Leonora Epstein On The Difference between Gen Y and Gen X

Leonora Epstein On The Difference between Gen Y and Gen X

If Hannah Horvath is really the voice of Generation Y, it must be a fairly self absorbed generation indeed. It’s more hopeful to think that it might be found in Leonora Epstein. Her recent book X vs. Y: A Culture War, A Love Story (written with her Gen X sister Eve) paints a more optimistic picture for Millennials. We talked to her about who they are, how they compare to their Gen X counterparts, and what’s ahead for the generation.

Do you buy into the description of Gen Y presented in "Girls"? 

I don't think Hannah Horvath is the voice of our generation, but I do think Lena Dunham is a voice of Generation Y and has become something of a poster girl for our crowd, which inevitably comes with its own failings. The thing is, it's not like Gen Y doesn't have its fair share of prominent figures, it's just that she's the only one who's speaking directly to our generation with clear intention and presenting reflections of ourselves in such a raw manner. I don't think Lena Dunham intends to speak for all of us though, and she doesn't. I have a lot of respect for her work.

What qualities do Gen Yers have that are lacking in Gen X? Why do you imagine we possess those qualities when Gen X doesn't? 

I suppose we're more confident. There's this side to Millennials that's very self-promoting, and we can be very invested in our dreams of running our own start-ups — even when those dreams are incredibly far-fetched. Gen Xers tend to err on the side of cynicism. Maybe things would be different had they grown up with the Spice Girls.

Going along with the notion that they’re able to see through some dreams that seem far fetched, Gen Y seems like they excel in some innovative fields like tech, or jobs that allow them to come up with their own schedules. How much of that seems attributable to our collective personality and how much to graduating during the great recession? 

As for working within a flexible schedule: I think the recession had a lot to do with the new Millennial working class. For so many of us, the luxury of a full-time job with health insurance and benefits has never been an option and our professional landscape has become incredibly complicated. I sometimes think we don't get enough credit for how hard we work and how, for so many of us, we've been constantly hustling since entering the workforce. So you see people trying to create their own solutions to the problem, and it might not look like a traditional "job." And this tends to mean your parents have no idea what you do.

As for Millennials in tech: Gen Xers perhaps didn't realize what a favor they were doing us by being the first pioneers in that industry. Because while they were figuring out new technologies as adults, Millennials were the ones using those technologies comfortably from a young age, and so we've grown up with a different understanding of the web, so our lives developed in tandem with new technologies. Also, if you work at a start-up, your parents still have no idea what you do.

Where do you think we're headed as a generation, and how will we be remembered? The Greatest Generation is remembered for fighting in WWII, the Baby Boomers for advancing social movements, Gen X for… really, really good music. If you were to gaze into a crystal ball, what do you see ahead for Gen Y? 

The hard thing about edifying Gen Y is that we've recently entered a territory that's blurred the tail end of our generation with the next one. (People often refer to teens now as Millennials, but I feel that's inaccurate. Gen Y and Millennials are the same thing.) So until there's a real delineation between the two, I'm wary to give Gen Y a definition, because it could be one that's constantly changing. I suppose one thing that's emerged is championing the "90s Kid" — the child who grew up on Nickelodeon slime, got in trouble in AOL chat rooms, ate too many blue raspberry candies, and watched too much "Full House." 

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.


Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Learn the Netflix model of high-performing teams

Erin Meyer explains the keeper test and how it can make or break a team.

  • There are numerous strategies for building and maintaining a high-performing team, but unfortunately they are not plug-and-play. What works for some companies will not necessarily work for others. Erin Meyer, co-author of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, shares one alternative employed by one of the largest tech and media services companies in the world.
  • Instead of the 'Rank and Yank' method once used by GE, Meyer explains how Netflix managers use the 'keeper test' to determine if employees are crucial pieces of the larger team and are worth fighting to keep.
  • "An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team," she says. This is a valuable lesson that could determine whether the team fails or whether an organization advances to the next level.
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Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
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