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."

James Patterson on writing: Plotting, research, and first drafts

The best-selling author tells us his methods.

  • James Patterson has sold 300 million copies of his 130 books, making him one of the most successful authors alive today.
  • He talks about how some writers can overdo it by adding too much research, or worse, straying from their outline for too long.
  • James' latest book, The President is Missing, co-written with former President Bill Clinton, is out now.
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How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
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Why the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner won’t feature a comedian in 2019

It's the first time the association hasn't hired a comedian in 16 years.

(Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Vulture Festival)
Culture & Religion
  • The 2018 WHCA ended in controversy after comedian Michelle Wolf made jokes some considered to be offensive.
  • The WHCA apologized for Wolf's jokes, though some journalists and many comedians backed the comedian and decried arguments in favor of limiting the types of speech permitted at the event.
  • Ron Chernow, who penned a bestselling biography of Alexander Hamilton, will speak at next year's dinner.
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