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."

More playlists
  • Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel revisits his essay on wanting to die at 75 years old.
  • The doctor believes that an old life filled with disability and lessened activity isn't worth living.
  • Activists believe his argument stinks of ageism, while advances in biohacking could render his point moot.

A few years ago oncologist and bioethicist Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel wrote a provocative essay in The Atlantic titled "Why I Hope to Die at 75." This picked up a lot of traction as Emanuel was the chair of the University of Pennsylvania's department of medical ethics and health policy, and one of the leading figures in creating Obamacare. Ezekiel is also brother to the former mayor of Chicago, Rahm and Hollywood agent Ari.

Emanuel has declared he will refuse medical interventions, antibiotics, and vaccinations once he turns 75. The crux of his argument is that older Americans are living too long in a disabled and "diminished" state of life. He wants to make his friends and others think about how they want to live as they grow older, as he put it, "I want them to think of an alternative to succumbing to that slow constriction of activities and aspirations imperceptibly imposed by aging."

There are some experts today that are still opposed to this kind of thinking. Ageism activist and writer, Ashton Applewhite, finds a great deal of unsubstantiated claims in Emanuel's argument. Likewise, Emanuel's ideas may also soon become obsolete — biohackers such as Dave Asprey believe we're on course to living up to 180 years old.

Emanuel recently caught up with MIT's Technology Review in an interview where he talked about the social implications of longevity research and why he doesn't support extending life spans.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel on Aging

While nobody wants to die, Emanuel believes that the alternative, degeneration, is worse: "living too long is also a loss," he states in his original essay. For a great deal of Americans these kinds of disabilities and loss of health severely limits what they can do and accomplish.

There are few different sets of arguments strewn throughout this essay. One of those being that there are not that many people who'll continue to be "active and engaged" in their lives. While Emanuel points out that there are outliers who stay physically fit and healthy into their nineties, they're just that — outliers, for which he believes the majority of people are not. That is one measure Emanuel determines on whether a life is worth living or not.

Right around the time this essay was originally written, Ashton Applewhite countered this type of thinking by calling out the problematic nature of the argument:

"It is regrettably American to value doing over being, an ethos that Ezekiel Emanuel epitomizes and that serves us poorly in late life. No wonder he views the prospect with such dread and contempt."

This opens up the question as to whether being mentally stimulated is also enough to warrant wanting to live longer. It's not hard to imagine a person calm and aged serenely content to be, rather than living in some kind of action-packed lifestyle.

Emanuel continues on by regarding aging as something that, ". . . transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic."

He also counters the cultural idea of what he calls "the American immortal." That is, the amount of time and energy people spend obsessing about exercise, diets, and longevity plans to live as long as possible. Emanuel says,

"I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop."

The doctor doesn't intend on ending his life actively at 75, but he won't be trying to prolong it either.

When asked what's wrong with simply enjoying an extended life, Emanuel replied in a somewhat flippant manner:

"These people who live a vigorous life to 70, 80, 90 years of age — when I look at what those people 'do,' almost all of it is what I classify as play. It's not meaningful work. They're riding motorcycles; they're hiking. Which can all have value — don't get me wrong. But if it's the main thing in your life? Ummm, that's not probably a meaningful life."

He also suggested that our obsession with longevity is driving away attention from the health and well-being of children. "One of the statistics I like to point out is if you look at the federal budget, $7 goes to people over 65 for every dollar for people under 18," he says.

Applewhite takes issue with this statement here (video located below).

Problematic argument with an ageist strain

The author and activist opposed Emanuel's original article when it came out and believes that the idea remains problematic. Regarding his point that more federal dollars go to older people than to children she stated in an email that:

"… [The idea] is classic, misguided zero-sum thinking of the sort that needlessly pits the generations against each other. There is plenty to go around if resources are more equitably. The old do not profit at the expense of the young."

Most importantly, it is not legal — or ethical—to allocate resources by race or by sex. Doing so by age is equally unacceptable. Period.

She also takes issue with the idea that our older years are not of high quality to some categorical degree due to disability brought on by age — be it mental or physical. Applewhite points to the large amount of people living fine and fulfilled lives who have disabilities.

