someday, in humans. But these attempts have all involved genetic modification. In the new study, a team of researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center left induced stem cells to multiply in a petri dish, a process which eventually results in cells that have extra-long telomeres, as researchers first discovered in 2009.

Using these specially cultivated embryonic stem cells, the team generated mice with extra-long telomeres. Compared to a control group, these mice experienced "significant increase of 12.74 percent in median longevity", showed no cognitive defects and were less likely to develop cancer and obesity.

"This finding supports the idea that, when it comes to determining longevity, genes are not the only thing to consider," says molecular biologist Maria Blasco, from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO). "There is margin for extending life without altering the genes."

Is lengthening telomeres the secret to slowing aging in humans?

Shorter telomeres are linked to a shorter lifespan in humans. And although we're unlikely to see any experiments involving that are similar to the recent study, there are some steps you can take to lengthen your telomeres and increase your chances at a longer life. The main step: endurance exercise.

A 2018 study published in the European Heart Journal found that telomerase activity spikes in people who regularly do endurance exercises, defined as 45 minutes of continuous running. Interestingly, this effect was not observed in people who lifted weights or walked for 45 minutes. The results echoed those of a similar 2017 study, which found that people who ran regularly appeared to be biologically younger than those who didn't. But it takes some effort.

"If you want to see a real difference in slowing your biological aging, it appears that a little exercise won't cut it," study author Larry Tucker told Science Daily. "You have to work out regularly at high levels."

  • Islam is being challenged as a religion in America today. Opponents claim it is not a religion, but a dangerous political ideology.
  • Lawyer and religious freedom scholar Asma T. Uddin challenges that view and explains why it is a threat to the religious liberty of all Americans, not just Muslims.
  • In U.S. history, Catholics, Jews, and Mormons have all been "denationalized" as Americans and persecuted for their beliefs. This destructive precedent is a threat to all Americans, across all belief systems.

Dressed in an all-white suit with a white tie, attorney Joe Brandon, Jr., paced back and forth in the county courthouse in Rutherford County, Tennessee, in 2010, peppering witnesses with incendiary questions. During some of the proceedings, Brandon wore brightly colored ties with checkered shirts and checkered suits. In all of his looks, he channeled the brash comedians from the 1950s and 1960s—except that Brandon's stage was an American courtroom, and in this courtroom, Islam was on trial.

"Isn't it true that in the Qur'an, Mohammad had a six-year-old wife that he had sex with … Is that your idea of what a religion is?"

"Sharia law includes instruction on how to beat your wife … How is Sharia law going to affect our society, our jobs and our freedoms?"

"How can something be called a religion that promotes the abuse of women?"

"Do you believe in having sex with children?"

Brandon represented four residents who were challenging the county's issuance of a construction permit to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro to build a mosque. The residents' concern was that the county had treated mosques like any other house of worship, and Islam like any other religion, when in fact, in their view, Islam was not a religion at all. They believed Islam was actually a dangerous political ideology that posed security threats to the local community and to America. This, precisely, is what Brandon argued in court.

Photo: Saleh M. Sbenaty/Wikimedia Commons

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Tennessee.

The "circus," as a county attorney called it, went on for six days. It troubled me then, and continues to trouble me today, and not just because I am an American Muslim. It troubles me because I value and seek to protect all Americans' religious liberty. I see, perhaps more clearly than many others, that the claim used against Islam in Murfreesboro can be used against followers of any other religion, too.

In fact, historically, it has been used against other groups. In 19th-century America, nativists resented the new influx of Catholic immigrants. The anti-Catholic animosity was so strong that, on more than one occasion, it resulted in mass violence. As with anti-Muslim claims today, American nativists claimed that the Catholic Church acted as a foreign entity with monarchical tendencies, portraying the Catholic Church as incompatible with American democracy and calling into question the loyalty of Catholic citizens. Even as recently as John F. Kennedy's run for the presidency in 1960, prominent Americans claimed that the Vatican would exert nefarious political influence if a Kennedy, a Catholic, won the White House.

Lithograph source: Library of Congress

Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and his brother, Hyrum Smith, were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844.

None of this is new. A few decades before Kennedy's campaign, Henry Ford distributed the tract, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," an anti-Semitic fabrication that falsely claimed to detail meetings of Jewish elders seeking to control the press and the world economies. Mormons, or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, have also faced immense persecution in the United States. In 1838, Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued an expulsion and extermination order directing Missourians to treat Mormons as "enemies" who "must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary." In 1883, Mormons faced what many have called a precursor to President Trump's travel ban. That year, President Grover Cleveland asked Congress to find a way to "prevent the importation of Mormons into the country." And in 1903, after the election of US Senator and Mormon apostle Reed Smoot, the U.S. Senate subjected Smoot's faith to a four-year proceeding because it feared Smoot's role as an apostle in the Mormon Church made him loyal to the Church over U.S. laws.

