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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  • Starting September 2020, public schools in Italy will have to incorporate 33 hours of climate-related lessons into their annual curriculum.
  • Italy's education minister said it's part of an effort to place "the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school."
  • In the U.S., not all states have implemented teaching standards that call for lessons on climate science, but about 80 percent of parents said they support such standards.

Italy is set to become the first country to make climate change education mandatory in public schools.

Starting September 2020, Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti said the nation's public schools will be required to implement 33 hours of climate change-related lessons into their curriculum. These lessons will be added to existing civics classes, Vincenzo Cramarossa, Fioramonti's spokesman, told CNN.

"There will be more attention to climate change when teaching those traditional subjects," he said. "The idea is that the citizens of the future need to be ready for the climate emergency."

Students, associations and movements, in the streets to demonstrate against climate change during the Friday For Future.

Pacific Press / Getty

Sustainable development will also be taught in classes such as math, physics, and geography. Fioramonti told Reuters that his ministry is working to put climate science and sustainability at the center of the national education model.

"I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school," he said.

Pew Research Center

Fioramonti, an economics professor at South Africa's Pretoria University, said he'll work with a group of experts — including Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Harvard Institute for International Development, and Kate Raworth of Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute — to help prepare climate curricula. Fioramonti belongs to Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which in 2018 became the largest individual political party in parliament. In 2018, he was criticized by conservatives for encouraging students to skip classes to attend climate change protests.

​Climate education in the U.S.

Many public schools in the U.S. teach climate science in some capacity. That's largely thanks to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a multi-state effort to raise teaching standards on topics such as evolution and climate change. Since 2013, 19 states have adopted the standards, while some 20 other states have developed similar standards based on "A Framework for K–12 Science Education." California, meanwhile, has its own California Next Generation Science Standards.

One reason some states haven't adopted these standards is a lack of federal funding; without these incentives, it'd be difficult for some districts to update curricula. Climate science also remains politically controversial in the U.S., and there are efforts in at least one state to make it easier to teach students that humans aren't the primary driver of global warming.

Recent surveys suggest that about 75 percent of Americans believe that humans are fueling climate change. A NPR/Ipsos poll from April found that more than 80 percent of parents support the teaching of climate science. A separate poll found that an even higher share of teachers — 86 percent — also supported teaching climate science.
  • Defining corporate values is increasingly important to organizations and society—which is why consulting firms are making millions of dollars helping organizations define their values. What we're seeing consistently, says social innovator Aaron Hurst, is this is not working.
  • You can print values on posters and talk about them at conferences, but these values often fail to become part of the fabric of the organization. They remain upper-management-speak.
  • You could start to fix that problem in one hour, says Hurst. Try his recommended exercise: Connect your employees in pairs and ask them to talk about how a given value has shown up in their career, what does it mean to them? Values are only legitimate if everyone in your company can tell genuine stories about how those values have shown up in their daily jobs.
  • A survey study found that around 80 percent of people using the psychedelic 5-MeO-DMT in a ceremonial setting said that their depression or anxiety improved following its use.
  • The "mystical" experience of drug trip might allow people to gain unique insight into themselves or their relationships and make positive life changes.
  • While substance is found in the poison of the Sonoran Desert Toad, researchers say there is no reason to disturb the toad because the synthetic version of 5-MeO-DMT is identical in its effect.

A new, powerful — yet still relatively rare — hallucinogen called 5-MeO-DMT has made its way into United States psychedelic circles, and research is backing its use as an effective treatment for certain mental health conditions.

Said to be up to six-times more intense than it's sensationalized cousin DMT, researchers have found strong evidence to suggest that 5-MeO-DMT could be used to treat anxiety, depression, and addiction more efficiently than psilocybin.

What is 5-MeO-DMT?

5-MeO-DMT, is an extremely potent natural psychedelic found in certain plants and the poisonous secretions of the Sonoran Desert Toad, also known as the Colorado River Toad. It can also be made synthetically in a lab.

Typically, the experience a person has after ingesting 5-MeO-DMT, a schedule 1 classified substance, is described as feeling unified with the universe or some holy, transcendent "other." The perception of bright colors and recursive patterns are often associated with the experience. It can also lead to extreme nausea and confusion days after ingesting it.

