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."
- Entomologist William Romoser gave a presentation this week in which he claimed NASA photos show evidence of creatures, some still living, on the red planet.
- Romoser has worked as a professor of entomology at Ohio University for four decades.
- It's likely that the real phenomenon in Romoser's work is pareidolia — the tendency to "see" recognizable shapes among random visual data.
Photos captured by NASA's Mars rovers reveal the greatest scientific discovery of all time: proof of alien life.
Or, you know, proof of alien rocks. You be the judge.
Entomologist William Romoser gave a poster presentation on Tuesday, November 19, at the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America in St. Louis, Missouri. He claimed that his analysis of NASA images demonstrates convincing evidence that life exists on Mars, including insect- and reptile-like creatures, some of which still live there today."There has been and still is life on Mars," Romoser said. "There is apparent diversity among the Martian insect-like fauna which display many features similar to Terran insects that are interpreted as advanced groups — for example, the presence of wings, wing flexion, agile gliding/flight, and variously structured leg elements."
(NASA/JPL; William Romoser/Ohio University)
"Once a clear image of a given form was identified and described, it was useful in facilitating recognition of other less clear, but none-the-less valid, images of the same basic form," Romoser said.
To analyze the photos, Romoser played with factors like saturation, brightness and contrast, but he didn't add or remove any content from the photos, according to a press release from Ohio University.
(NASA/JPL; William Romoser/Ohio University)
"An exoskeleton and jointed appendages are sufficient to establish identification as an arthropod. Three body regions, a single pair of antennae, and six legs are traditionally sufficient to establish identification as 'insect' on Earth. These characteristics should likewise be valid to identify an organism on Mars as insect-like. On these bases, arthropodan, insect-like forms can be seen in the Mars rover photos."
(NASA/JPL; William Romoser/Ohio University)
Romoser said some of the creatures he saw in the images resemble carpenter bees and snakes. It's a bold and probably false claim. It's also not the first time Romoser has reported "evidence" of life on Mars. In 2017 and 2018, he published two reports describing "unidentified aerial phenomena" on the red planet. As Amanda Kooser wrote for CNET, the more likely phenomenon driving Romoser's findings is pareidolia, which is our tendency to "see" recognizable shapes in just about anything, from pancakes, to the flames of the Notre Dame fire, to photos from the Mars rovers.
Back on Earth, Romoser has spent 45 years as an entomology professor at Ohio University, where he co-founded the Tropical Disease Institute. He also worked as a researcher for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and has authored and co-authored four editions of the widely-used textbook, "The Science of Entomology."
(NASA/JPL; William Romoser/Ohio University)
At the very least, Romoser said this week, his findings suggest scientists should keep looking for life on Mars.
"The evidence of life on Mars presented here provides a strong basis for many additional important biological as well as social and political questions," he added. "It also represents a solid justification for further study."
Next year, the Mars 2020 rover plans to do just that, only its main focus will be searching for past microbial life.
In November last year, 20,000 Google employees across the world walked out of work.
They were protesting the ways in which their employer had failed to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Less than a year later, most of the leaders of the walkout have left Google accusing the company of retaliation and intimidation.
It all came to a head when The New York Times reported in October 2018 that instead of Google dealing with the real problems, when the men at the top were embroiled in credible sexual misconduct allegations, they were paid out in the millions to go quietly. Added to this were charges of racism, pay inequality and mistreatment of contractors.
'Stand up! Fight back!' the protestors chanted. 'Hey hey, ho ho, tech harassment has got to go!' they demanded. This was a bold and conspicuous form of employee activism that would settle for nothing less than workplace justice.
Not only was it high-profile but, at least to some extent, it worked. Google's leaders apologised, as you would expect. More practically, this February they ended a policy of forced arbitration that had meant employees who were sexually harassed could not sue the company.
What happened at Google is a clear case of what people can do to pursue justice at work. Rather than ignoring the facts, or engaging in self-indulgent private complaining, 20,000 people – a fifth of Google's full-time workforce – decided to speak up and do something about it.
This was an ethically motivated organised political strategy for change, and it offers a valuable case of what people can do to make organisations more fair. There are at least five lessons we can learn.
The first is that taking action is not futile. The activists at Google showed that making an organisation fairer comes at the hand of actively fighting against injustice. This is not a comfortable thing to do.
