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
  • Researchers find a new state of matter called "topological superconductivity".
  • The state can lead to important advancements in quantum computing.
  • Utilizing special particles that emerge during this state can lead to error-free data storage and blazing calculation speed.


A group of physicists has discovered a new state of matter that can lead to significant advancements in quantum computing and device storage. The state is called topological superconductivity and can be utilized to tremendously speed up calculations.

The scientists focused their research on quantum bits (qubits), used to process values in quantum computing. Rather than using 1s and 0s, they use properties that can be found in a quantum system, like electron spin or a photon's polarization. This approach is the promise of this type of computing, significantly increasing the volume and speed of processing data.

Credit: New York University.

Specifically, the physicists looked to devise a way to employ Majorana particles or fermions, which are their own antiparticles and can possibly store quantum information in protected computation spaces, away from environment noise that leads to errors.

The new state discovered by the researchers could be used to make appear such error-free and stable particles, which don't have natural hosts, and use them for computation.

The team that included Javad Shabani from New York University and members of his Shabani Lab, Igor Zutic from the University of Buffalo, and Alex Matos-Abiague of Wayne State University, looked and measured the transition between a regular quantum state to the new topological state. The scientists are hopeful their find will lead to major advancements.

"The new discovery of topological superconductivity in a two-dimensional platform paves the way for building scalable topological qubits to not only store quantum information, but also to manipulate the quantum states that are free of error," explained Shabani.

You can read their paper "Phase signature of topological transition in Josephson Junctions" here.

Michio Kaku: The Future of Quantum Computing

  • Impossible-sounding things are possible in hospitals — however, there are times when we hit dead ends. In these moments, it's important to not run away, but to confront what's happening head-on.
  • For a lot of us, one of the ways to give meaning to terrible moments is to see what you can learn from them.
  • Sometimes certain information can "flood" us in ways that aren't helpful, and it's important to figure out what types of data you are able to take in — process — at certain times.
  • Two statements from APA officials make it clear that they don't see any substantial link between mental illness and gun violence.
  • Decades of studies show that there is no conclusive evidence to this knee jerk rhetoric.
  • Officials reiterate the argument that the easy access to guns is to blame.

In the wake of the latest mass shootings throughout the United States, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has pushed back against politicians linking mental illness to the issue. The country's largest organization of psychiatrists released a number of statements condemning what they considered a faulty line of thinking.

The APA believes that people with mental illness are at risk for greater stigmatization because of this kind of rhetoric. Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., the CEO of the APA, released a statement outlining his thoughts on the matter. In it, he wrote:

"Blaming mental illness for the gun violence in our country is simplistic and inaccurate and goes against the scientific evidence currently available."

Countless studies have found that there is no conclusive evidence that marks the mentally ill with having a greater predisposition for gun violence.

"The United States is a global outlier when it comes to horrific headlines like the ones that consumed us all weekend. Although the United States makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population, we are home to 31 percent of all mass shooters globally, according to a CNN analysis. This difference is not explained by the rate of mental illness in the U.S."

The APA believes that it's our access to guns that foster these calamities.

Access to guns

Photo credit: Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Antonio Basco, whose wife Margie Reckard was one of 22 persons killed in the recent El Paso mass shooting, lays flowers in her honor.

It's a common refrain from gun advocates after a terrible tragedy. That guns aren't the problem, the mentally deranged are. A recent study from the University of Texas Medical Branch found that gun access, not mental health leads to gun violence. The researchers write:

"Americans own nearly half of the estimated 650 million civilian-owned guns in the world. Access to this final, fatal tool means more deaths that occur more quickly, whether in a mass shooting or in someone's own home."

The aforementioned study looked into three potential links to gun violence: gun access and ownership, mental illness, and personality traits. The only thing that conclusively predicted gun violence was access. The researchers added:

"Counter to public beliefs, the majority of mental health symptoms examined were not related to gun violence. Instead, access to firearms was the primary culprit."

Again, Evans echoed this in his APA statement. Psychological scientists have repeatedly found that the majority of people will mental illness are not violent. Currently, there's no singular way to predict whether or not someone will engage in gun violence either.

Mental illness myth 

The main driving psychological driving force behind mass shooters is a bit confused. Liza H. Gold and Robert I. Simon's book Gun Violence and Mental Illness found that less than 5 percent of mass shootings have been connected to someone with a psychiatric disorder, or one that could be diagnosed.