Assistant Professor at Ohio State University Alan Davis, who is also affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at John Hopkins University, has conducted two large-scale survey studies examining the use of 5-MeO-DMT in the general population and in a specific ceremonial group in the United States.

Despite reports dubbing it the "hottest new psychedelic" among trend setters in the United States, Davis's research has found that the drug is still rare, and most people are using it for psycho-spiritual endeavors rather than for recreation. Typically, he says, it is used in a ritualistic setting with a specific process similar to what might be done during an ayahuasca ritual.

And, he emphasizes, it definitely isn't a party drug.

"This is a very potent and powerful psychedelic substance that usually has an onset within seconds and a person is completely incapacitated," he says. "They are completely in a whole different realm of consciousness for 20 to 60 minutes."

Research in Treating Anxiety and Depression

In a survey study of 362 adults, Davis found that when administered in a ceremonial group setting with a knowledgeable facilitator, approximately 80 percent of people said that their depression or anxiety is improved following the use of 5-MeO-DMT.

According to Davis, this is likely because of the type of "mystical" experience one has on the drug trip, which allows the person to gain new, novel insight into themselves or their relationships through a shift in consciousness.

"This information, these experiences, seem to be really powerful and profound and they seem to help people to change, and to make different choices in their life," says Davis.

Interestingly, this fits in with research on other psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, which has also been found to have significant anti-depression and anti-anxiety effects. One of the major downsides to the potential use of psilocybin in a clinical setting is that the psychedelic experience lasts four to six hours. Tacking on an extra hour before to get ready and after to ensure the patient is ready to be discharged, psilocybin would mean a whole day of treatment. That will add up to a very expensive session if it is eventually approved for public use, according to Davis.

Enter 5-Meo-DMT.

"One of the interesting things about 5-Meo-DMT is that the duration of effect is anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes," says Davis. "You can start to imagine a world where if this was a medication, you could actually have someone there for more of a standard psychotherapy time frame and have an entire psychedelic healing experience."

Because this treatment could more easily be scaled into our current mental health care, it would likely be more accessible to people who might benefit from the treatment. Currently, Davis is working with a larger team on creating a clinical trial with the aim to eventually look at the administration of the drug in a laboratory setting.

Although Davis's team has heard of potential risks involved with use of the drug, in part because of instances of it being mis-administered, he says that the data indicates that in the right setting where facilitators pay proper attention to people's well-being, users are having mostly positive experiences.

Leave the Toad in Peace

Image Source: BioBlitzEmily / Flickr

As far as researchers know, the only animal on Earth that produces the chemical compound is the Sonoran Desert Toad, although it is also found in some plant species.

But the mystical psychedelic association with the toad has facilitated an ecologically harmful market for the amphibian's poisonous secretions. This has led researchers to strongly condemn the practice of harvesting the toads for the compound.

According to local Tucson naturalist Robert Villa, the toad produces is milky white poison as a defense mechanism, so there is no humane way to obtain it. People in the Sonoran Desert region, where the toad is native, have noticed a decline in the amphibians' numbers likely due to the psychedelic community's demand for 5-MeO-DMT.

"Traumatizing an animal (or plant) for personal benefit is fraught with ethical dilemmas," Villa wrote in an email.

Faced with other threats to its habitat, the psychedelic blackmarket is one more problem the Sonoran Desert Toad doesn't need. Davis stresses that there is no need to disturb the toads or their environments at all.

"What we've been able to show is that the synthetic version is no different in terms of the intensity or the positive effects of taking it compared to the toad," says Davis. In fact, he found that most of the people he surveyed in his study were using the synthetic version of the drug.

  • In his debut work of nonfiction, Dan Carlin discusses the last 6,000 years of apocalyptic moments.
  • The podcaster talks about the choices we're collectively facing in view of the historical record.
  • Carlin warns against judging past deeds on current standards, as we're setting a bad precedent on future generations.

What if you found out that you're alive today only because of the Holocaust? Discovering whether or not you're of Genghis Khan's stock is now a pastime, but what if that means many great-grandmothers ago your forebear was raped? How about this one: What if your death today resulted in the emergence of a world savior a century from now? Future generations would claim the sacrifice worthwhile. Would you?

Religious texts would idolize you as a great sacrificer, regardless of whether you actually wanted the cup taken from you. Contemplating the historical record requires masterful narration, first to suss out what is true, then to relay it in an engaging manner. Dan Carlin is one of the most gripping storytellers of our generation.