Yet, she does concede that quality of life is subjective. As does Emmanuel, while he disagrees with the sentiment he still supports the choice of people wanting to live as long as possible.

Biohacking our way to a healthy immortality?

There are a whole host of radical ideas that seek to improve the human condition. Whether it's Aubrey De Grey's ideas to live to over 1,000 years old or the work that biohacker Dave Asprey has funded and started.

While the science still isn't settled, we can't discount the idea that we'll one day live even healthier and more robust lives in our twilight years.

Dr. Emmanuel's ideas may become irrelevant if we succeed in this quixotic and eternal dream.

  • A new study shows that people who frequently used emojis in text messages with potential dates engaged in more sexual activity and had more contact with those dates.
  • However, the study only shows an association; it didn't establish causality.
  • The authors suggest that emojis might help to convey nuanced emotional information that's lacking in strictly text-based messaging.


Want to boost your chances of getting dates and having more sex? Use emojis in your text messages, suggests new research.

A new study, published in PLOS One on August 15, found that people who frequently used emojis in text messages engaged in more sexual activity and tended to have more dates and longer contact with their dates. The results suggest emojis contain more meaning than might initially be apparent.

"I was particularly interested in emojis because prior research on online dating has shown that shorter messages have the best response rate, which means that you have just a couple sentences to convey your personality, potential compatibility, and 'hook' that potential date," study author Amanda Gesselman, the associate director for research and the Anita Aldrich Endowed Research Scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, told PsyPost. "When we think about it like that, it seems impossible."

Gesselman and her colleagues surveyed 5,327 single American adults about their emoji use, finding that 28.2 percent frequently used emojis in texts with potential dates, while 37.6 percent said they never did. Those who frequently sent emojis tended to engage in more sexual activity over the course of a year.

A second survey of 275 single American adults replicated that finding, and also showed that frequently using emojis was linked to maintaining a connection beyond the first date.

"It's important to note that these were correlational studies and can't speak to causality," Gesselman explained to PsyPost. "We can't say that using emojis more frequently causes more dating and sexual 'success,' but it is likely that people who use emojis more often are more emotionally expressive, and emotionally intelligent, a skill that tends to be important in forming satisfying relationships."

Why might emojis be strategic in dating situations? The researchers wrote that texting lacks the nuanced emotional information that's conveyed when talking to someone in person, such as body language and tone. Emojis replicate some of that emotional information, helping people better understand how to interpret messages, and avoid misunderstandings.

"Senders used emoticons to convey positive feelings or to denote a joke or irony, but also to provide a strength thermometer — either softening a harsh message or emphasizing a positive one," the researchers wrote. "Other inquiries show that emoticons are generally received in these intended ways. For instance, in an experimental study using chat conversations, a reader's mood was altered either positively or negatively by the respective emoticon."

Still, it's probably best not to overdo it — participants said, on average, that using more than three emojis in one message is a bit much.

"We think that this mirrors real-life emotional sharing — think about meeting someone new and having them tell you all about their private life and sharing strong emotions with you before you've reached a point and time where that's normal," Gesselman told PsyPost. "It feels strange and overwhelming. It seems that people feel the same in the digital context when interacting with someone they don't know yet."

The study didn't examine which specific emojis people were sending, so it's unclear which might help your dating prospects. But you can get some idea by checking out this infographic from the dating app Clover that shows which emojis its users were most likely to respond to.

  • During a conference, Gail Bradbrook, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, an environmentalist social movement, called for people to take psychedelics en masse as an act of civil disobedience.
  • Bradbrook argues that "The causes of the crisis are political, economic, legal and cultural systemic issues but underneath that are issues of human trauma, powerlessness, scarcity and separation," and that "psychedelic medicines are opportunities to help us shift our consciousness."
  • The research on psychedelics does suggest that they could be powerful mediators for personal change and possibly encourage people to become more aware of and concerned for the environment.


Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of the Extinction Rebellion political movement, has called for the mass ingestion of psychedelics to protest the criminalization of drugs.

"I would support a mass civil disobedience where we take medicine to tell the state that they have absolutely no right to control our consciousness and to define our spiritual practice," said Bradbrook during Breaking Convention, a psychedelics conference that was recently held in London.