In each of these cases, the marginalized religious community has experienced what Yale historian Timothy Snyder calls "denationalization." This, he says, means, "You take people who are your neighbors and you define them not primarily as your neighbors and fellow citizens but primarily with some larger world community, all of whose members hold the same views." Today, Muslims are the ones denationalized, in some of our laws and in our public perception of Muslims' rights. But while Muslims are the latest victims, the attacks on their rights impacts all Americans.

Again, history bears out this point. When hostility against a specific group results in particular laws targeting them, those laws may later impact a much broader group. For example, the denationalization of Catholics in the 19th century culminated in the formation of a political party, the Know-Nothing Party, which sought a type of political purity and advocated for laws that banned public aid to parochial schools and prohibited public school teachers from wearing religious garb. The anti-garb statutes targeted Catholic nuns, and both sets of laws sought to limit Catholic influence over American public life. While these laws are rooted in anti-Catholic animus, today they impact people of every religion. Pennsylvania uses the religious garb ban against Sikh teachers in turbans and Muslim teachers in headscarves. And the ban on aid to parochial schools is used by many states against religious schools of all types.

"I see, perhaps more clearly than many others, that the claim used against Islam in Murfreesboro can be used against followers of any other religion, too."

In today's context, if we cede power to the government to regulate Muslim religious practice more heavily than it regulates other religious practices, we create a precedent that will ultimately limit all Americans' liberty. For example, if courts and legislatures are empowered to accept Brandon's claim that Islam is not a religion and Muslims do not have religious freedom, they can accept those claims about every other religious group the majority may fear or hate. If, as some prominent individuals want them to, courts start to parse Islamic doctrine to decide which parts are acceptable or likeable and which aren't, they open the door to courts parsing the beliefs of every other religious group, too.

This is not to say that all religious acts are protected—those that pose serious risks to life, safety, national security, and other government interests the law calls "compelling," can be legitimately restricted. But what Brandon sought when he tried stopping the construction of a mosque, what 19th century nativists sought when they wanted to keep nuns out of public schools, and what the U.S. Senate sought when it grilled Senator Smoot, is much broader. It has nothing to do with pragmatism and the protection of compelling interests, and everything to do with a fear and hatred that is capable of subsuming all Americans' rights.

  • Researchers from John Hopkins University discovered a new superconducting material.
  • The material, called β-Bi2Pd, can create flex qubits, necessary for quantum computing.
  • Next for the scientists is looking for Majorana fermions.


Quantum computers may be closer to reality thanks to a discovery by researchers from John Hopkins University. Their recent paper, published in Science, describes their find of a superconducting material that can be the basis of the computers of the future.

The big difference between our contemporary computers and quantum computers is that instead of using bits of either "0" or "1" to store a piece of information, the quantum computers will employ quantum mechanics. They will store data in quantum bits (known as "qubits"). Such qubits exist in a superposition of two states, where both zero and one can be represented at the same time.

This technology, supercharging computational speed, could make quantum computers immensely superior to current computers, especially in such fields as artificial intelligence, predicting weather, the stock market, developing cures for illnesses, military applications and others.

What the John Hopkins scientists found is a way to create a qubit from a ring made out of a superconducting material known as β-Bi2Pd, which naturally exists in a quantum state. Usually you would need to add magnetic fields to achieve this effect, a fact that makes the "flux qubit" created from this substance a possible "game changer," said Chia-Ling Chien, Professor of Physics at The Johns Hopkins University and the paper's co-author.

In their study, the researchers observed that β-Bi2Pd exists between two states, with the current able to simultaneously circulate both clockwise and counterclockwise through its ring.

The scientists are most excited about the practicality of utilizing such a material.

Quantum Computing 2019 Update

Quantum computing overview that includes main concepts, recent developments from IBM, Intel, Google, Microsoft, D-Wave, Rigetti and other pioneers.

Much more research lies ahead, however, before the era of quantum computers is upon us. Next for the researchers is looking for Majorana fermions within β-Bi2Pd. Finding these theoretical particles is seen as an important milestone in quantum computing. What's significant is that they are anti-particles of themselves and can lead to error-free topological quantum computers.

The paper's first author. Yufan Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University, thinks that discovering the special properties of β-Bi2Pd bodes well for finding within it the fermions.

"Ultimately, the goal is to find and then manipulate Majorana fermions, which is key to achieving fault-tolerant quantum computing for truly unleashing the power of quantum mechanics," said Li in a press release.

Xiaoying Xu of Johns Hopkins University; and M.-H. Lee and M.-W. Chu of National Taiwan University were the additional co-authors of the paper.

Check out their new paper, published October 11th, in Science Magazine.

