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."
- Did you know that people with bigger hands have larger vocabularies?
- While that's actually true, it's not a causal relationship. This pattern exists because adults tend know more words than kids. It's a correlation, explains NYU professor Gary Marcus.
- Deep learning struggles with how to perceive causal relationships. If given the data on hand size and vocabulary size, a deep learning system might only be able to see the correlation, but wouldn't be able to answer the 'why?' of it.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
New research, led by IBM, made a breakthrough in resolving a mystery that has baffled physicists for 140 years. It promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices that use them.
The invention of semiconductors was instrumental in bringing on our digital age. You can find these electricity-carrying substances in your smartphone and computer. An improvement in this field could have major ramifications for future gadgetry.
In 1879, the American physicist Edward Hall discovered the so-called Hall effect, showing that you can measure how electricity in a conductor flows. He found that because a magnetic field deflects the movement of electronic charges in a conductor, you can measure the amount of that deflection. This number will describe the voltage perpendicular (or transverse) to the flow of charge.
Modern researchers recognized, that you can also make Hall effect measurements using light in so-called photo-Hall experiments that generate multiple carriers (or electron-hole pairs) in superconductors. Unfortunately, while the Hall voltage provides crucial information about these charge carriers in a semiconductor, it is limited to the properties of the dominant (or majority) charge carrier, explain contributing authors Oki Gunawan and Doug Bishop in a post on IBM's research blog.
Figuring out the information about both the majority and minority charge carriers, which impact changes in conductivity, would be key to advancing applications utilizing light, including optoelectronic devices like solar cells, LEDs, and lasers as well as artificial intelligence tech.
Now a new formula and technique for getting both the majority and minority carrier information was developed by researchers from KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), KRICT (Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology), Duke University, and IBM.
The method, dubbed Carrier-Resolved Photo Hall (CRPH), measurement, can simultaneously extract information about the majority and minority carriers like density and mobility, carrier lifetimes and lengths of diffusion. In fact, compared to the three parameters of measurement traditionally derived by engaging the Hall effect, the novel technique can get up to seven parameters of information.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
The approach also takes advantage of a tool developed by IBM called the parallel dipole line (PDL) trap, which generates an oscillating magnetic field. It works as an ideal system for photo-Hall experiments because of the large amount of space it allocates for sample illumination.
If you'd like to dive more into the subject, check out the new study published in Nature magazine.
The sheer number of massive data breaches and known security vulnerabilities online today should be enough to scare us into better data safety practices. Unfortunately, these issues seem to consistently elicit gasps and condemnations by talking heads and private users, but little else. It's not about turning office and personal computers into Fort Knox, really, it's about using common sense and exercising caution.
According to the 2019 Official Annual Cybercrime Report, businesses fall for ransomware attacks every 14 seconds. Cybercrime is also on the rise, with some estimates putting the cost of online crimes at roughly $6 trillion by 2021. In this increasingly risky landscape, it makes sense to invest heavily in antivirus, anti-malware, and overall protection tools. However, these applications can only take you so far.
At some point, the problem isn't that hackers are too smart for us, but that we, in a false sense of security, believe we can let our guard down, which leads us to ignore standard security practices that significantly reducechances of our being attacked. Here are some no-brainer security steps that we constantly overook but should start keeping in mind.
Browsing the web via VPN
While it may seem like an endless amusement park with everything you've ever wanted to find, the internet is a much darker than we'd like to imagine. Although it is undoubtedly a great tool and has significanty enhanced quality of life the world over, the internet also means our personal data is now exposed every time we browse the web or open an application online. Often, sites and bodies we see as the "safest" are often themselves invaders of our privacy such as internet service providers governments and giant tech companies.
Connecting to an unknown network can be dangerous—something nearly 92% of those who use public WiFi networks ignore. Undeniably, many have started to limit their activity online as their concerns about privacy (rightfully) grow. Yet, many people still happily browse the web without a care and continue to leave trails of data everywhere, creating noteworthy problems when their information is scanned and compromised.
According to Harold Li, Vice President at ExpressVPN: "In an era when we conduct the most crucial and sensitive parts of our lives online, a VPN is a critical tool for protecting both digital privacy and security. They increase your anonymity online, shield your online activity from monitoring by ISPs and governments, and defend your data from hackers on shared networks such as public Wi-Fi." Even so, most of us continue to neglect VPNs. In fact, according to VPN Mentor, only 5% of internet users in the US have a VPN.
Protecting Google docs
As we become increasingly reliant on the cloud, one of the first things we've migrated is our ability to do work. McAfee's 2019 Cloud Adoption and Risk Report found that for the past six years running, the "file sharing and collaboration services" category—services like Google Docs—has been the leading driver of cloud use in business, accounting for nearly 21% of services in use at the average company.
According to the study, today, some 83% of organizations store sensitive data in the cloud, and about 8% of all cloud-shared documents include sensitive information. Moreover, we're sharing these files more than we used to, with significant year-over-year rises in documents set for open access to "anyone with a link."
This is problematic for two reasons. On one hand, the ease with which we can share documents increases the likelihood that they will be intercepted. On the other, as user bases stratify around services they use, SaaS platforms gain access to sensitive corporate assets unbeknownst to even the IT team. This is what's known as "shadow IT."
