These Soft Robots Have Super Strength, Cost Less Than a Dollar, and Are Built in Minutes

This remarkable breakthrough is sure to usher in a new generation of robots.

Credit: Getty Images.

Robots have mainly been used to do dangerous, dirty, or repetitive tasks. As such, they have often been hard, metal based, hulking monstrosities. The thing is, we have other sorts of needs for robots too, ones that require a gentler approach. Robots with soft, formable structures have been used to put eggs in a crate and other manual labor tasks. But roboticists hope to move beyond this.

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8 Harvard University courses you can take right now, for free

An Ivy League education without the Ivy League price tag. 

A recent graduate, wondering how he can easily continue his education at home for free.

We recently published an article outlining how you can take Yale University courses for free. Given the response to that article, we have decided to show you more classes that you can access at no cost. Just like last time, a certificate of completion is available for all of these classes for a fee, if you want to prove that you have bettered yourself this way. 

So, here are 8 Harvard University courses you can take right now, for free.

Introduction to Computer Science
Knowing how to code is a vital skill in in today’s digital world. This entry level course teaches the basics of computational thinking, programming problem solving, data structures, and web development, among other things. It will leave the learner able to code in several languages including C, Python, and Java.

The class is self-paced, and consists of a time investment of 10-20 hours to finish nine problem sets and a final project, which is done online. This class will help you learn several of the five programming languages that Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of C++, says you should learn in his Big Think interview.

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Why Mythologies Like Adam and Eve Are Such Good Thinking Tools

Don't settle for comfortable and familiar thoughts, reach for what you don't know, says Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt.

The story of Adam and Eve and their eviction from paradise is one of the most famous origin stories on Earth, central to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. But, it's full of holes. Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt illuminates some of these: for example, how could the first humans, who had no prior concept of death, understand God's ultimatum—eat the forbidden fruit and you will die. And when they did eat the fruit, why didn't they die? The same questions have puzzled scholars for millennia, but it doesn't stop massive numbers of people all over the world believing it in a literal sense. This doesn't strike Greenblatt as stupid, or naive, or even surprising, it only strikes him as human. We have always needed the power of narrative to orient ourselves in the world, and the tale of Adam and Eve is one of the earliest and most powerful examples of good and evil on record. To understand why this story exists is to understand something fundamental about human nature, and to pick at the holes in its logic to think deeply. "Often the thing that seems incomprehensible is the place you want to start digging," he says. Stephen Greenblatt's latest book is The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve.

The key to a happy relationship? Understanding why you fight

Why do people have the same fights, over and over again? That's the repetition compulsion, a deeply ingrained psychological phenomenon—but not so deep that it can't be beaten.

Sigmund Freud initially thought humans operated on the 'pleasure principle'—that we run toward pleasure and run away from pain. However, this didn't quite align with what he saw in his office. There, he worked with people who escaped abusive relationships only to end up in a new relationship with the same dangerous dynamic. Many of us have the same fight with a coworker or a loved one, in different forms, over and over again. This led Freud to a turning point in his theory: he dubbed this phenomenon the repetition compulsion, a psychological trap where we repeat the same dysfunctional behavior or fall into the same traumatic circumstances, over and over again. In the video above, Harvard professor Dan Shapiro explains that there is a way to break this cycle of dysfunction and have healthier relationships. It's not easy, but it's worth doing to live a happier and less stressful life. As Sam Harris describes in his book, Waking Up: "My mind begins to seem like a video game: I can either play it intelligently, learning more in each round, or I can be killed in the same spot by the same monster, again and again." Understanding the way that you fight, and what your conflict triggers are, will stop you living the same destructive patterns on a loop. Dan Shapiro's latest book is Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts.

How to win a negotiation? Decode the subtext of people’s demands

Haggling over a number? That's a terrible way for people to negotiate, says Harvard International Negotiation Project head honcho Dan Shapiro.

Negotiation is part of life. Whether we're talking about something as grandiose as healthcare or as personal as buying a car, we often spend the vast majority of the negotiation process haggling over the numbers. This is often a bad way to look at it, says Dan Shapiro. And he should know: he's head of the Harvard International Negotiation Project and knows an awful lot about getting two opposing sides to see eye to eye. So what's the best way to do so? Perhaps talking about why each party wants what they want and negotiating from there. When polarized debates come to a head over "use vs them" mentalities, looking at it from this angle—i.e. the nuts and bolts of a position and less so the end result—can humanize each side to the other. Dan Shapiro's latest book is Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts.