Zoom! Goes the Universe

Robert Kirshner of Harvard is one of the world's most distinguished astrophysicists. So to kick off his Big Think interview, we asked the hardest-hitting astrophysics question in our arsenal: what's all that stuff up there in the night sky, anyway? Kirshner's answer begins with the Moon and rockets out to the farthest galaxies, providing a full-fledged guided tour of our universewhich, thanks to his work, we now know is expanding faster and faster.Popular science shows may have made it sound inevitable by now, but Kirshner's discovery that we inhabit an "accelerating cosmos" overturned decades of scientific assumption, and before it had been published, even prompted his own mother to ask: "You think you're smarter than Einstein?" (In a moment of sheepishness he answered, "No, Mom.") Yet Kirshner, along with one of his intrepid graduate students, ultimately stuck to his guns, and the rest is astrophysics history.


While he is careful to acknowledge that not all nutty ideas are good science, Kirshner believes the next big science idea will sound just as nutty at first. Consider the other slacker-at-the-back-of-the-planetarium question we asked him: "What came before the Big Bang?" It turns out to be a genuine unsolved mystery, one that will require pushing beyond "the limits of our current understanding of physics." Still, Kirshner notes, "there's nothing that says we won't eventually understand more"and the discovery process in the meantime is "a real adventure."

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Brain study finds circuits that may help you keep your cool

Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP/ Getty Images
Mind & Brain

MIT News

The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.

Keep reading Show less

34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America

A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
  • The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
  • According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
Keep reading Show less

How pharmaceutical companies game the patent system

When these companies compete, in the current system, the people lose.

Top Video Splash
  • When a company reaches the top of the ladder, they typically kick it away so that others cannot climb up on it. The aim? So that another company can't compete.
  • When this happens in the pharmaceutical world, certain companies stay at the top of the ladder, through broadly-protected patents, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
  • Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation — "tweaks" — the same as product invention.