Since 2005, his podcasts, Hardcore History and Common Sense, have been downloaded more than 100 million times. While the opening episode of Hardcore History was just 16 minutes long, by the episode "Prophets of Doom" we were listening to the broadcast journalist for four-and-a-half hours straight.

Now we have another medium in which to hear, or at least read, Carlin. His first book, The End is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments, From the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses, asks the uncomfortable questions above (along with many others). It also offers insights into how to not make the mistakes of the past.

Fans have long asked Carlin to write a book. With a background in talk radio, podcasting made sense; nonfiction is another beast. As he told me during a wide-ranging interview, the creation of this book was a team project.

"I was in neophyte; my editors were going to teach me how to do this. They suggested a good way to start was to lay out all your past work on a big playroom floor where you have space and find commonalities between them. Obviously, I have a lot of material that never made it into the shows. It was like the old inkblot test from the psychologist where I never go back and look at old work. It was hard not to notice that the inkblots began to form a somewhat disturbing pattern in terms of my interests."

Joe Rogan Experience #1041- Dan Carlin

Throughout the book Carlin utilizes the revelatory moment at the end of the original "The Planet of the Apes," with the Statue of Liberty's head sticking out of the sand — Dorothy was in Kansas all along — to remind us that history happens to everyone, all the time, and that we're living through moments now without the ability to perceive where we're heading.

He begins the book with another question — do tough times make tougher people? — then makes his case, starting with a chapter on the history of child abuse in Bronze Age (and later) cultures and working up to the existential dilemma we currently face with nuclear armaments.

The book itself isn't so much a review of apocalyptic thinking as much as situations that empires have created over the last few millennia and how they've handled the dissolution of their reigns. Did Rome truly fall apart, or, "Did it transition to an equal yet more decentralized era, one with a more Germanic flair?" History compresses itself the further back we go; centuries are treated like months to suit our generally incapable brains from understanding the slow slog of time.

It can't happen here? Think again.

Don't expect conclusions from this book, however. As Carlin repeats during our talk, he offers process, not solutions. In a world of endless bold pronouncements on social media, Carlin's voice is refreshing. He's revitalizing the lost concept of nuance. Sadly, in the age of hashtag activism this skill is broadly denounced. Yet you don't have to agree with every point he makes. Education at its best offers tough questions and expects students (in Carlin's case, listeners, and now readers) to work it out for themselves.

But we have to face this fact: in a world with Great Destroyers in the form of nuclear bombs just a phone call away, these questions need to be asked.

"The basic questions may be different, but they boil down to the same either-or situation. Either things are going to be the way they always have been or they're not. Example: either we're going to continue to have another all-out war between the great powers on the planet as we have since caveman times or we're not. If we have another one, it's going to involve nuclear weapons and all the other fun stuff in the arsenals. So it's relatively inconceivable. But so is the idea that we have banished major war between the great powers for the first time in human history. A lot of the book boils down to that same either-or: either it's going to be the way it always has been, which is terrifying, or it's not going to be the way it always has been, which is fascinating."

Ruins of the Palatine, the nymphaeum or hall of the fountains and the apse of the Triclinium in the gardens of Villa Mills, Rome, Lazio, Italy, engraving from Roma la Capitale d'Italia (Rome the Capital of Italy), by Vittorio Bersezio.

Photo by Icas94 / De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images

It comes down to our decision-making, not some pre-ordained apocalypse as many religious traditions espouse. This isn't speculation, but an inherent part of our biology. The human brain's hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, regions that process and store memories and perceive time, form the same network that predicts the future. We envision—we create—what's ahead by our perception of we've experienced. In a sense, the future is our collective memories playing out in real-time.

The future is malleable, even when (sometimes especially when) we're at the edge of a precipice. Therein lies one of the driving arguments of Carlin's work: you can never know what will happen until we get there. It's a fascinating realm of possibilities to contemplate.

The quick Twitter finger ready to fire a shot anytime one's sensibilities are offended is paralyzed in this realm, as it requires, as in the great Socratic and Buddhist debate traditions, a willingness to grapple with all the possibilities. Carlin and I both come from local news reporting. Back in the eighties and nineties, newspapers hired one editor to write every reporter's headline in order to avoid redundancy. The headline and lede offered a synopsis that introduced the reader to the heart of the story. Today the headline is often the only part being read.