Named after the Anthropocene extinction — the current and on-going mass extinction event caused by human activity — Extinction Rebellion uses civil disobedience to draw attention to climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

Extinction Rebellion has organized protests throughout the U.K. aimed toward achieving three goals: compelling governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency; to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025; and to have governments form and obey a citizens' assembly in regard to climate and ecological issues.

How do psychedelics tie into Extinction Rebellion's goals?

Bradbrook emphasized that Extinction Rebellion isn't in the business of promoting psychedelic drug use, but she has previously expressed that psychedelics were a powerful motivator for her to form the social movement. In an article she wrote for the journal Emerge, Bradbrook said "people on psychedelics report a deeply felt sense of peace, oneness and unity with the planet which has been shown to have a profound and enduring effect on the way they live their lives."

The transformative power of psychedelics could be a way to encourage people to become more active in finding solutions to the climate crisis. "The causes of the crisis are political, economic, legal, and cultural systemic issues but underneath that are issues of human trauma, powerlessness, scarcity, and separation," said Bradbrook at the convention. "The system resides within us and the psychedelic medicines are opportunities to help us shift our consciousness."

Would this really work?

There's no denying that psychedelics have the potential to completely change people's perspectives and behavior. In an interview with Big Think, author Michael Pollan explained psychedelics' primary action in the brain, where they suppress the default mode network. "The brain is a hierarchical system and the default mode network appears to be at the top; it's kind of the orchestra conductor or corporate executive," explains Pollan. However, sometimes the default mode network can be excessively controlling and trap us in mental and behavioral habits. Pollen explains how:

"Many of the disorders that psychedelics appear to treat well are manifestations of a stuck brain, a brain that is locked in loops, a mind that's telling itself destructive stories, like 'I can't get through the day without a cigarette. I'm unworthy of love. My work is shit.' … And that relief from that dictator is exactly what some people need to free themselves from habits — mental habits and behavioral habits."

This kind of reboot could, for example, be used to convince people that something can be done about climate change. Research has shown that psychedelics can reset the brain, snapping people out of depression, so maybe it can snap people out of hopelessness about the future. "If we have a tool for behavior change, that's a huge deal," said Pollan. "I mean, I know, having worked on food for many years, that changing people's food habits as adults is almost impossible. We are creatures of habit in many, many ways."

In addition to freeing us from mental and behavioral habits, psychedelics (specifically, psilocybin) have been shown to increase people's perceived connection with nature and to decrease authoritarian beliefs. There is both empirical and anecdotal evidence that authoritarianism is associated with a disregard for the environment, so the mass ingestion of magic mushrooms could not only make people feel more connected to the environment, but also make them less likely to hold anti-environmental political beliefs.

Admittedly, anybody interested in participating in Bradbrook's call to take psychedelics en masse probably doesn't hold too many authoritarian beliefs to begin with. Instead, those who stand to benefit the most from this mind-bending act of civil disobedience are the many concerned individuals who have yet to really act in any meaningful way beyond a Facebook post or a tweet. A trip could be just the push they need.


  • Setting an intention doesn't have to be complicated, and it can make a great difference when you're hoping for a specific outcome.
  • When comedian Pete Holmes is preparing to record an episode of his podcast, "You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes," he takes 15 seconds to check in with himself. This way, he's primed with his own material and can help guests feel safe and comfortable to share theirs, as well.
  • Taking time to visualize your goal for whatever you've set out to do can help you, your colleagues, and your projects succeed.



  • American Psychological Association sees a dubious and weak link between mental illness and mass shootings.
  • Center for the study of Hate and Extremism has found preliminary evidence that political discourse is tied to hate crimes.
  • Access to guns and violent history is still the number one statistically significant figure that predicts gun violence.

Following these increasingly more frequent tragic mass shootings, the conversation has begun to evolve into a new direction. No longer will the public or the punditry accept the blanket blame on video games or mental illness as being the source for a mass shooter's impetus to kill.

Recently, Arthur Evans, the CEO of the American Psychological Association, put forth a statement that said there is a very weak link between mental illness and mass shootings.

Instead, he put forward the hypothesis that hate and bigotry combined with unfettered access to guns leads to these deadly affairs. While the act of mass murder by no means warrants a psychological equivalance to the meaning of "sane." It appears that the APA is suggesting that bigotry and hate are not forms of mental illness, but rather mental states of being.

This may sound like an equivocation, but it allows us to approach this in a more nuanced way. It may lead to better ways on how to combat the roots of this hate and bigotry, which is now suggested by some to be the cause of these shootings.

Statistically, mental illness doesn’t account for much

Evans pointed toward a number of statistics to show that serious mental illness only accounts for less than 1 percent of yearly gun-related homicides. He states:

"The biggest predictor of who is going to commit these crimes is violence, a history of past violence. That is the single-best predictor of who is going to act in a violent way and commit these kinds of violent acts. In addition, we know that there are other factors — stressors, alienation, disaffection, a history of domestic violence — all of those contribute to people's likelihood to act out in violent ways. Mental illness is in there, but not as strong as some of these other factors.

Correlating mental illness to mass shootings doesn't work out statistically, but some social researchers believe that they can chart fiery political discourse to a rise in percentage of hate crimes.

Are hate crimes and political discourse connected?

President Donald Trump is by no means a model statesman for traditional political discourse.

It's not news and will never be news to know that an overwhelming amount of people have lambasted Trump either for perfectly legitimate reasons, radical ideological differences or political reasons.

Some experts believe that they're starting to find some evidence that his kind of remarks have an influence on stirring hate.

An analysis of FBI data by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino found some preliminary evidence that there has been a rise in hate crimes tied to intense political debates.

For example, during August 2017, the clash between the hodgepodge of "Unite the Right" white nationalist protesters and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia — when Trump was critiqued for saying there were "very fine people on both sides," the researchers found that hate crimes had risen to 663 incidents.

Additionally, the team found incidents rose during Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton and during the 2015 terrorist shooting by a Muslim couple in San Bernardino California, where they saw a spike of reported hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs nationwide.

The center's director, Brian Levin has stated, "We see a correlation around the time of statements of political leaders and fluctuations in hate crimes. Could there be other intervening causes? Yes. But it's certainly a significant correlation that can't be ignored."

However, as far as we know now political speech cannot be the only reason acts of violence are committed. The authors of the study note that federal hate crime data has long been criticized as incomplete. While this correlation is too obvious to pass up, there remains a number of questions still regarding the major factors that spur hate-filled mass shootings.

Trump eventually released a statement after the last mass shootings saying, "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America."

Regardless of whether these statements are political placation or Trump's true feelings, it seems to be a step in the right direction. Trump's policy and rhetoric on the other hand still primarily blames mental illness.

"Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger," Trump said before adding, "not the gun."

If we can all at least agree that hate is to blame. The next question is — what do we do about it?

Fear and hate correlate

Harvard psychologist Susan David warns that the dangers of fear-mongering through the media and questionable journalism can weather down our resistance to fallacies and hate speech.

And it's a big problem because fear is the favorite dish served in politics. It sells and it gets people to vote.

Susan states:

"We have politicians who are effectively demagogues, who aim to inspire fear and cement our bond to them by hyperbolizing a threat to our mortality. So how can we repel deceptive messaging and see clearly?"

Referencing psychologist Daniel Kahneman's system of two kinds of thinking — one of those being intuitive and emotional visceral response, and the second being deliberate thoughtful examination — Susan encourages the latter.

". . . if we can step back from our fear and see it for what it is — manipulated panic rather than — we can protect ourselves from the demagoguery message and re-align with our true values."

Antidotes to hate and bigotry

In a video with Big Think, activist Maajid Nawaz sets forth a very ironclad logical statement.

No idea is above scrutiny and no people are beneath dignity.

At the root of this is the ability to have intellectually stimulating conversations about controversial and complex problems in our world without resorting to bigotry or heavy-handed demagoguery.

This logic framed for the debate on gun violence allows us to approach the manner in an even keeled objective state.

Until we can settle our minds free of fear and learn to communicate with one another, we can't expect anything to change.

The key to ending online hate? Treat it like a virus.