Big Think's Top 25 +1 Videos


Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Deny Evolution

If adults want to deny evolution, sure. That’s fine. Whatever. But those adults better not make their kids follow in step because we as society need them to be better. Bill Nye, everyone's favorite Science Guy, explains the importance of promoting evolution education for America's future voters and lawmakers.

My Man, Sir Isaac Newton

Are you at least 26 years-old? If so, you are older than Isaac Newton was when he invented calculus... on a dare! (If you're younger than 26, better hurry up.) Big Think expert and overall cool guy Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why Newton is the greatest physicist who ever and likely will ever live.

Will Mankind Destroy Itself?

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku sees two major trends today. One eventually leads to a multicultural, scientific, tolerant society that will expand beyond Earth in the name of human progress. The other trend leads to fundamentalism, monoculturalism, and -- eventually -- civilizational ruin. Whichever of these two trends wins out will determine the fate of mankind. No pressure, everyone.

Ricky Gervais on the Principles of Comedy

Comedy isn't just about making people laugh, says actor Ricky Gervais. It's about making people think. And while different forms of comedy require different approaches, the crux of any good performance will always be rhythm.

Reading the Bible (Or the Koran, Or the Torah) Will Make You an Atheist

Author and magician Penn Jillette was asked to leave his Christian youth group by a pastor who told his parents: "He's no longer learning about the Bible from me. He is now converting everyone in the class to atheism." The reason? Jillette did his homework and was turned off by the hostilities of the text. It can be intimidating to come out as an atheist, especially in a religious community. Jillette found that having "out" atheist role models helped him feel unalone.

Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever

Punk legend Henry Rollins describes the biggest turning point in his life: the moment he decided to leave his job as manager of a Häagen-Dazs store and eventually become the lead singer of Black Flag. It was the courage to take a risk, plus a whole lot of luck, that got Rollins to where he is today.

5 Programming Languages Everyone Should Know

Java is "heavyweight, verbose, and everyone loves to hate it," but programmer Larry Wall still thinks you should know it. In this video, he offers suggestions for people interested in learning languages, as well as suggestions for those significantly less invested in computer programming.

The Importance of Unbelief

If you assume there’s no afterlife, Stephen Fry says, you’ll likely have a fuller, more interesting "now" life. The actor and comedian details the positive influence philosophers have had on his life, as well as his journey of understanding both what he believes and why he believes it.

Why be happy when you could be interesting?

We don't really want what we think we desire, says philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

James Gleick on the Common Character Traits of Geniuses

This video is part of a series on female genius, in proud collaboration with 92Y's 7 Days of Genius Festival.


The personalities of Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman were, on one level, extremely different. Biographer and former New York Times reporter James Gleick says Newton was argumentative, had few friends, and likely died a virgin. Feynman, on the other hand, loved dancing and going to parties, and had many friends in the scientific community. But in regards to their working habits, both men were solitary and had the ability to concentrate with a sort of intensity that is hard for mortals to grasp. At bottom, Gleick says geniuses tend to have a yearning for solitude which, though fruitful for their professional work, made the task of daily living more burdensome.

The Importance of Doing Useless Things

From poetry and ballet to mathematics and being clever, life is laden with frivolous pursuits that hold no bearing on our ability to survive. Yet, insists Richard Dawkins, if it weren’t for the development of these impractical activities, we wouldn’t be here.

Why monogamy is ridiculous

Dan Savage: the idea that one instance of infidelity should ruin a relationship is a new—and misguided—notion.

Dan Harris: Hack Your Brain's Default Mode With Meditation

Dan Harris explains the neuroscience behind meditation, but reminds us that the ancient practice isn't magic and likely won't send one floating into the cosmic ooze. He predicts that the exercise will soon become regularly scheduled maintenance, as commonplace as brushing your teeth or eating your veggies. Harris, an ABC News correspondent, was turned on to mediation after a live, on-air panic attack. His latest book is 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story.

