September Is Big Think's "The Month of Going Mental"

The bottle of wine you and your partner shared last night didn't kill a single neuron in your head and, contrary to what you've been told, you are always using more than 10 percent of your brain. The prevalence of these myths, debunked by Princeton neuroscientist Sam Wang in the video below, prove that though we may be using our minds all the time, the public's understanding of the spongy organ between our ears is still far from complete.


Therefore, in an effort to showcase all that cutting-edge science has discovered about the brain—and all that continues to confound—Big Think is proud to present The Month of Going Mental. Throughout September, Big Think will travel inside our heads, presenting a different feature on the brain each weekday in our new blog called Going Mental. These features will take us from unsolved mental mysteries to the latest breakthroughs in brain research. Every idea in the series will be supported by contributions from leading experts, including neuroscience giants like Antonio Damasio, Jospeh LeDoux, Oliver Sacks, and Stephen Pinker, and every week will focus on a new topic within the expansive field.

WEEK 1: The Brain’s Biggest Mysteries

Neurologists and neuroscientists alike continue to ponder age-old questions about the mind and brain. What is consciousness? What is intelligence? Why do we sleep and dream? To kick off the first week of The Month of Going Mental, Big Think will examine these three greatest mysteries of the mind.

WEEK 2: Abnormal Minds

Before neuroscientists had sophisticated brain-imaging technology, the only way they could learn about the healthy brain was to study damaged or abnormal brains. So aside from being inherently titillating, abnormal psychology has been fundamental to scientists' understanding about the brain. Beginning with the iconic case of Phineas Gage, the second week of The Month of Going Mental will delve into the fascinating world of abnormal psychology, including schizophrenia, psychopathy, and other bizarre disorders of the mind.

WEEK 3: Sex, Drugs, and Neuroscience

This is your brain under the influence—of love, lust, drugs, and religion. The third week of Big Think's The Month of Going Mental will reveal the way the brain's functioning perpetuates religion; the way falling in love amounts to a series of chemical reactions inside our head; and the way that mind-altering substances distort our perception of reality.

WEEK 4: Brainstorms

The fourth week of Big Think's The Month of Going Mental will focus on five of the most fundamental mechanisms of the brain: emotion, memory, decision-making, attention, and language. How do the different areas of the brain give rise to these fascinatingly complex phenomena? This week we will discuss what neuroscientists know up to this point about these mechanisms and also what direction the cutting-edge research is heading. 

WEEK 5: Enhancing Your Brain 

Modern life taxes the brain in ways it was not taxed mere decades ago. In the final week of The Month of Going Mental we will examine how our brain is coping with the changes of the digital age and what you can do to enhance your mind now and for the future. 

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less