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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  • Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
  • More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
  • SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.

With COVID-19 ravaging our economy—leaving 40 million workers seeking unemployment benefits and 55% of Americans reporting lost income—the country desperately needs a better set of solutions to help workers reorient in the face of an uncertain future.

Employers have historically provided outplacement services to employees they lay off. Outplacement is a $5 billion industry in normal years that spikes dramatically during recessions. Companies that provide outplacement services typically charge $3,000 to $10,000 per worker.

But the standard offering is paltry. Employees who have been laid off or are about to be laid off receive a bit of coaching, access to job listings, and resume reviews—and that's about it.

Yet we know that a couple of short coaching sessions, job listings and resume reviews don't result in jobs. Research shows that 70% of all jobs aren't posted on job sites, and 80% of jobs are filled through connections, not blind applications.

Nor do these services result in the sort of higher paying jobs that allow individuals to become more productive working members of society on sounder footing, ready to navigate the twists and turns of a future that will see more technological unemployment and a vastly different set of required skill sets to future-proof jobs.

Instead, those who are laid off require something more: reskilling, relationships, and navigation to step it up and make progress in their lives.

Against this backdrop, a new effort, SkillUp, is launching to help workers select and prepare for career paths that align with the economy of the future. SkillUp is a non-profit leading a coalition of technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to support laid off and furloughed workers.

The coalition SkillUp is assembling is ultimately more than a set of solutions around outplacement that should persist past the current pandemic, but the coming promise of a more flexible, affordable, and convenient set of solutions to support individuals' upskilling and reskilling throughout their lives to fulfill their human potential.

SkillUp offers a three-pronged approach:

  1. Career navigation: Technology tools and coaches to help workers choose a productive pathway and orient around jobs and careers that will grow in the future of work.
  2. Training programs: The coalition helps workers find educational and training programs matched to their career goals to help them upskill, so that they do not just go back into frontline or entry-level roles, but can make progress in their career and fortunes.
  3. Job placement: Using relationships with hiring employers and technology to match workers with open positions, SkillUp pairs workers with available opportunities.

Coaches play a role throughout this three-part process—not just episodically—to help those laid off navigate the real financial and emotional challenges that can block individuals from pursuing these productive pathways. In addition, SkillUp is leveraging the technology of Next Chapter, an offering of Guild Education, where I'm a senior strategist, as well as Guild's partner network of large employers—many of whom are in a position to hire employees—and education providers. These relationships will help SkillUp move quickly to serve workers with a ready-made solution.

SkillUp's solution shows how employers can transition parts of their workforce to more productive pursuits over time. Employers have an incentive to drive this work to refresh their workforces in intentional ways that manage employee churn; to bolster employee morale; to preserve their company brand; to aid in personnel recruitment; and to ultimately help power the country's consumption-driven economy.

The coalition SkillUp is assembling is ultimately more than a set of solutions around outplacement that should persist past the current pandemic, but the coming promise of a more flexible, affordable, and convenient set of solutions to support individuals' upskilling and reskilling throughout their lives to fulfill their human potential. What that necessitates is a much broader shift in postsecondary education and a reshuffling of how higher education works.

Rather than just bank on existing colleges and universities and sources of debt-driven funding to disrupt themselves, the future of higher education will also rely on novel programs and arrangements, like SkillUp.

New funding mechanisms to pay for more education—from leveraging employers' willingness to pay in order to reap a return on investment to income share agreements that align incentives around the success of learners—will emerge to fund the education of learners.

On-ramp and last-mile programs along with hybrid colleges that marry online, competency-based learning with learning model innovations, no-excuses mindsets, and non-academic supports are emerging to alter how we prepare students to enter the workforce. Mobile learning solutions are making learning far more bite-sized and accessible on the job.

Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]

Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.

Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.

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The year 2020 will go down in history as one that shook our inner and outer worlds. In this Big Think Live session, magician, author, and cultural critic Penn Jillette will discuss the giant upheavals of 2020 through the lens of what he knows best: illusions. Which social, personal, and governmental illusions have been shattered this year, and how (and what) should we rebuild? Jillette, one half the world's most famous magic duo with Teller, will also give tips on how to foster long-term business partnerships and sustain creativity, and how he maintains a clear, rational mind in the noisiest era to date.

Moderated by Victoria Montgomery-Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.

Join at 2 pm ET tomorrow, July 10, and ask your questions for Penn Jillette during the audience Q&A!

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  • Two separate scientific studies suggest that our "ideals" don't really match what we look for in a romantic partner.
  • Results of studies like these can change the way we date, especially in the online world.
  • "You say you want these three attributes and you like the people who possess these attributes. But the story doesn't end there," says Paul Eastwick, co-author of the study and professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychology.

A new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that whatever you feel your ideal partner preference is doesn't really reflect your personal insight and values.

The 2020 paper entitled "Negligible Evidence That People Desire Partners Who Uniquely Fit Their Ideals" outlines this scenario: "If Faye prefers kindness in a partner and Sonia prefers ambition, Faye should be especially attracted to kind partners and Sonia should be especially attracted to ambitious ones."