How Intellectuals Betrayed the Poor

For 40 years academics were duped into idolizing the idea of unfettered markets, says Cornel West, and now our society is paying a terrible price.

Why Some Races Outperform Others

A psychologist explains the latest research into education disparity.

Why It's So Hard for Scientists to Believe in God

Some scientists see religion as a threat to the scientific method that should be resisted. But faith "is really asking a different set of questions," says Collins.

Why Facebook Isn't Free

Internet pioneer Jaron Lanier argues that free technologies like Facebook come with a hidden and heavy cost – the livelihoods of their consumers.

How to Tell if You’re a Writer

For John Irving, the need for a daily ration of solitude was his strongest "pre-writing" moment as a child.

Your Behavior Creates Your Gender

Nobody is born one gender or the other, says the philosopher. "We act and walk and speak and talk in ways that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman."

Are You a Liberal Snob? Take The Quiz

Charles Mrray designed this quiz to have a salutary effect on bringing to people’s attention the degree to which they live in a bubble that seals them off from an awful lot of their fellow American citizens.

Why You Should Watch Filth

John Waters defends the creation and consumption of obscene films, and recommends some of his personal favorites.

What Are You Worth? Getting Past Status Anxiety.

Writer Alain De Botton says that status anxiety is more pernicious and destructive than most of us can imagine, and recommends getting out of the game altogether.

Sheila Heen on the Psychology of Happiness and Feedback

Sheila Heen, a Partner at Triad Consulting Group and a lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, explains the psychology behind feedback and criticism. Heen is co-author of "Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well."

Are You a Psychopath? Take the Test.

Psychologist Kevin Dutton presents the classic psychological test known as "the trolley problem" with a variation. Take the test and measure you response on the psychopathic spectrum.

Here's How to Catch a Liar, If You Really Want To

It’s very complex as to whether or not we really want to catch a liar. We think we do. What if we find out that both of our presidential candidates are lying? Then what do we do? I’m not saying they are; I never comment on anyone in office or running for office. Only after they’re out that they’re fair game. . . . Clinton said, "I didn’t have sex with that woman" and then gave her name. "That woman" is putting her at a distance from himself.

Why I Came Out at Age 81

As a teenager in the '40s, James Randi "would have gotten stoned" for being gay. But when he outed himself to the world in 2010, the reaction was "wonderful."

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Young climate strikers I spoke to recently are confused and distressed about the things adults are doing.


It's not just inaction during the worsening climate crisis that bothers them, but the increasingly bizarre criticism many older people throw at striking schoolchildren, in the media and elsewhere. In the absence of any meaningful attempts to restrain global carbon emissions, the direct action of young people should, logically, be applauded. But maybe we're not dealing with an entirely logical problem here.

The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused Greta Thunberg – the Swedish teenager who started the global strikes – of creating “needless anxiety" in children. So it's Thunberg's activism that is responsible for the anxiety children feel about their future, not the climate crisis itself? Thunberg has also been called mentally ill, a hysterical teenager and “a weirdo". French academics criticised her looks and rather than address the points in her UN speech, Donald Trump dismissed Thunberg as “a happy girl looking forwards to a bright future".

None of this acknowledges the urgency of the crisis that climate strikers are drawing attention to. So, why are they being made?

Beneath the thin skin

It's been argued that most of the bullying Thunberg receives is from middle-aged, conservative men who feel threatened by her agency as a young woman, and respond with misogyny. But the criticisms of the strikers aren't only from powerful men like Donald Trump. I've also heard from parents supporting their children on the school strikes that strangers have accused them of manipulating “that poor Greta Thunberg" and betraying their children's right to have a “normal childhood".

greta thunberg at the un

"A happy girl looking forwards to a bright future." (VIEWpress/Getty Images)

Some parents were told by passing women that they should be reported to child protection for abusing their children as they stood alongside them on the school picket line. Just to paint a picture of the scene, this was a picket line before school started with children under the age of eight holding their parents' hands, with painted signs urging onlookers to "save the turtles". They went into school afterwards at the normal time.

