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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  • Protesting in person is costly in terms of money and resources; some people have children to take care of, jobs that can't be away from, or may not have time to attend a planning event.
  • The internet was supposed to be a way to sidestep this barrier to political activism. But this doesn't consider the other barriers preventing poor and working-class folks from participating in digital activism.
  • In particular, these people lack ASETs: access to computers, the skills to use them, the empowerment necessary to feel that using Twitter or other social media is for them, and the time to make use of digital platforms in an effective way.
  • Greenland and Danish officials alike think the idea is ridiculous.
  • The island is an autonomous state, and it's unlikely the Danish would sell it because of yearly subsidies costs.
  • After hearing the Danish Prime Minister call the idea absurd, Trump cancelled their forthcoming meeting.


Greenland has been having quite its day in the spotlight lately. Recently, President Trump has been talking about purchasing the ice-covered island. For Trump, the idea has captured his real estate sensibilities. He sees it as a deal of a lifetime that would cement his legacy in US history. President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory from the French in 1803, and President Andrew Johnson bought Alaska from Russia in 1867.

To the Trump administration's advisers, the purchase of Greenland could be seen as a way to thwart China and Russia's arctic agendas and as a way to gain new resources.

But Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory, and neither the Danes nor officials from Greenland are entertaining this kind of talk. In recent weeks after Trump's inquiry went public, officials from both Greenland and Denmark have outspokenly condemned the idea as both foolish and a waste of their time.

Greenland has a population of around 56,000. All domestic issues are taken care of by their internal government, while Denmark deals with foreign and security policy.

Trump had originally scheduled his first visit to Denmark in early September of 2019, but reneged publicly after the Danish Prime Minister shot down the Greenland idea.

Response from Greenland and Denmark

Greenland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to point out that Greenland is not for sale, but is more than happy to encourage greater relationships with the United States and other international communities.

Steve Sandgreen, secretary to Greenlandic Premier Kim Kielsen also echoed this sentiment saying, "Of course, Greenland is not for sale... We have a good cooperation with the USA, and we see it as an expression of greater interest in investing in our country and the possibilities we offer."

Since all of this talk has been unofficial, the Government of Greenland has also said that they will not issue any further comments.

Trump cancels Denmark visit

MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen talks to the press after President Trump cancelled his state visit after her government said its territory Greenland was not for sale on August 21, 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark. - "I am both annoyed and surprised that the US president has canceled a state visit," Frederiksen told reporters, adding: "Denmark and the US are not in crisis, the US is one of our closest allies."

With just two weeks to go before his scheduled trip to Denmark, Trump announced on Twitter that he postponed his trip after Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen's comments regarding the Greenland issue. Frederiksen is on record for saying that the idea was absurd.

"Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen's comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time," Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday night.

It looks like the idea might be dead in the water as Trump continued on and said, "The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct. I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!"

Earlier this same day, Frederiksen said that she was both "disappointed and surprised" about the cancellation.

Later on as Trump was leaving the White House for a trip to Kentucky, he doubled down on his comments and how he felt about the snub from Denmark.

"I looked forward to going but I thought the prime minister's statement that it was 'absurd,' that it was an absurd idea, was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do was say, 'No, we're not interested.'"

"Don't say what an absurd idea that is," Trump continued on. He intends on going sometime in the future to Denmark to meet. Trump also mentioned Harry Truman who had the idea earlier in the 20th century and that the Greenland purchase proposal was "just an idea, just a thought."

While Frederiksen was still nonplussed about the whole ordeal, she told reports in Copenhagen, that "the invitation for a stronger strategic cooperation with the Americans in the Arctic is still open…" and regarding the diplomatic relationship with the United States "this does not change the character of our good relations."

A modern-day Seward’s Folly?

Greenland is a rich country filled with natural resources that stretch far and wide through its 811,000 square miles. Greenland receives $591 million in subsidies from Denmark every year, which according to U.S. and Danish statistics is 60% of their annual budget.