Yet, to the psychiatric layperson (especially pundits and politicians) — the presumption to commit a heinous crime such as a mass shooting, seems like just the thing an insane person would do. No matter the categorization from the APA, or the DSM-5 keepers — common sense dictates that there is something seriously wrong with these people.

The psychological profile for mass shooters is usually a young angry and isolated male. Regardless of their ill-fated crusades, social woes, color or creed, they are all intellectually stunted idealogues. Radicalized by their sources of hate, ignorance and bigotry — the unholy three — and unfettered access to guns leads us to this ceaseless problem.

Yet, psychiatrists point out, again, that other regions of the world have the same exceptionally high amount of mental disorders, such as Western Europe. However, there is not the same high number of mass shootings. The care for our mentally ill and other ideas being floated around — among them, the dearth of our open mental institutions — are a related but separate problem entirely.

APA President Rosie Phillips Davis, Ph.D., said equally as much:

"The combination of easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric is toxic. Psychological science has demonstrated that social contagion — the spread of thoughts, emotions and behaviors from person to person and among larger groups — is real, and may well be a factor, at least in the El Paso shooting."

Currently, the best in class have a plan to lessen the frequency of mass shootings. Evans writes:

"Based on the psychological science, we know some of the steps we need to take. We need to limit civilians' access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. We need to institute universal background checks. And we should institute red flag laws that remove guns from people who are at high risk of committing violent acts."

The APA mentions that President Trump has called on the nation to "do a better job of identifying and acting on early warning signs." Research, that they think they can eventually do. Trump has also put forth the idea that he wants social media companies to develop A.I. that could flag potential mass shooters before they strike — something right out of a Philip K. Dick novel.

Evans ends his statement with a true call to arms, to get past the rhetoric once and for all and create real solutions.

"The president clearly said that it is time to stop the hateful rhetoric that is infecting the public discourse. We ask that he use his powerful position to model that behavior. And we ask that the federal government support the research needed to better understand the causes of bigotry and hate, and their association to violence, so that we may devise evidence-based solutions."

  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
  • This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
  • UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
  • TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.


A startup named TuSimple has been using autonomous trucks to deliver cargo for UPS as part of a pilot program, UPS announced this week. The program involved delivering supply-chain cargo along a 115-mile stretch between Tucscon and Phoenix, Arizona. UPS also said its venture capital arm had acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.

In May, TuSimple wrapped up a similar pilot program in which it used autonomous trucks to deliver cargo along a 1,000-mile route between Phoenix, Arizona, and Dallas, Texas. The two organizations are currently discussing "next steps," a TuSimple spokesperson told The Verge.

TuSimple, a San Francisco-based startup currently valued at more than $1 billion, is a top player among companies seeking to automate long-haul trucking. The company's system works by installing nine cameras and two LIDAR sensors in Navistar trucks. TuSimple says it could help cut the average costs of trucking by 30 percent, though "there is a long way to go" from the regulatory perspective, Todd Lewis, managing partner at UPS Ventures, told Reuters. "But the technology has a ton of implications today," he added.

So far, there are no reports of any complications or accidents involving TuSimple trucks. It's a different story for the traditional trucking industry, however. In 2017, 987 truckers died on the job in the U.S., while thousands more were injured by traffic accidents, moving heavy cargo or other job-related duties. And that's not counting non-trucker drivers who were killed or injured in accidents involving large trucks.

TuSimple and similar companies hope to be the leader in making the industry safer and more profitable.

TuSimple's trucks currently operate at "Level 4" autonomy, as measured by the Society of Automotive Engineers' "Levels of Driving Automation" standard. This means that the trucks drive themselves, but a driver and an engineer are stationed inside the vehicle at all times, ready to take manual control if anything goes wrong. By the end of 2020, TuSimple hopes to go fully autonomous and take humans out of the cabin altogether, and the company is on track to do so, according to TuSimple President Xiaodi Hou.

Separately, companies such as Tesla also hope to soon put fully autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads in the form of robotaxis, which could function essentially like driverless Ubers. But the consensus seems to be that autonomous trucks will hit the streets first, mainly because long-haul trucks run predictable routes and can make money 24–7. Transporting people is a more unpredictable business model.

"The economics for a robotaxi are just not as strong as for a truck," TuSimple Chief Financial Officer Cheng Lu told Reuters. "And a lot of investors see it that way as well."