As an academic and psychotherapist, I study how children are emotionally affected by the climate crisis. But I also want to understand why some adults have reacted the way they have to the young strikers. I find these children inspiring. On September 20, 2019 – the day of the global strike – children in Afghanistan marched through the streets with their banners, flanked by soldiers in full body armour carrying guns. These children were putting their own lives at risk to get their message across to the world. On the other hand, we have these verbal attacks from adults, safe in their offices and homes.

In her UN speech, Thunberg challenged adults the world over to care about the climate crisis. She spoke of the shattered dreams and despair that her generation bears. She also recast inaction as a conscious choice. "If you choose to fail us, we will never forgive you," she said. By making this choice conscious, she left older generations with no more excuses. That challenge was always going to hurt and provoke a backlash. When adults are challenged to behave like adults, by a child, they can go in one of two directions.

One is simply to grow up. The other, is to defend themselves. In psychology, we try to listen through the defences people make when they feel threatened. For example, when someone says that these young people should be in school instead of on strike, they may be pining for the sense of normality that seemed to exist before the climate crisis gained such prominence in everyday life.

When people complain that children don't understand how complex the problem is and should leave it to the experts, perhaps that's another lament for a time when complex problems could be trusted to authorities such as the state that looked out for their interests.

When people attack Thunberg for not showing emotion or for showing too much of it, perhaps there's an inkling that the severity of the climate crisis demands a great deal of painful and complicated emotions, and they'd rather not think of them.

Generally, the size of the defence mirrors the size of the fear. It may be reasonable to assume many of the people who attack Thunberg and the school strikers are terrified. It's much easier to attack others than to look at ourselves, reflect on our own feelings and start to deal with them, like grown ups.

Caroline Hickman, Teaching Fellow in Social Work and Psychotherapy, University of Bath.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

  • The theories we build to navigate the world, both scientifically and in our personal lives, all contain assumptions. They're a critical part of scientific theory.
  • Cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffman urges us to always question those assumptions. In this way, by challenging ourselves, we come to a deeper understanding of the task at hand.
  • Historically, humans have come to some of our greatest discoveries by simply questioning assumed information.


In 1972, the year I was born, there was apparently a famous TV ad for Geritol. My guest today describes it thus:

"…a husband spoke to the camera while his wife draped herself over his shoulder, smiling like something between a model and the brainwashed resident of a creepy commune…"My wife's incredible. She took care of the baby all day, cooked a great dinner and even went to a school meeting—and look at her!"

Her potion of eternal youth, of course, is Geritol. It's got all the vitamins and iron she needs. This perfect woman grins silently at the camera as her husband concludes: "My wife: I think I'll keep her."

Though what constitutes "getting old" for women in America has been a moving target throughout US history, it has rarely been a picnic. But our history's also full of women who have raised hell and pushed back in a hundred different ways against the cultural and literal corsets America keeps trying to stuff them into.

My guest today is New York Times columnist and celebrated author Gail Collins. Her new book is No Stopping Us Now: the Adventures of Older Women in American History. It's a bumpy, often exhilarating ride through the lives of older women in America from colonial times up to the present day. And Gail's good company as our wise, wisecracking stagecoach driver. We're headed West, and there's hope on the horizon.

Conversation starters in this episode:

Liz Plank on masculinity from Think Again, episode #214



  • A new investigation tested 168 baby food products for arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, all of which are toxic metals that can damage brain development in infants.
  • Nearly all of the foods tested contained at least one of the metals, and 1 in 4 contained all four metals.
  • The authors of the report recommended five steps for finding alternative baby foods with less toxins.


Almost all of the baby food products tested in a new investigation contained traces of toxic heavy metals that can damage brain development in infants.