This was partly one of the reasons Trump liked the idea – as he thought there would be a mutual benefit for him to take the territory off their hands. While Greenland is part of North America, it is more closely politically and culturally aligned with Europe. President Truman offered to buy it in 1946 for $100 million, but the Danes refused to sell. Before that in 1867, the State Department was looking into buying both Greenland and Iceland.

Yet a lot of things have changed over the years to make ideas like this become antiquated.

On the feasibility of this proposal, H. Jefferson Powell, a former deputy assistant attorney general and current professor of constitutional law at Duke University School of Law said, "If Congress OK'd the expenditure of the money, legally from a domestic law standpoint, there's no reason why we couldn't do this… That's the Louisiana purchase, and it's been settled for two centuries."

However, Powell was quick to point out that the legal jurisdiction of Greenland is different than other European colonies in the 19th and 20th century.

"I don't think any Western government would take seriously the idea that it could transfer its sovereignty to another sovereign just because it was expensive to maintain subsidies."

Greenland is of strategic importance. And unfortunately as climate change transforms these once freezing ice blocks of land, national powers are going to see the tactical importance and influence to be had on this land mass.

Greenland is melting

Greenland is taking a horrible hit because of climate change, while administratons like Trump's are refusing to adequately address the underlying issues. The Greenlandic Perspectives Survey (GPS) has found that 76% of locals have personally experienced a direct effect of global warming.

Kelton Minor, lead author of the survey told the Guardian that "The impact of melting sea ice on the Greenlandic way of life cannot be underestimated."

Sea ice is treated in a much different way in Greenland. It is an open highway for them and connects Greenland's citizens to neighboring communities. When the water doesn't freeze like it's supposed to in the winter, it affects people in negative ways.

A great deal of locals still rely on hunting and fishing to supply themselves with food. This way of life will be threatened by climate change.

While we worry about whether or not buying Greenland is feasible or worth anything in some terrestrial mammalian squabble amongst nation states, the planet we've afflicted is already radically changing the island in irreversible ways.

  • A new study examined how people perceive others' Instagram accounts, and whether those perceptions match up with how the posters rate their own personalities.
  • The results show that people react far more positively to "posies," which are photos of the poster taken by another person.
  • Still, it remains unclear exactly why people view selfies relatively negatively.


When checking out someone's photos on social media, what are the factors that determine how you perceive that person? One major factor, according to new research, is who's holding the camera.

In a new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, psychologists found that people who post selfies are far more likely to be perceived negatively than people who post "posies" – photos of the poster taken by another person.

The researchers asked 30 undergraduates to fill out a personality questionnaire and for permission to use 30 of their Instagram photos for an experiment. These 30 Instagram posts were coded based on theme – such as physical appearance, affiliation with others, and accomplishment – and stripped of captions and other text.

Then, the researchers asked a second group of undergraduates to rate the Instagram profiles for 13 attributes, such as self-absorption, self-esteem, loneliness, and successfulness. The results showed that Instagram users who posted more posies than selfies were rated "higher in self-esteem, more adventurous, less lonely, more outgoing, more dependable, relatively fond of trying new things, more successful, more likeable, and as potentially being a good friend," the researchers wrote.

In contrast, users who posted relatively more selfies were rated as "having lower self-esteem, disliking adventure, more lonely, less outgoing, disliking trying new things, less successful, and less likeable."

"Even when two feeds had similar content, such as depictions of achievement or travel, feelings about the person who posted selfies were negative and feelings about the person who posted posies were positive," Chris Barry, Washington State University professor of psychology and lead author of the study, told WSU News. "It shows there are certain visual cues, independent of context, that elicit either a positive or negative response on social media."

Interestingly, the results showed that posting selfies wasn't associated with self-reported narcissism, but posting posies was. Also, having many followers and following many people was associated with narcissism. But in general, the Instagram users' self-reported personality traits didn't match up strongly with how others judged them.