  • These days, for the most part, the concept of death is consumed by health care and medicine.
  • However, as humans we need to view death as more than just a medical event. It takes into account our psychology, spirituality, philosophy, social worlds, and personal lives.
  • This reconsideration should also apply to the way we treat people who are dying. Life is in the senses, not just our physical capabilities.
  • The researchers asked about 50 male university students to participate in a mock dating scenario.
  • Men with more psychopathic traits were seen as significantly more desirable by women who watched videos of the encounters.
  • Psychopathic traits may help men to mimic the qualities women are looking for, but it's a short-term strategy that comes at a cost.


Men with psychopathic traits seem to have an easier time attracting women, according to a new study that used an evolutionary psychology framework to examine the relationship between psychopathy and sexuality.

It might seem that psychopaths — individuals whom psychologists describe as parasitic, lacking goals, and incapable of feeling love or remorse — would be uniquely disadvantaged in creating good impressions on women. However, recent research indicates that men with psychopathic traits tend to have more sexual partners, are more likely to act on their sexual fantasies, are more open to short-term sexual affairs, and have sex at earlier ages.

"For instance, clinicians and psychologists working in prison settings have long known that inmates with more psychopathic features tenaciously try (i.e., are preoccupied with sex) and often succeed (i.e., must offer some attractive qualities, even if faked) at seducing prison staff, including clinical staff supposedly equipped with the tools to not be subverted by manipulation and charm that psychopathic men deploy," study author Kristopher Brazil told PsyPost.

The 'sexual exploitation hypothesis'

What it is about psychopathy that sometimes makes the personality disorder advantageous for attracting women? The study, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology Science on September 2, suggests that some psychopathic traits help men mimic the qualities that women look for in a mate. This sexual exploitation hypothesis, as the researchers call it, could help explain why psychopathy evolved in humans.

"We wonder if in the landscape of individuals seeking a partner whether there are sexual and romantic 'sneakers' or 'mimics' who display not just a mask of sanity, but an appealing mask that deceptively displays attractive qualities desirable in the marketplace of relationships," the researchers wrote.

The researchers asked 46 male university students in Canada to participate in a video-recorded dating scenario with a female research assistant, who'd start the scenario by asking questions like "What do you like to do on a first date?" and "What do you think is most important in a relationship?"

These male participants also completed assessments that measured psychopathy, social intelligence, and sociosexuality. Then, the researchers asked 108 women to watch videos of the dating scenarios, and to score each man for general attractiveness, sexual attractiveness and confidence — measures that were averaged to determine a general desirability score.

The results showed that male participants who scored high in psychopathy were more likely to be seen as desirable by women, even when the researchers controlled for physical attractiveness. What's more, when women were asked to compare just two men of similar attractiveness, women tended to find the man with psychopathic traits more desirable. Men with psychopathic traits, it seems, are better able to "enact" desirable traits in these brief social encounters.

"Psychopathic men have a personality style that makes them appear attractive to women in dating encounters. This may be because they are extra confident or feel at ease or know exactly what to say to get the attention of women," Brazil told PsyPost.

Desirability ratings from women were most strongly associated with psychopathic lifestyle traits, including disinhibition, lack of responsibility and having a sensation-seeking orientation. The researchers weren't certain why this association emerged, but they suggested:

". . . one possibility is that they make men seem more interesting, exciting, and fun to engage with in conversations. Men exhibiting these traits may be effectively signaling that they are exciting partners and women may be responding with a preference for those traits in a short-term dating context."

From an evolutionary perspective, the ability to attract women long enough to have sex is advantageous, even if it's cold and immoral. The results raise questions over whether psychopathy really is a "disorder." The researchers remark:

"More research needs to be done on this, but whatever the reason, our research shows that psychopathic traits certainly don't seem 'disordered' like dominant clinical approaches assume. There is something in this personality style that may provide individual benefits (not that they don't also have costs), which makes us think it is not a disorder."

Psychopathy and the impossibility of intimacy

A key takeaway from the study is that psychopathic traits likely only help men on a short-term basis. Sure, some psychopaths will appear commitment-focused at the beginning of the relationship, often through a tactic called "love bombing," in which the psychopath showers his partner with flattery, sweet talk, and maintaining constant communication (think "Dirty John"). But eventually, after promises go unmet and the impossibility of intimacy becomes clear, the façade crumbles.

". . . by virtue of being psychopathic, one never really fits in long-term in a social group. Connections to others are tenuous and rarely will someone have your back when it really matters," Brazil told PsyPost, adding that psychopathic people tend not only to cheat on partners, but also get cheated on. "These costs should make it clear that the potential benefits of 'investing' in psychopathic traits as a young man will come with some negative consequences as well."

Though their research suggested "interesting" and "exciting" personalities were more attractive to women, the scientists, in the end, made it clear that their study does not justify or excuse psychopathic behavior.

"This research can be used to promote healthier relationships by prioritizing an understanding of the allure of psychopathy in forming relationships, and points to a need for elucidating the precursors and developmental pathway(s) that give rise to psychopathy in the first place."