In remarks to Techopedia, Uri Haramati, the CEO of SaaS management platform company Torii , noted that "Considering the rampant threat of cyberattacks, security risks are definitely something companies have to be wary of."
On the other hand, "The fact that they are trying out new tools, means that they want to be better at their work," according to Haramati. "Why should management dampen such a positive attitude? Instead, leaders should value their employees' drive to be better and find out how their existing processes can be improved upon."
Disabling your microphone and camera
Recently, video conferencing service Zoom was revealed to have major flaws that allow hackers to theoretically take over unsuspecting users' webcams with a single URL. This may seem like a less threatening incident than having data stolen, but it can be just as damaging. A malicious third party with unfettered access to your webcam can discern much about your personal habits and can potentially witness and record damaging or embarrassing situations. In the UK, for instance, there have been recorded incidents of hackers capturing these moments and threatening to upload them to social media unless a ransom is paid.
The problem is similar with microphones, which can be used to track your communications even when your devices are "off". Most AI-based assistants today, for instance (such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Home) are constantly listening, and companies have people on the other side listening to these recordings, as was discovered recently with Siri. Simply turning off your microphone manually can give you significant protection.
Using Encrypted Communications
It may sound straight out of a James Bond movie, but encryption is quickly becoming one of the most important technology fields in our digitized world. Even with a VPN and robust protection, it's still not impossible for someone to access our communications while they're in transit between us and the recipients. In fact, as our messaging applications expand in number and importance, governments, law enforcement and nefarious actors' interest in them is rising.
Many services do offer powerful encryption tools and features, but people often remain on the most popular chat apps because of convenience and familiarity. Facebook Messenger remains one of the most popular tools (despite belonging to a decidedly anti-privacy corporation), while Chinese apps like WeChat and Tencent's QQ Mobile are also main players despite the fact that they're both heavily monitored by the Chinese Government.
Facebook's Messenger, for instance, only offers optional end-to-end encryption (even though WhatsApp, which Facebook also owns, provides E2E by default). This doesn't even account for emails, which remain the most popular online communication method. Even when sending sensitive data, we're more than happy to send it via Gmail or Yahoo! and completely ignore the fact that there is little we can do once those emails leave our inboxes to protect the information we've shared.
Establishing better cyber security practices doesn't require a computer science degree and a military budget. What it needs is attention to detail, unlearning bad habits, and creating new ones. As the number of vectors available to hackers, scammers, data miners and governments continue to expand, it won't be big things that cause breaches, but rather something as small as leaving a webcam on, forgetting a password, or sending a compromising email without considering who may view it.
To keep global heating below 2°C, the world's appetite for meat must change.
This will mean reducing meat consumption in most developed countries and limiting the increase in developing countries. But how do you convince people to break the habit of a lifetime?
Our recent paper, published in the journal Appetite, looked at how “nudging" might help. This is an approach from behavioural psychology that aims to subtly change a person's behaviour. In the same way a gentle nudge on the shoulder might alert you to something nearby, subliminal nudges in advertising or on signs help to affect the subconscious choices people make. To change a person's diet, nudges could help them choose meat substitutes over the real thing.
It's possible for people to still enjoy the taste of meat with alternatives – varieties of insects are high in protein, and their environmental impact is minimal. About 2 billion people already eat insects as part of their daily diet. But given that many people associate insects with dirt and disease, it's not guaranteed that bugs will make the cut as a major source of protein in the future.
But plant-based meat substitutes are surging in popularity in many developed countries. There is now a range of plant-based products that attempt to mimic the texture and taste of a variety of meats using ingredients such as soy or peas. The market share of these products has grown significantly in recent years – and the market is projected to expand by 28% per year until 2030. Our recent study found that people who regularly work out and opt for high-protein diets are particularly interested in alternative sources that can deliver the same benefits as meat.
Despite this growth in plant-based substitutes, meat consumption is still predicted to rise around the world. So alternatives are not enough – behaviour has to change.
The face of protein in the 21st century?
Nudging people away from meat could include changing the layout of places where food is bought or eaten, or designing menus so that vegetarian options are given equal or greater prominence than meat dishes.
But the complexity of food choice means that these may not be as effective outside experiments. In the real world, what people choose to eat is driven by a whole host of factors including the smell or texture of food and cultural norms.
Nudges tend to work by targeting unconscious thoughts and behaviours. Many of our food choices tend to rely on this, through habit or convenience. You're more likely to pick the option you've tried before and enjoyed, or that you know is easy to prepare, without carefully thinking about it. People remain reluctant to buy food that their partners or children may reject. So attitudes to meat and plant-based substitutes still need addressing to alter eating behaviour.
One area that shows particular promise is targeting people at specific stages in their lives. We found that older people would still want to eat foods which they had eaten as children. If children are given access to more plant-based proteins – and educated on their benefits for health and the environment – they might remain a valued component of their diet throughout their lives.
There are reasons to be optimistic that the dietary changes needed to limit global heating are achievable. Attitudes towards meat consumption are already changing, and there are plenty of options to try and encourage more people to pursue a diet that's better for them and the planet.