What's the value in studying social media posts? The researchers wrote, "it may be that social media posts are more relevant for understanding how a person is perceived by others than for what they convey about the person's personality."

Still, it remains unclear exactly why people react negatively to selfies and positively to posies. The researchers suggested it might be because posies look more natural, similar to how you'd view someone in person. Also, because selfies were relatively rare among the Instagram profiles, seeing one might signal something potentially strange about the poster.

One interesting area for future research would be to examine whether people react similarly negatively to selfies posted by celebrities. Would they also be seen as lonely and less likable? Or would people perceive them differently because they wield a high level of prestige in society?

"While there may be a variety of motives behind why people post self‑images to Instagram, how those photos are perceived appears to follow a more consistent pattern," Barry told WSU News. "While the findings of this study are just a small piece of the puzzle, they may be important to keep in mind before you make that next post."

  • A new study used an MRI machine to examine how vaping e-cigarettes affects users' cardiovascular systems immediately after inhalation.
  • The results showed that vaping causes impaired circulation, stiffer arteries and less oxygen in their blood.
  • The new study adds to a growing body of research showing that e-cigarettes – while likely safer than traditional cigarettes – are far from harmless.


Vaping e-cigarettes causes negative impacts on the vascular system, even when the "vape juice" doesn't contain nicotine or flavoring, according to new research.

In the study, published Tuesday in the journal Radiology, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine used an MRI machine to examine the veins and arteries of 31 people shortly after they inhaled vape juice, which had been stripped of flavoring and nicotine. After taking 16 three-second puffs, the participants showed impaired circulation, stiffer arteries, and less oxygen in their blood.

"The results of our study defeat the notion that e-cigarette vaping is harmless," Felix Wehrli, the study's lead investigator, told Wired. "We did expect an effect, but we never thought the effect was as big as what we found... It's not just a little change we detect — it's a major effect."

Without nicotine and flavoring, vape juice consists mainly of the chemicals propylene glycol and glycerol. The results show that when vape juice is heated and inhaled, these chemicals pass through the lungs and make their way into veins and arteries. The chemicals then irritate the epithelium, which is a thin layer of cells that line blood vessels.

This disrupts normal functioning of the vascular system, mainly by constricting blood vessels by more than 30 percent. If blood vessels remain constricted over the long term, people can suffer strokes and heart attacks.

The good news: Participants' vascular systems returned to normal after a couple of hours. But the results imply that heavy users would regularly experience these vascular impairments. Of course, vaping isn't the only activity that impacts the vascular system.

"A host of other activities, including exercise and caffeine use, have been shown to impact vascular activity acutely, but these short-term changes don't necessarily have any long-term prognostic value," Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, told Wired.

The keyword there is "necessarily"; scientists are still learning about the precise long-term effects of vaping.

"Nobody knows what it does to the human lung to breathe in and out aerosolized propylene glycol and glycerin over and over. It's an experiment, frankly," Dr. Robert Jackler, founder of Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising, said at a congressional hearing in July. "We will find out, years from now, the results."

The new study adds to a growing body of research showing that e-cigarettes – while likely safer than traditional cigarettes – can damage the heart, cardiovascular cells, and lungs. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opened an investigation into the health effects of e-cigarettes after 94 e-cigarette users reported serious lung illnesses from June to July.

  • America's post-high school education landscape was not created with the modern student in mind. Today, clear and flexible pathways are necessary to help individuals access education that can help them lead a better life.
  • Elizabeth Garlow explains the Lumina Foundation's strategy to create a post-secondary education system that works for all students. This includes credential recognition, affordability, a more competency-based system, and quality assurance.
  • Systemic historic factors have contributed to inequality in the education system. Lumina aims to close those gaps in educational attainment.
  • In 2019, Lumina Foundation and Big Think teamed up to create the Lumina Prize, a search to find the most innovative and scalable ideas in post-secondary education. You can see the winners of the Lumina Prize here – congratulations to PeerForward and Greater Commons!