According to lead author Jehan Sparks, a former UC Davis doctoral student, the participants in the study were very easily able to list their top three attributes in an ideal partner.

"We wanted to see whether those top three attributes really mattered for the person who listed them. As it turns out, they didn't," Sparks explains.

    Do we really know what we want in love or are we just guessing?

    More than 700 participants selected their top three qualities in a romantic partner (things like funny, attractive, inquisitive, kind, etc). They then reported their romantic desire for a series of people they knew personally. Some were blind date partners, others were romantic partners and some were simply platonic friends.

    While participants did experience more romantic desire to the extent that these personal connections of theirs (people they knew) had the qualities they listed, there was more to the study.

    Paul Eastwick, co-author and professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychology explains: "You say you want these three attributes and you like the people who possess these attributes. But the story doesn't end there."

    The participants also considered the extent to which their personal acquaintances possessed three attributes nominated by some other random person in the study. For example, if Kris listed "down-to-earth", intelligent and thoughtful as her own top three attributes, Vanessa also experienced more desire for people with those specific traits.

    Does what we want really match up with what we find?

    illustration of a man and woman matching on a dating app

    What we claim to want and what we look for may be two separate things...

    Image by GoodStudio on Shutterstock

    So the question became: are we really listing what we want in an ideal partner or are we just listing vague qualities that people typically consider as positive?

    "So in the end, we want partners who have positive qualities," Sparks explained, "but the qualities you specifically list do not actually have special predictive power for you."

    In other words, the idea that we find certain things attractive in a person does not mean we actively seek out people who have those qualities, despite saying it's what we want in a love interest. The authors of this study suggest these findings could have implications for the way we approach online dating in the digital age.

    This isn't the first study of its kind to suggest that what we find in love isn't really what we were looking for. The evidence suggests that we really are consistent in the abstract of it all: when asked to evaluate what you want on paper, you are more likely to suggest overall attractiveness in accordance with what you've stated are important ideals to you. But real life isn't so similar.

    According to Psychology Today, who covered a 2015 study with similar results, initial face-to-face encounters have very little effect on our romantic desire. "When we initially meet someone, our level of romantic interest in the person is independent of our standards."

    While you might have no immediate interest in John, he may fit your criteria of being kind, loyal, and intelligent. Similarly, someone may be attracted to Elaine even though she doesn't have any of the qualities they originally said were important to them.

    What does this all mean?

    The authors of both the 2015 and 2020 studies say the same thing: give someone a chance before writing them off as a poor match. If your initial attraction is independent of the standards you've set out, the qualities which you've listed as important to you, the first time you meet someone may not give you enough information to make an informed decision.

    "It's really easy to spend time hunting around online for someone who seems to match your ideals," said Sparks, "But our research suggests an alternative approach: Don't be too picky ahead of time about whether a partner matches your ideals on paper. Or, even better, let your friends pick your dates for you."

  • Spotify, Twitter, and Square all announced employees will work from home until at least 2021, perhaps indefinitely.
  • The pandemic just accelerated the process: 50% of American employees were expected to work remotely by 2028.
  • Workers are adjusting to their new employment reality on couches and kitchen tables across the nation.

  • While many uncomfortable changes are occurring right now, businesses are rethinking office space. Business owners are recognizing long commute times and expensive real estate might not have been the best idea after all. We're watching the reshaping of the American workforce right in front of our eyes with entire companies now working remotely.

    Carving out space at home to do your job need not be an obstacle. The following seven items allow you to set up shop and get to business.

    Stan Desk: Adjustable Standing Desk, on sale for $199.99 (18% discount)

    Research has shown that sitting for too long is as hazardous to your health as smoking. Stan Desk is a smart response to the problem of long days in a chair. This adjustable birch desk is sturdy and plastic-free. The minimalist design means it fits on virtually any desk. Lightweight and easy to transport, you can move it around your home depending on where you want to work that day. Save your back, hips, and neck with this game-changing device. Typically $246, you can get it on sale for just $199.99.

    Triple Dock: 3-in-1 Apple Device Charging Station, on sale for $67.99 (13% discount)

    To accompany your birch standing deck, check out this handcrafted wood charging station designed to hold your iPhone, Airpods, and Apple Watch. The innovative micro-suction tape technology means everything stays in place while charging. The adjustable backing allows you to keep your phone in the case. Two five-foot lightning cords make recharging a snap. Made of natural wood and finished with environmentally friendly oils, you'll feel good about displaying this on your desk. And GadgetFlow's 4.8/5-star rating is a solid endorsement for a necessary accouterment. Get it on sale for $67.99.

    Aluminum Portable Foldable Laptop Stand, on sale for $29.99 (66% discount)

    Desks are one place to work, but for remote business, couches and coffee tables suffice. It's nice to change up the environment on occasion. This lightweight laptop stand features six adjustable levels and an ergonomic design. The aluminum absorbs heat from your laptop to keep it running smoothly. The solid, anti-slip base maintains its hold on almost any surface. The stand is built for laptops between 10" and 17". Simply fold it up to store it when it's not in use. Save over 60% and get the Aluminum Laptop Stand on sale for just $29.99.

