'Populism Isn't Bad. False Populism Is.' Here Are This Week's Top Comments

Here are this week's top comments on Big Think content from across the Web.

Here are this week's top comments on Big Think content from across the Web.


Stephen Hawking Says We're at a "Dangerous Moment" in History

(Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

1. Eric Cheung Populism isn't bad. False populism that correctly diagnoses the problems with globalism and the anguish of the working class, but prescribes bigotry and scapegoating as a solution, is the problem. Only true populism can defeat the false populism of people like Trump.

2. Dustin Crider In a world held under the elitist thumb, populist politics are dressed up in villainy. Populism, to me, as I read the first paragraph of the definition, is the idea that we only need each other. We don’t need some a**hole paid 900 times our salary to tell us to do what we already know needs done. We can do the same thing without them, cheaper.

I grew up on a farm, have worked manufacturing, and was a toolmaker’s apprentice. I went to a two-year college for business administration w/it focus, followed by a four-year for computer & information technology with an organizational leadership minor. This is not intended as a brag about my credentials, but rather a brag about the average man.


Humorist Dave Barry says: "The value of making fun of [religion] is: it's okay to believe whatever you believe as long as you don't think that everyone has to believe it, and if you're willing to laugh a little bit about your own beliefs then it's just going to be easier for everybody to get along with different beliefs."

3. Edath Feston Hateful mocking is unwelcome tho. I laugh at religious jokes all the time. I think the best jokes even make God laugh. But when you're hateful or cruel or name calling any believer or nonbeliever you're doing a disservice for humanity by creating more hatred and division.

4. Nick Jackson In fact, I'd say it's our intellectual resposibility (sic) to mock religion, in order to protect the integrity of humanity's intelligence. As soon as we break down the dividers, we can all unite to focus on what is real.

5. Latif Adams What does mocking religion seek to achieve, humans will continue to have differing beliefs (religious or otherwise) regardless. If you think religion has done a lot of harm, well history tells us a lot about non religious people who have also subjected humanity to unbearable persecutions and murders (Genghis Khan, Hitler etc) readily come to mind.


"Calling Bullshit" Is the College Course for Our Times—Here's How You Can Take It Online

(The University of Washington)

6. Nina Danielsen Clarke This is a fair idea but does not belong in universities. Kids should learn to spot bullshit much earlier than that because they will be exposed to it and can vote....

7. Stewart Black For 6 yrs I taught A Level courses called Critical Thinking and General Studies. Kids only took them because they had to. The critical thinking skill of discriminating media that is so misleading as to be lying is one of the most important skills. And yet most kids absolutely hated the course (not the teacher). That's the way it always goes with 'citizenship' courses and the like. I say education should get back primarily to hard subjects like Mathematics, Science and especially Classical Languages, all of which imbue the learner with mental skills and stamina to sort fact from fiction.


The eternal marriage between democracy and capitalism is coming to an end. Do you agree with Slavoj Zizek?

8. Louis Kroll What we have in this country is far from Capitalism. We are more of a socialist democratic republic. The federal government is far too intrusive and manipulative in the market place and the economy, including their collusion with corporations.

9. Jose Manuel Luiz I agree with him. Democracy and capitalism are not compatible because democracy provides workers with rights while, in order for capitalism to be efficient, it needs to remove the worker's rights. That's why China is the greatest economy in the world. Never thought about it this way but is brilliant.

10. Davis Tan What Slavoj Žižek saying is benevolent authoritarian running capitalism is the most efficient for the present time before we moving into A.I. King which we let machines taking care of us without need to going through communitarian based democracy process.


Drill, Baby, Drill: What will we look for when we mine on Mars?

It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back

Surprising Science
  • In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
  • Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
  • The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points

Want to go to Mars? It will cost you. In 2016, SpaceX founder Elon Musk estimated that manned missions to the planet may cost approximately $10 billion per person. As with any expensive endeavor, it is inevitable that sufficient returns on investment will be needed in order to sustain human presence on Mars. So, what's underneath all that red dust?

Mining Technology reported in 2017 that "there are areas [on Mars], especially large igneous provinces, volcanoes and impact craters that hold significant potential for nickel, copper, iron, titanium, platinum group elements and more."

Were a SpaceX-like company to establish a commercial mining presence on the planet, digging up these materials will be sure to provoke a fraught debate over environmental preservation in space, Martian land rights, and the slew of microbial unknowns which Martian soil may bring.

In National Geographic Channel's genre-bending narrative-docuseries, MARS, (the second season premieres tonight, November 12th, 9 pm ET / 8 pm CT) this dynamic is explored as astronauts from an international scientific coalition go head-to-head with industrial miners looking to exploit the planet's resources.

Given the rate of consumption of minerals on Earth, there is plenty of reason to believe that there will be demand for such an operation.

"Almost all of the easily mined gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, antimony, and phosphorus we can mine on Earth may be gone within one hundred years" writes Stephen Petranek, author of How We'll Live on Mars, which Nat Geo's MARS is based on. That grim scenario will require either a massive rethinking of how we consume metals on earth, or supplementation from another source.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, told Petranek that it's unlikely that even if all of Earth's metals were exhausted, it is unlikely that Martian materials could become an economically feasible supplement due to the high cost of fuel required to return the materials to Earth. "Anything transported with atoms would have to be incredibly valuable on a weight basis."

Actually, we've already done some of this kind of resource extraction. During NASA's Apollo missions to the Moon, astronauts used simple steel tools to collect about 842 pounds of moon rocks over six missions. Due to the high cost of those missions, the Moon rocks are now highly valuable on Earth.

Moon rock on display at US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL (Big Think/Matt Carlstrom)

In 1973, NASA valuated moon rocks at $50,800 per gram –– or over $300,000 today when adjusted for inflation. That figure doesn't reflect the value of the natural resources within the rock, but rather the cost of their extraction.

Assuming that Martian mining would be done with the purpose of bringing materials back to Earth, the cost of any materials mined from Mars would need to include both the cost of the extraction and the value of the materials themselves. Factoring in the price of fuel and the difficulties of returning a Martian lander to Earth, this figure may be entirely cost prohibitive.

What seems more likely, says Musk, is for the Martian resources to stay on the Red Planet to be used for construction and manufacturing within manned colonies, or to be used to support further mining missions of the mineral-rich asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

At the very least, mining on Mars has already produced great entertainment value on Earth: tune into Season 2 of MARS on National Geographic Channel.

Harvard scientists suggest 'Oumuamua is an alien device

It's an asteroid, it's a comet, it's actually a spacecraft?

(ESO/M. Kornmesser)
Surprising Science
  • 'Oumuamua is an oddly shaped, puzzling celestial object because it doesn't act like anything naturally occurring.
  • The issue? The unexpected way it accelerated near the Sun. Is this our first sign of extraterrestrials?
  • It's pronounced: oh MOO-uh MOO-uh.
Keep reading Show less

Study: The effects of online trolling on authors, publications

A study started out trying to see the effect of sexist attacks on women authors, but it found something deeper.

Surprising Science
  • It's well known that abusive comments online happen to women more than men
  • Such comments caused a "significant effect for the abusive comment on author credibility and intention to seek news from the author and outlet in the future"
  • Some news organizations already heavily moderate or even ban comments entirely; this should underscore that effort
Keep reading Show less