The investigation—which was commissioned by the nonprofit Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF)—tested 168 baby foods manufactured in the U.S. for four toxic heavy metals: arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. These metals, even in trace amounts, can "alter the developing brain and erode a child's IQ," according to the report. Of the foods tested, the results showed:

  • 95% contained lead
  • 73% contained arsenic
  • 75% contained cadmium
  • 32% contained mercury
  • 26% contained all four heavy metals

For at least a decade, health experts and advocacy groups have publicly raised concerns about the levels of toxic metals in baby food, and in 2017 the FDA established the Toxic Elements Working Group to reduce toxins in baby foods "to the greatest extent possible." Because of efforts like these, toxin levels in baby foods have dropped significantly in recent years. But it's not enough, according to the HBBF.

A call for "industry-wide change"

"Only a dramatically accelerated pace at FDA and the fruition of the new Baby Food Council's pursuit of industry-wide change will be enough to finally solve the problem," the report states.

"HBBF urges all baby food companies to establish a goal of no measurable amounts of cadmium, lead, mercury, and inorganic arsenic in baby and children's food, in recognition of the absence of a known safe level of exposure, and to achieve steady progress toward that goal."

But the baby food company Gerber noted that "many food safety and agricultural experts suggest that it is not feasible to achieve a 'zero' level of these elements -- even in homemade foods made from organic ingredients."

One problem is that these naturally occurring toxins will likely continue seeping into food, even if farmers and food manufacturers use the safest available practices. That's because it's a "legacy problem" caused largely by outdated pesticides that farmers had sprayed on the land for generations, as Charlotte Brody, a registered nurse and the national director of HBBF, told WebMD. Brody said one crop is particularly well suited for absorbing these dangerous toxins.

Rice

"What's driving the problem is rice," Brody said.

Health experts have known for years that rice contains high levels of arsenic, a toxin that's repeatedly been linked to decreases in IQ. In the new investigation, more than half of the rice cereals tested contained inorganic arsenic (the most toxic form of arsenic) at levels exceeding the FDA's proposed action level of 100 parts per billion (ppb). What's more, the report also shows that rice also contains relatively high levels of lead, cadmium and mercury.

Still, even though most health experts agree that no amount of these heavy metals is safe for infants, it's worth noting that toxin levels in baby foods have been falling for years. HBBF said the new findings shouldn't necessarily inspire worry, but rather informed action.

"Many factors can influence a child's IQ, from nutrition and genetics to environmental toxins," the report stated. "And many sources ratchet up children's exposures to heavy metals, from drinking water and old plastic toys to lead in dust from chipping paint and soil tracked into the house. Our findings raise concerns, but on the spectrum from worry to action, parents can choose to act. While no amount of heavy metals is considered safe, less is better."

​So, what can parents do?

HBBF

The report offered several guidelines for choosing safer baby foods:

  1. Avoid rice puffs and other snacks made with rice flour, which contain relatively high levels of arsenic, lead and cadmium. Consumer Reports recommends several baby foods typically low in metals: apples, applesauce (unsweetened), bananas, barley with diced vegetables, beans, cheese, grapes (cut lengthwise to avoid choking hazard), hard-boiled eggs, peaches, and yogurt.
  2. Avoid teething biscuits and rice rusks. Opt for other solutions for teething pain, like a frozen banana, a peeled and chilled cucumber, a clean, cold wet washcloth or spoon.
  3. Avoid infant rice cereal, which is the top source of arsenic in infant's diets. Non-rice and multi-grain varieties are usually safer options.
  4. Beware of apple, pear, grape and other fruit juices, which contain traces of lead and arsenic. These levels aren't as high as some other baby foods, but could be dangerous when babies drink fruit juice frequently.
  5. Carrots and sweet potatoes are healthy baby foods, but they contain higher levels of lead and cadmium compared to other fruits and vegetables. The HBBF choosing a variety of vegetables is the solution.
To read the full report, visit HBBF's website.
  • STD rates have risen every year since 2013, with 2017 showing the largest increase.
  • Syphilis passed from mothers to babies is causing easily preventable infant deaths.
  • STDs are easy to cure so far — the key is getting regularly tested.

