Happy Holy Day of Obligation!

Irish author and actor Malachy McCourt's memories of St. Patrick's Day are gloomy, rainy and awful. That's how it was in Limerick, Ireland, where he was raised. In the U.S., there became spirited parades coupled with solid beer-drinking. And then what happened? Ireland copied the fun. The only difference? Crowds in the U.S. are homophobic, whereas, in Ireland, "the home of the whole bloody thing," as McCourt says, gay people get prizes and awards for being the most colorful group in the parades.

McCourt talks to Big Think about it all, from his days as a raging alcoholic who destroyed his first marriage to his brief stint running for governor of New York. How did he feel when his legendary brother Frank died in 2009? "He was the only smaller person I looked up to," says McCourt.


He gives us a taste of a proverb and a limerick, and lets us in on his utopian vision for the world -- let's just say it calls for doing away with all types of weaponry including the bow and arrow. Plus, what does it mean to be Irish in America today?

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less