I mention the tendency to immediately react based on headlines, the antithesis of nuance that often misleads one from grasping the actual story. Though there are benefits to everyone having a voice—nuance spreads in every direction—Carlin says,

"At least today, everybody kind of has an idea. We know what you're going to say that's going to get you in trouble. Those people [in the past] had no idea what the current standards were going to be for their past behavior, so they could not have complied even if they wanted to. For example, if a hundred years from now eating meat or driving cars gets your statue pulled down in the public square, how on earth could somebody have known that and and altered their behavior accordingly?"

Dan Carlin: "The New Golden Age of Oral Historical Storytelling" | Talks at Google

History might not repeat itself—we also discuss on the nature of patterns—but it does, as Mark Twain (might have) said, rhymes. Understanding the circumstances of past cultures on their own terms (and not current standards) is vital in recognizing our social evolution as a species.

Future historiographers will have to contend with a deluge of misinformation. Carlin notes that false history has always been a problem, but imagine turning to Twitter a century from now to piece together our current political situation in America. Where to even begin?

"It's a needle in a haystack problem. In the old days, there's one haystack and one needle. Today there's a million haystacks and a million needles. The problem that the historian is going to be much more about filtering rather than finding nuggets upon which to hang data points."

Most hour-long transcriptions of my interviews produce roughly 5,000 words; Carlin's was over 12,000. That's why we love him. You'll learn more in four hours of Hardcore History than most semester-long classes. The same holds for The End is Always Near, a book that should make its way into history classes nationwide.

Concluding a story is often more challenging than beginning one, because like history, it never actually ends. As with Carlin's career, you keep processing as information arises and try to make the most well-informed decisions possible.

The best advice of all didn't come from our talk, but from the last two lines in the book's preface, a message that a hyper-individualized world needs to take to heart. Three simple words remind us that we all create history every day, and that what seems to be the biggest grievance in the world will be lucky to receive a footnote even a decade from now.

"Hubris is, after all, a pretty classic human trait. As my dad used to say, 'Don't get cocky.'


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  • A new psychology study finds differences in speech patterns between men and women.
  • Men tend to use more abstract language, while women focus more on the details.
  • This tendency is due to power dynamics that can be changed, concluded the researchers.

It's more than a cultural trope that men and women speak different languages – a new psychology study shows us that they indeed have very distinct communication styles.

A team of researchers from the San Francisco State University, led by Priyanka Joshi, took a close look at how men and women used "communicative abstraction" to relay their emotions and ideas through their word choices.

"Communicative abstraction" is a preference for using "abstract speech that focuses on the broader picture and ultimate purpose of action rather than concrete speech focusing on details and the means of attaining action," say the researchers. Macro vs micro.

What the scientists found is that men were much more likely to speak abstractly than women, who were more zeroed in on the details.

Joshi confirmed that while this kind of difference between men and women was previously noted "anecdotally," they found this to hold true across a series of six studies.

The psychologists looked at linguistic patterns of men and women in both written and spoken word. One of the studies involved poring over 600,000 blog posts on to determine if men wrote more abstractly than women. The researchers attributed abstractness ratings to 40,000 most frequently used English-language words like "table" or "chair' (with low abstractness) or "justice" and "morality" (high abstractness). The blog posts showed that men used the abstract verbiage much more often.

Getting Equality with Men: Embrace Your Natural Strengths to Overcome the Gender ...

Another study involved examining over 500,000 transcripts from U.S. Congressional sessions between 2001 and 2017. The speech patterns of over 1,000 Congress members revealed a similar conclusion – men invoked abstract language in many more speeches than women. This held regardless of party affiliation or whether it was said in the House or Senate.

What explains this phenomenon? The scientists think it is the result of the power dynamics throughout history, with men generally having more societal influence. A further study carried out by the researchers with west coast university students also showed that such speech patterns can be changed. By manipulating power dynamics, the scientists made the participants with more perceived power utilize more abstract concepts when speaking.

The authors think that ultimately there is no "fixed tendency of men or women" to speak a certain way but instead these patterns emerge "within specific contexts."

Check out the new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Power affects how you behave—and how you get punished