Big Think's Top Videos of Summer 2012

The top videos of summer, '12, featuring experts such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dr. Michio Kaku, Slavoj Zizek, Jaron Lanier and many others. 

Popcorn is required for reading this post. So is a good wifi connection on a beach near you as we hope you're enjoying the last days of summer, which we hope will be filled with relaxation, but also mental stimulation.


That is why we have compiled the top 10 videos from the summer featured on Big Think. How were the top 10 decided? You voted by clicking on them, and it's a good selection, covering religion and skepticism, genetics, philosophy, physics and human biology, among other topics. Enjoy!

1. Neil deGrasse Tyson: Atheist or Agnostic?

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson claims the title "scientist" above all other "ists." And yet, he says he is "constantly claimed by atheists." So where does he stand? “Neil deGrasse, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic.” 

Watch the video here:

2. Kadam Morten: Buddhism as a "Science of the Mind"

It’s early days still for the neuroscience of meditation, but Kadam Morten, a teacher in the New Kadampa tradition of Buddhism, argues that the Buddha (Gautama Buddha, who lived in India approximately 2500 years ago) was the creator of a “science of the mind.”

Watch the video here:

3. Jaron Lanier: In Defense of Life: Alan Turing, the Original Hacker.

This summer marked the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth. According to computer scientist Jaron Lanier, the right way to understand Alan Turing's famous "Turing Test" is to understand that it "began in the mind of somebody who was in a deeply, deeply uncomfortable possible situation, who was very close to suicide, and that it amounted to a flight from life, but also a defense of life." 

Watch the video here:

4. Bryan Sykes: What Does Everyone Need to Know About Genetics?

According to Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, it's perhaps too deterministic to say that your genes determine everything you do. It’s more like the deck of cards that you're dealt at birth. What you do with that deck, like any card game, depends a lot on your choices, but it is influenced by those cards, those genes that you got when you were born.

Watch the video here:

5. Slavoj Zizek: We Need Thinking

Slavoj Zizek answers the question, "Do you think science has replaced philosophy in discovering the bigger questions of life?" Philosophy is not dying, he says -- in fact, we need it more now than ever.

Watch the video here:

6. Jane McGonigal: Three Reasons Why You Should Play More Games (And Work Fewer Hours)

"We have this idea that playing games is kind of a waste of time," says Jane McGonigal. However, research shows that games help us tap into positive emotions like curiosity, optimism, creativity, and even love. They also make us more likely to cooperate with someone in our real lives after we’ve played a social game with them involving a cooperative mission. And lastly, we're more likely to set an ambitious goal for ourselves after we’ve succeeded in a game. 

Watch the video here:

7. Jesse Bering: The Porn Movies in Our Minds

The science writer Jesse Bering tells Big Think that humans have an "advanced social cognitive system" that allows us to "play back scenes in our heads, like a dirty movie theater." This cognitive ability makes us unique among animals, and it is a mechanism we use very often. 

Watch the video here:

8. Dr. Michio Kaku: This Super Camera Captures What is Beyond Human Comprehension

Dr. Michio Kaku says "there is a whole universe out there where events take place on a scale of billionths of a second and another timescale where events take place over a timescale of billions of years - and the sad thing is that we humans, our human brain, is unaccustomed to dealing with these true extreme universes that we never see." And yet, now we have a new camera "that can take a trillion frames per second and actually capture these processes that are beyond human comprehension."

Watch the video here:

9. Henry Rollins: The One Decision That Changed My Life Forever

Many successful people can point to a risky decision they made that paid off. In the case of Henry Rollins, a serial artistic entrepreneur and iconic self-made man, the decisive moment was especially stark.

Watch the video here:

10. John Seely Brown: How World of Warcraft Could Save Your Business and The Economy

Learning guru John Seely Brown is not being even slightly ironic when he says that he’d hire an expert player of World of Warcraft (the massive multiplayer online fantasy videogame) over an MBA from Harvard. 

Watch the video here:

Daniel Honan, Megan Erickson and Jason Gots contributed to this post. Videos were produced and directed by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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

Radical theory says our universe sits on an inflating bubble in an extra dimension

Cosmologists propose a groundbreaking model of the universe using string theory.

Getty Images/Suvendu Giri
Surprising Science
  • A new paper uses string theory to propose a new model of the universe.
  • The researchers think our universe may be riding a bubble expanded by dark energy.
  • All matter in the universe may exist in strings that reach into another dimension.
Keep reading Show less

Employees don't quit their job, they quit their boss

According to TwoFold CEO Alison McMahon, a leader who doesn't care (or can't pretend to care) about his or her employees isn't much of a leader at all.

Photo credit: Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

Why do people quit their jobs? Surely, there are a ton of factors: money, hours, location, lack of interest, etc. For Alison McMahon, an HR specialist and the CEO of TwoFold, the biggest reason employees jump ship is that they're tired of working for lousy bosses.

By and large, she says, people are willing to put up with certain negatives as long as they enjoy who they're working for. When that's just not the case, there's no reason to stick around:

Nine times out of ten, when an employee says they're leaving for more money, it's simply not true. It's just too uncomfortable to tell the truth.

Whether that's true is certainly debatable, though it's not a stretch to say that an inconsiderate and/or incompetent boss isn't much of a leader. If you run an organization or company, your values and actions need to guide and inspire your team. When you fail to do that, you set the table for poor productivity and turnover.

McMahon offers a few suggestions for those who want to hone their leadership abilities, though it seems that these things are more innate qualities than acquired skills. For example, actually caring about your workers or not depending wholly on HR thinking they can do your job for you.

It's the nature of promotions that, inevitably, a good employee without leadership skills will get thrust into a supervisory position. McMahon says this is a chronic problem that many organizations need to avoid, or at least make the time to properly evaluate and assist with the transition.

But since they often don't, they end up with uninspired workers. And uninspired workers who don't have a reason to stay won't stick around for long.

Read more at LinkedIn.

Think you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma’

Even some teachers suffer from anxiety about math.

Image credit: Getty Images
Mind & Brain

I teach people how to teach math, and I've been working in this field for 30 years. Across those decades, I've met many people who suffer from varying degrees of math trauma – a form of debilitating mental shutdown when it comes to doing mathematics.

Keep reading Show less