Why conspiratorial thinking is peaking in America

The internet has given us the opportunity to stay informed better than ever. It's also given us the ability to misinform ourselves — delude ourselves — beyond belief.

  • The internet has allowed fringe groups founded on paranoid thinking to merge in ways we've never seen before.
  • Part of modern political polarization in American is that we're becoming a people who believes in different realities, some of which are based on fears rather than facts. Many of these conspiracy theories are targeted on groups that we believe are plotting against us.
  • There is a romanticization that we're going to somehow solve all of life's unknowns, Da Vinci Code-style. However, this ironically may put us at a disadvantage in terms of breaking puzzles — we look for the familiar in vague stimuli, a pheonmenon known as pareidolia, which only further confounds us.
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Fashion contributes to 10 percent of humanity's carbon emissions

Fast fashion has a devastating impact on the environment. Here's what you need to know before heading to Zara this holiday season.

Photo Credit: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • The fashion industry is responsible for an alarming 10 percent of all of humanity's carbon emissions.
  • Eighty-five percent of all textiles are trashed each year, ending up in a landfill or incinerated.
  • By wearing one item of clothing for 9 months longer a person can actually reduce his or her carbon footprint by 30 percent.
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How does criticism affect popular culture?

Popularity is slippery, and shouldn't be confused with quality, says critic A.O. Scott.

  • Popularity has a funny way of correcting or reversing itself, says journalist and film critic A.O. Scott. It's a weird and fickle index—never identical to quality, though it can coincide with it.
  • Movies like Avatar that are capitalist consumer hits can fade over time. Meanwhile works that were initially passed over can be dredged out of forgotten corners to glory many years later.
  • Moby Dick is an example of how critics can turn the tide of popularity, for better and for worse. First, critics dismissed Moby Dick and it was forgotten until a resurgence of interest by critics many years later. It's now a staple of American literature.
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Only 9% of 15-year-olds can tell when facts are really facts — not opinions

An international study finds the vast majority of 15-year-olds can't tell when they're being manipulated.

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  • International reading tests administered in 79 countries find most teens to be gullible when consuming information.
  • As learning has moved online, absolutely reliable sources have become scarce.
  • Most teens can't detect the validity of supposed "facts" from contextual clues.
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How much does it cost to save a life?

Our personal choices can help to effectively combat poverty, says Peter Singer.

  • For the amount it costs to save one life in the United States, several hundred or a thousand lives could be saved in developing countries.
  • You can make small sacrifices to fuel your personal philanthropy. Instead of giving, "we're buying ourselves things that we don't really need," says philosopher Peter Singer. "Things that might range from expensive cars to simply buying bottled water when we can drink the water out of the tap."
  • Peter Singer is the founder of The Life You Can Save, an organization that aims to help change the culture of giving in affluent countries and increase donations to reputable and effective nonprofits.
  • A free download of the 10th anniversary edition of The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty is available here.
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