While many organisations as a matter of orthodoxy prize both managerial control and consensus, justice requires combatting that control through dissent. Dissent, as a strategy for justice, challenges this managerialist approach to worker-manager relations.
In one sense, it is only those in power who can make the real changes that improve workplace justice. In a more important sense, it is through effective dissent that they can be compelled to do so. This path to reform has long been the route of the most important demands for justice – for the establishment of the minimum wage, the creation of the eight-hour day, the legislation for equal pay for women, and more.
For many people, dissenting is an uncomfortable thing to do. Only when the sense of moral outrage reaches a tipping point will people take action. This leads to the second lesson: justice comes from coordinated acts of solidarity, both with other employees and with society more generally.
Historically, the organisation of labour through trade unions has provided the vehicle for collective action. A steady decline in union membership in major OECD nations since the 1960s and '70s does not bode well for justice.
That doesn't mean that solidarity is dead. Google employees have shown that: while the walkout had identifiable leaders, it was supported by employees across the world. Googlers from Singapore to San Francisco, from Tokyo to Toronto and beyond actively participated in a collective action for justice.
The third lesson is that the pursuit of fairness at work goes beyond seeking justice for oneself. While it is not possible to know how many of the Google protestors had experienced sexual harassment at work, it is safe to assume that the majority of those who walked out did so because they were supporting their co-workers as allies.
The pursuit of workplace fairness is not just a matter for the individuals who have been mistreated, maligned or manhandled. Justice is not just justice for me. It forms the heart of a community. What that community is collectively prepared to accept as fair and unfair defines its moral character.
The fourth lesson is that, to pursue justice in organisations, we need to overcome a difficult paradox. Fighting for workplace justice requires people to actually care enough about their organisations and their fellow workers to persevere in trying to do something about it.
But injustice too often occurs in a dog-eat-dog corporate world where people feel that they need to compete with each other in a zero-sum game to get ahead. In such environments, when people face or witness injustice, they can simply withdraw all forms of care and identification with the organisation. When that happens, self-preservation takes over from consideration for anyone else.
When injustice leads to cynicism and selfishness, the communal power that can lead to positive change is diminished. What is needed is for people to care enough about their colleagues and their organisations to see and speak up for the collective good, even though the injustice itself might tempt people to do just the opposite.
The fifth and final lesson is that pursuing justice can be very dangerous and should not be taken on lightly. In Google's case, seven people organised the walkout. Less than a year later, just three of them still work for Google.
The walkout's organisers claimed that they experienced direct retaliation by their managers and by the company's human resources department. Threats of demotion and job change were also reported. Other employees said that they were fearful of retribution if they reported workplace issues.
Meanwhile, Google has actively tried to prevent the politicisation of its workforce, releasing a policy that states: 'disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not [help build community]'.
They couldn't be more wrong. If a strong community is a fair community, then a willingness to engage in politics is essential. The Google employee activists would no doubt be well aware of this.
Google failed to recognise that its employees' political actions were precisely about community building. Cooperatively calling for a fair workplace reflects a basic human desire to care for others in a mutually supportive way. Managerial control strategies that stymie dissent work against the development of common interests and shared values.
In short, if what we want is a fair workplace, it's not likely to come at the hands of a benevolent managerial elite. Instead, and often against all odds, people need to join as allies in solidarity and stand up for what is right and fair.
- Shadow chancellor John McDonnell didn't provide specific requirements companies would have to meet, but said climate would be the Labour Party's "overriding priority" if it wins the election.
- The center-left Labour Party hopes to bring the U.K.'s greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
- The London Stock Exchange currently lists some of the world's largest oil and gas companies.
Companies that fail to "pull their weight" to meet environmental standards could risk being delisted from the London Stock Exchange, according to a radical policy proposal from the U.K.'s Labour party.
The proposal is currently a campaign promise that could only become law if the center-left Labour Party wins the general election on December 12. Led by Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is the second biggest political party in the House of Commons.
At a business event this week in London, shadow chancellor John McDonnell vowed his government would ensure listed companies are "pulling their weight" to tackle the "existential threat" of climate change, which would be the party's "overriding priority" if it wins the election.
"If we are to meet the climate change target to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, we need to ensure that companies are pulling their weight alongside government," he said.