Let's say that on average you are in better shape than other people of your age. You are more able than them: quicker, sprightlier, livelier.
You feel and identify as younger than your official age. However, despite all your youthful energy, you are also discriminated against because of your greater age. You cannot get a job – or, if you do, you might earn less than some of your younger coworkers simply due to your advanced years. The question is, should you be allowed to change your 'official' age in order to avoid this discrimination and to better match how you identify and feel?
The question became real last year when the 69-year-old Dutchman Emile Ratelband asked a court to change his date of birth to be 20 years younger (this, he felt, would help him find matches on dating sites). While one can question Ratelband's motives, there are some people who are serious in their pursuit of becoming officially younger. There are good moral reasons why they should be allowed to change their legal age. Though in principle I am not opposed to younger people increasing their official ages, for the present purposes I will only focus on the lowering of one's official age.
Age change should be allowed when the following three conditions are met. First, the person is at risk of being discriminated against because of age. Second, the person's body and mind are in better shape than would be expected based on the person's chronological age (that is, the person is biologically younger than he is chronologically). Third, the person does not feel that his legal age is befitting.
The idea of legal-age change often runs into the same few initial objections. For instance, some argue that changing age is impossible and society cannot allow something that is impossible. This opposition can be interpreted in two ways. According to the first, age is necessarily and always chronological age. Age is, by definition, only a measure of how long something has existed – and nothing else. Since one cannot travel back in time, one simply cannot change one's age.
The second interpretation states that age-change, in practice, would be changing the date of birth in identification documents. Because one either is or is not born on a certain day, changing the date of birth would be giving false information, and false information should not be allowed on official documents.
The first interpretation is not entirely convincing. Age doesn't always refer to the time that something has existed. For example, whiskey doesn't age in a bottle. A whiskey's 'age' refers only to the time between distillation and bottling. A 21-year-old whiskey is still 21 years old even though it has been in a bottle for 10 years. So, while the whiskey has existed, chronologically, for 31 years, we say (rightly) that the whiskey is 21 years old. That is because the chronological age of the whiskey does not matter.
Now, suppose it becomes possible to cryopreserve living human beings in ultra-low temperature for dozens of years, and by this way reduce their biological ageing rate to, say, 10 per cent of the normal rate. A person who is frozen at the age of 40 and woken up after 100 years would be biologically in as good shape as a 50-year-old. Surely the law should not treat him as being 140 years old, even though he has existed that long?
PYMCA/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Perhaps you will say that what is appropriate for frozen people in a hypothetical scenario is not appropriate for real people in the real world. Nevertheless, the difference between thought experiments of this kind and cases in the real world is only a difference in degree, not a difference in kind. In the real world, people age at different rates too.
How fast our physical and mental functions crumble and how fast our cells deteriorate depends on many factors, such as genetics, epigenetics and lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise. In the field of geriatric medicine, biological age is a commonly used term. While little consensus exists on how it should be determined, some estimates of biological age predict mortality more accurately than chronological age. People who have existed for an equally long time can age at varying rates biologically. So why must their legal age be the same if their biological age is so different?
The second interpretation of the opposition to legal-age change states that this would require falsifying the date of birth on identification documents. To understand the problem with this objection, we need to recognise that only on rare occasions are we ever interested in a person's date of birth. When a teenager tries to buy alcohol, the clerk wants to know his date of birth only so that she can check if he is old enough (chronologically) to drink alcohol. The birth date is just a way to find out this information – it is not something she is interested in for itself.
What if our identification documents were just smartphone apps that show our age directly (eg, 30 years) rather than indirectly through our date of birth (eg, 27 August 1989)? If chronological age doesn't matter, as I have argued, then people should be allowed to change this 'age' in their IDs to match their biological rather than their chronological age. This would not be lying or falsifying any records because there simply would be no date of birth to falsify (remember, in this hypothetical scenario, people's age is directly visible, while in the real world it is indirectly visible through the date of birth). But if age change could be allowed in this hypothetical scenario, why should it not be allowed in the real world? Is the mere fact of how we present our age – directly by stating how old we are, or indirectly by stating our date of birth (and calculating the years from it) – really that relevant? I don't think so.
You might worry that legal-age change could lead to some unsettling situations. Suppose a 70-year-old man wants to change his age to 50. Suppose further that the man had a daughter when he was 18. If the 70-year-old becomes a 50-year-old, he would then be legally younger than his 52-year-old daughter. While this result is counterintuitive and something we have not faced before, it is not obvious that it is impossible to countenance. Just because it's unusual doesn't mean it is wrong.
Legal-age change should be allowed because it could prevent the harm of discrimination while in itself harming no one. It could be that, sometimes, figuring out a person's chronological age might be easy even if their legal age had been changed. Still, this doesn't lead to the conclusion that age change is always a bad idea that should never be allowed.
Discrimination against people because of their age is a real phenomenon. We should focus on the biases and unjust attitudes against elderly people too. But I am not optimistic about changing cultural attitudes about age, so for an individual facing discrimination, legal-age change could be a feasible and practical solution.