Every year from 2013 through 2017 the number of STD (sexually transmitted diseases) has gone up. 2017 was the worst of all, with 200,000 more cases than the previous year, according to new information published by the CDC. (2018 data has not yet been analyzed.) All three of the major STDs — gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis — have experienced significant increases in the number of case reported.

While STDs and the more broadly defined STIs (sexually transmitted infections may not produce symptoms) are often considered little more than a distasteful inconvenience, untreated they can lead to serious health consequences. Perhaps the most tragic increase in recent years is a 22% increase in infant deaths from congenital syphilis that can be unknowingly passed to newborns from mothers unaware of their own infections.

According to Jonathan Mermin of the CDC, "We are sliding backward. It is evident the systems that identify, treat, and ultimately prevent STDs are strained to near-breaking point." What is going on?

Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis

The statistics are sobering in the period from 2017 to 2018 alone. The CDC reports:

  • Gonorrhea cases have increased 5%, to more than 580,000 cases. This is the highest number of infections reported since 1991.
  • Chlamydia has set a new record, more than 1.7 million cases, an increase of 3% throughout 2017.
  • There were 115,000 cases of syphilis. The STD is most infectious during its primary and secondary stages, and these increased by 14% to 35,000 cases. During 2017, syphilis in newborns rose to 1,300 cases, an increase of 40%. Underscoring its source is that syphilis among women of child-bearing age went up by almost an identical amount, 36%.

Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, the most common sexually transmitted infections, can be cured with antibiotics (for now). Left untreated, the STDs can lead to transmission to other people, as well as "adverse health outcomes such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and increased HIV risk," says the CDC.

And of course, there's the congenital syphilis killing babies. Most states in the U.S. have reported cases, though 70% of them are concentrated in just five states: Texas, California, Florida, Arizona, and Louisiana.

The heartbreaking loss of newborn life is easily avoidable. Gail Bolan of the CDC says, "There are tools available to prevent every case of congenital syphilis. Testing is simple and can help women to protect their babies from syphilis — a preventable disease that can have irreversible consequences."

It's for this reason the CDC recommends that all women get tested the first time they visit their healthcare provider upon becoming pregnant, and — if they live in high-risk areas — they should get tested a second time at the start of their third trimester and again before delivery. This advice applies even to expectant mothers who aren't currently sexually active. In addition to being transmissible through genital, oral, and anal sex, there are plenty of other ways to quietly pick up an STD infection.

There's good reason not to put off getting an STD and STI checkup. Gonorrhea is one of the worrying bacteria becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, according to both the CDC and the World Health Organization, who report that it currently afflicts about 78 million people worldwide each year. According to the WHO's Teodora Wi, "The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them."

Image source: CDC

Why are STD rates on the rise

The CDC cites three likely reasons:

  • Drug use, poverty, stigma, and unstable housing, which can reduce access to STD prevention and care
  • Decreased condom use among vulnerable groups, including young people and gay and bisexual men
  • Cuts to STD programs at the state and local level — in recent years, more than half of local programs have experienced budget cuts, resulting in clinic closures, reduced screening, staff loss, and reduced patient follow-up and linkage to care services

The subtext of the CDC's third bullet point about local programs being cut is that there's a compelling statistical intersection between the increase in drug use — particularly meth — and heterosexual syphilis. The CDC proposes new collaborations between STD control programs and substance-use disorder services providers — not cutting back such programs as seen recently.

Finally, the stigma attached to having an STD or STI is real, and many would simply prefer to assume they don't have one. This is despite the estimate that among sexually active people, some 80% will have an STI (with STDs being a subset of these) at some point in their lives. Since many of these infections, especially STIs, present no symptoms, it's easy to opt out of testing.

This is obviously a bad idea. It's much smarter to get tested regularly and, if necessary, treated. Encourage your partners and friends to get tested — without making fun — and be forthcoming and honest if you have an infection. Use condoms religiously, and when your healthcare provider inquires about your activities, be honest.

Image source: celiafoto/Shutterstock