Barcroft Media / Contributor
An ambiguous proposal
McDonnell didn't offer specific requirements that companies would have to meet.
"It will be for, basically, those companies themselves to bring forward their proposals and plans - exactly what sort of proposals they'll be, how effective they'll be," he told the PA news agency. "And then during the listing process, they'll be assessed about how successful they are either performing or how successful their plans will be. On that basis, just as with the rest of the code that there is, they'll then be assessed and determined if they can be listed."
McDonnell said some business leaders support the proposal: "Business bodies are calling for companies to improve climate related financial reporting and for all companies to bring forward decarbonization plans."
However, the London Stock Exchange currently lists some of the world's largest natural resource companies, and it's unclear how they'd react to stricter environmental standards.
Labour's push toward a green economy
In May, McDonnell told The Guardian about his proposal to delist companies from the stock exchange, saying his party aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
"It's not about threatening or penalizing, it's saying here's the steps we need to take to save the planet, it's as simple as that," he said. "There's a sweeping understanding, right the way across, that our administration has to tackle this issue in a way that no one else is taking that seriously."
In July, oil and gas companies listed on the London Stock Exchange were reclassified under a non-renewable energy category, a move that aimed to provide "greater visibility to other forms of energy such as renewables," according to Susan Quintin, the managing director of product management at FTSE Russell.
McDonnell also described other Labour proposals this week, including putting employees and elected members on company boards, increasing employee ownership of companies, and installing a cap of 20 times the living wage on public sector chief executives' pay.
- An Italian architecture firm has proposed a sustainable city for Mexico.
- The plans call for a 100 percent self-sufficient metropolis, with renewable energy, Venetian canals, and endless green space.
- This design is one of many "smart city" proposals as of late that point to a new form of urbanism.
Imagine a city that manages to combine nature and technology harmoniously, a self-sustaining metropolis where green space is punctuated by modern buildings and the bustle of city life.
Such a city is currently in works, as Milan-based architecture firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has just announced plans for a smart "forest city" near Cancun, Mexico that will be able to provide all of its food and energy.
An aerial view of the proposed city. Notice the surrounding green space and extensive canal system.
Image source: Stefano Boeri Architetti
According to the firm's press release, the city will cover 557 hectares, 400 of which will be green spaces containing 7,500,000 plants. Designed for 130,000 people to live and work there, it will feature a wide variety of housing types to accommodate the needs of its residents.
The economy of the city will be circular, with all of its food, water, and energy needs being self-generated. The designs also include a grand research center so that the city can host university departments, conferences, and curious scholars of all ages.
The city even has plans to improve the way we interact with our data. The architects told Dezeen that "Big data management is used to improve the governance of the city, hence, the life of its citizens. Sensors are distributed within the building fabric: they collect and share relevant information, which is then centrally analyzed and turned into suggestions in support of everyday life. For example, by mapping on an app the expected outdoor comfort experience within certain areas of the city."
This data will be handled with "full respect of the privacy of the citizens."If all goes according to plan, the city will be built on an area currently used as a sand quarry for hotels that is tentatively scheduled to become a shopping center.
Can it really be self-sustaining?
Artist's impression of the fresh water canals.
Image source: Stefano Boeri Architetti
The city is designed to fully sustain itself through an ingenious system of energy production and water desalination. A ring of solar panels will surround the city, generating enough power for all of the inhabitants. Water will be pulled from the Caribbean and desalinized using a solar tower. This water would be used to irrigate crops through a system of navigable canals.
Transportation will be handled by an entirely electric public "Mobility in Chain" transit system. Cars will all be left outside of the city.
What carbon emissions there are will be captured by the endless plants. The firm notes, with evident pride, that "thanks to the new public parks and private gardens, thanks to the green roofs and to the green facades, the areas actually occupied will be given back by nature through a perfect balance between the amount of green areas and building footprint. The Smart Forest City will absorb 116.000 tons of carbon dioxide with 5.800 tons of CO2 stocked per year."
While it currently only exists on paper, the visionaries who have dreamed this plan into existence hope the city can be an example for the world and a testing place for ideas on sustainable urbanism. It will join the ranks of several other smart cities that have been proposed as ways to improve our existence, make the world more sustainable, and move beyond the limitations of our current urban planning paradigms.
- Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew that's been used by Amazonian tribes for centuries.
- Recent research suggests that ayahuasca might help reduce depression. The new study examined whether those effects might extend to suicidality.
- The results were mixed, but it seems ayahuasca shows some potential as a suicide intervention.
The psychedelic brew ayahuasca might show promise in the treatment of suicidality, the results of a new study suggest.
Ayahuasca — commonly made from the leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub and stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine — has been used for centuries by Amazonian tribes as a spiritual medicine. It can cause intense, hours-long psychedelic experiences that have been described in countless ways, from life-changing to psychologically-distressing. In recent years, "ayahuasca retreats" in countries such as Peru and Brazil have become popular among Westerners seeking spiritual healing.
More recently, scientists have begun exploring the potential therapeutic benefits of ayahuasca in the clinical setting, a development that comes as governments are relaxing regulations on experiments involving psychedelic drugs, like ketamine and psilocybin.
In 2018, for instance, a team of psychologists conducted the first randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial of ayahuasca. The results, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, indicated that ayahuasca could, in fact, be effective in alleviating hard-to-treat depression.
In the new study, published in Frontiers in Pharmacology on November 19, the researchers wanted to test whether the drug had similar effects on reducing suicidality — one's tendency to think about, show risk of, or plan suicide.
"Suicide is one of the leading causes of death, accounting for nearly 1,000,000 deaths each year," study author Richard Zeifman, a Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at Ryerson University, told PsyPost. Zeifman added:
"Current interventions for suicidality have important limitations, which means there is a need for developing and identifying novel interventions for suicidality. Given this need, as well as research indicating that ayahuasca shows promise as an intervention for various mental health concerns (e.g., depression), we were interested in exploring whether the positive therapeutic effects of ayahuasca extended to suicidality."
The team recruited 29 participants — all of whom had major depressive disorder (MDD) and had never tried psychedelic drugs — to ingest either ayahuasca or a placebo in a dimly lit room as they listened to a predetermined playlist of music. Then, suicidality among the participants was measured by a psychiatrist for a week after the ayahuasca session.
The results were mixed. Compared to the placebo group, the participants who took ayahuasca showed less suicidality at all points during the week after the session. However, the differences weren't quite strong enough to be statistically significant. One explanation for the ambiguous results, besides the possibility that ayahuasca might not reduce suicidality, is that the team's statistical analysis wasn't able to detect significant effects — possibly because the sample size was too small.
In any case, the researchers said the findings suggest that ayahuasca shows "promise as a fast-acting and innovative intervention for suicidality."
"Furthermore, within the ayahuasca group, we found large effect sizes for decreases in suicidality at all time points," the researchers wrote. "These findings are in line with past research on the impact of psilocybin on suicidality and longitudinal research indicating that lifetime use of psychedelics is associated with reduced levels of suicidality and decreased risk of becoming suicidal."
The authors stressed that their results are preliminary, and that further research is needed before ayahuasca can be considered as a standardized suicide intervention.
It's worth noting the potential dangers of ayahuasca: Although anecdotal evidence suggests that ayahuasca might help people such as veterans reduce depression and symptoms of PTSD, there have also been cases of people committing suicide or experiencing mental health problems after taking ayahuasca.
A 'thirst for wholeness'
But it's possible these problems stem from people using the drug irresponsibly, as Rev. Dr. Jessica Rochester, founder of Céu do Montreal, a Canadian church that uses ayahuasca in spiritual ceremonies, told the Montreal Gazette.
"What has been happening is something called ayahuasca tourism. Unfortunately, with the world of the internet and people posting things saying, 'I went here once and healed my whole life,' (ayahuasca) has been sensationalized."
"On the other side, there have been tragic accidents where people either met death or caused harm. Our condolences go out to the individuals, families and friends for their losses, which would have been preventable if people would have taken simple precautions."
Rochester said ayahuasca improved her life.
"A lot of my experiences contributed to my understanding of myself, and of reality," she said. "I was simply following what my heart called me into. I can't say I was looking for anything in particular, but I like what Carl Jung wrote to Bill Wilson about a 'thirst for wholeness.'
"It's what's driving Western civilization, and is the cornerstone of a lot of my early academic work and my work as a health and wellness counsellor, which I have been for years."