    Mobile Pixels DUEX Pro Portable Dual Monitor, on sale for $179.35 (28% discount)

    Staring at a laptop is limiting, especially when you have to bounce between windows. A second monitor can be cumbersome, however. That's where the DUEX Pro, a unique screen attachment that raised over $1 million on IndieGoGo, swoops in to save the day. This 1080p monitor attaches to your laptop and doubles your screen's real estate. With 270 degrees of rotation and a 180-degree presentation mode, you'll become a multitasking wizard in no time. Lightweight and energy-efficient, this is a no brainer for anyone working remotely. Use the coupon code SAVEDUEXPRO at checkout to knock the price down to $179.35.

    Pod & Parcel Compostable Coffee Pods: Sample Pack, on sale for $39.99 (14% discount)

    The office coffee pot might be a thing of the past, but you still need caffeine. These delicious pods work with your favorite Original Nespresso® machine. The pack comes with 60 pods total, featuring six flavors that are huge hits: Mbeya, Huehuetenango, Bezzera, Florentino, Munro, and Bancroft. Bonus: each pod is biodegradable and compostable. One fan says of Melbourne's pods, "Prompt service and good coffee. The pods were easy to order and arrived in a timely fashion. I am working my way through the sample pack to find my favorite. Coffee without guilt." Get the sample pack for $39.99 while it's on sale.

    Cushion Lab Ergonomic Lumbar Pillow, on sale for $29.99 (33% discount)

    To accompany your new standing desk, this ergonomic lumbar pillow will make the time you have to sit that much more comfortable. Specially designed to support the S curve of your spine, the Back Relief Lumbar Pillow is constructed of proprietary extra dense HYPERFOAM™. Translation: extreme comfort. There's a reason it has a 4.4/5-star rating on Amazon. Vogue called it "the key to a healthier home office!" Save over 30% and get this ergonomic pillow for $29.99.

    UPRIGHT GO 2™: Perfect Your Posture Training Device, on sale for $89.99 (9% discount)

    When we first sit down, we're often aware that we need to sit up straight. Yet, as we become consumed with work, it's easy to fall into bad habits. That's where this unique posture training device comes in. This multi-faceted posture correction tool can either be placed directly onto your skin or worn as a necklace "techcessory" (sold separately). The tiny smart trainer buzzes when you begin to slouch, reminding you to sit upright. With over 350,000 customers worldwide and over 10,000 five-star reviews, people are retraining their spines daily. The device is small and lightweight, yet packs a powerful 30-hour battery life on every charge. And it can be yours for just $89.99 (regularly $99.95).

    Prices subject to change.

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    • A new study finds a tuberculosis BCG vaccination is linked to its COVID-19 mortality rate.
    • More BCG vaccinations are connected to fewer severe coronavirus cases in East Germany.
    • The study is preliminary and more research is needed to support the findings.

    Preliminary findings from a new study show that Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), a vaccine given to kids in countries where tuberculosis is prevalent, might be able to reduce COVID-19 mortality rates.

    Analyzing globally-collected coronavirus mortality data, the researchers made adjustments for income, education levels, medical services, population density, age, and more. Across all variations, they saw a clear relationship where countries which had higher rates of BCG vaccinations also had lower peak mortality rates related to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The study was spearheaded by Professor Luis Escobar of Virginia Tech as well as Alvaro Molina-Cruz and Carolina Barillas-Mury from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Escobar, who teaches as part of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, said that the correlation they found does have some caveats.

    "In our initial research, we found that countries with high rates of BCG vaccinations had lower rates of mortality," explained Escobar. "But all countries are different: Guatemala has a younger population than, say, Italy, so we had to make adjustments to the data to accommodate those differences."

    In the example of Germany, the scientists were able to compare two population samples – the East German, which had older periods of BCG vaccinations (1951-1975) and the West German, which started and ended later (1961 - 1998). The data demonstrated that older East Germans were more protected from COVID-19 than their West German counterparts, exhibiting a mortality rate that was 2.9 times lower. This correlated to the possible efficacy of the BCG vaccine.

    Professor Luis Escobar

    Professor Luis Escobar

    Credit: Virginia Tech

    "The purpose of using the BCG vaccine to protect from severe COVID-19 would be to stimulate a broad, innate, rapid-response immunity," shared Escobar, adding that previous evidence already pointed to BCG vaccines offering cross-protections not just for tuberculosis, but for a multitude of viral respiratory illnesses.

    The vaccine gets its name from French microbiologists Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin, who developed it in 1919. It is widely used around the world, with 130 million people receiving it every year. It is, however, rarely given in the United States.

    As the analysis is preliminary, more research is necessary to support the results and to recommend a course of action. Some clinical trials are currently underway to further investigate the role BCG vaccine might play in reducing the severity of COVID-19. The researchers hope that if further research supports the findings, the BCG vaccine might at least offer short-term protection from getting a bad case of the coronavirus. This can be especially helpful to frontline medical workers and people with compromised immune systems.

    You can read the new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).