Author posts

The character assassination of Edgar Allan Poe

"Poe is one of the writers who make us who we are," wrote E. L. Doctorow. So how is it that Poe's countrymen could be so hostile to the man? As it turns out, there was villainy at work. 

Lessons from a Game Designed to Break Your Heart

"The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone." - A. Bartlett Giamatti

Steven Pinker and the Scientific Worldview

The scientific mindset, Steven Pinker argues, is "indispensable in all areas of human concern, including politics, the arts, and the search for meaning, purpose, and morality."

We may be getting dumber much faster than we think

A study shows a substantial decline in general intelligence of 1.23 IQ points per decade or 14 IQ points since Victorian times.

Dawn Kasper's Spontaneous Web

And so in putting together a playlist of videos as part of an original MOCAtv series called "YouTube Curated By," Kasper selected some moments of real-life risk-taking and spontaneity. 

Brooke Candy's Awesomely Erratic Freestyle Mix

"None of my videos have any common tie to them," says Brooke Candy, a rapper who has offered her picks of YouTube as part of an original MOCAtv series called "YouTube Curated By." 

You Are Not So Smart and You Are in Very Good Company

We are a community of messy, stumbling, fumbling beings tumbling through space wrestling with a confusing gift of consciousness. And that is the great gift of consciousness. 

Imagine No Religion. Here's What It Looks Like.

Imagine there's no religion. That's what the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch did in his iconic painting "The Garden of Earthly Delights."

Accelerating Change: Exploring the Marijuana-Gay Marriage Analogy

The rapid transformation in public opinion on legalizing marijuana mirrors changes in support for gay marriage in a number of interesting, yet also contradictory ways. 

Four Things You Need to Know About the Same Sex Marriage Debate

The Supreme Court could make history with its rulings on the legality of both California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. 

Penn Jillette: Why I Like Donald Trump, aka Scrooge McDuck

"Having strong opinions is part of the joy of being alive, and loving people in spite of those strong opinions is one of the other joys of being alive."

John Wood's Battle for Global Literacy

"Let's collectively be the Andrew Carnegie of the 21st century," says John Wood, who details his experience of building and scaling the non-profit Room to Read. 

A Trip Down Shepard Fairey's YouTube Rabbit Hole

Shepard Fairey's aesthetic, which has so much to do with appropriating and re-imagining images -- is best understood through the lens of his many colorful influences.

Where do big ideas come from?

We're moving into an era in which we'll understand how to induce creativity.

Don't Mess with the Internet: Lessons From the SOPA Movement

The SOPA movement shows us how traditional power structures are being turned on their head to create a future that is significantly more democratized, distributed and universal.

Are you living in an elitist bubble? The alcohol in your fridge can clue you in.

Charles Murray has designed a quiz he hopes will have "a salutary effect on bringing to people’s attention the degree to which they live in a bubble that seals them off from an awful lot of their fellow American citizens."

The Physics of Federer-Nadal

If you're a tennis fan, and a fan of Rafa Nadal in particular, the last seven months probably felt like the period in rock n' roll history in which Elvis was in the Army. 

Penn Jillette: How Reality TV is Making Us All Bugnutty Crazy

According to Celebrity Apprentice star Penn Jillette, Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow could double as a producer's handbook for reality television.

The Long, Sexy Tail of Citizenship

Full citizenship is the idea in which all members of society see themselves as change agents. 

Can Children Teach Themselves to Read?

Do we think it is possible for kids to learn to read on their own? A dispatch from a big bold idea in progress. 


Is America Out of Gas?

Is American Exceptionalism "the old whiskey bottle we pull off the shelf when we're feeling down?"

The Power-Hungry Elite Aren't Who You Think They Are

The elite are not necessarily the wealthy but the people who run the country. And they live in almost a different world from the rest of us.

The Human Mind Meld: The Perils of Unfiltered Knowledge Transfer

We might like to think that we have completely original minds, but we are easily influenced by others and have an "unknowingness" of how our "human mind meld" works. 


How to Read Your Own Body With Data

We are very good at generating data. We are just learning how to utilize it, but the mobile health revolution is one of the most promising applications we have seen in this field.

Make Room in the Budget for Big, Audacious Ideas

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson argues that we need to break out of our "A-to-B thinking" in order to bring big, audacious ideas into existence. 

Will the Next Pope Be Black?

Some time in March a puff of white smoke will rise over St. Peter's Square. Will it signal a Pope from Africa? 

A Guide to Understanding Nothing

Nothing is a physical concept, because it’s the absence of something. "What we’ve learned over the last hundred years," Lawrence Krauss says, "is that nothing is much more complicated than we would’ve imagined otherwise."

How the Westboro Baptist Church Can Help You Lose Weight

Do you want to learn to play the guitar? Speak Spanish? Lose weight? Then set aside $100 of your pretax income to donate to the Westboro Baptist Church.

Is Your Mind for Sale? Inside the Allure of Digital Sweatshops

New crowdsourcing techniques can be used in amazingly constructive ways. Alternatively, these same techniques may be used as tools that exploit human labor and utilize it for evil purposes. 


Happiness Favors the Prepared Mind

There are plenty of people who are single and frustrated, unhappily married, or, on the other hand, happily divorced. What matters most is how they prepare their minds. 

Science Up in Smoke: The Catch-22 of Marijuana Research

Despite the fact that an estimated one million patients use marijuana as medicine every year, the U.S. has restricted research on marijuana. In other words, we don't know conclusively what its dangers and benefits are. 

She Who Can, Teaches Science. Now Show Her the Money!

Lawrence Krauss argues for differential pay scales for teachers with advanced training in science and math to accommodate the free market.

The World Economic Forum's Call to Action on Global Warming

A new report by the World Economic Forum says we must spend $700 billion annually to wane ourselves off fossil fuels that have been linked to a rise in extreme weather-related disasters in recent years. 

Lessons in Mindfulness from Sherlock Holmes

How can we train our brains to think like Sherlock Holmes? We need to develop the core skill of mindfulness.

Lance Armstrong: American Psychopath

There are recognizable patterns of behavior and personality traits that we can look for to give us insight into Lance Armstrong's reckless actions, so that this whole affair might be a so-called teachable moment.

Can Chuck Hagel Exorcize the Ghost of Neocons Past?

What will it mean to have a dissenter like Chuck Hagel as an ombudsman at the top at the Defense Department?


The Great Sugar Conspiracy

Is the overconsumption of sugar the cause of chronic metabolic disease? 

Reinventing Math for the Computational Knowledge Economy

A new math curriculum is needed to move us from the knowledge economy to "the computational knowledge economy where high-level math is integral to what everyone does."

Big Data is Neutral: A Tool for Both Good and Evil

Big Data is becoming as powerful an asset as oil, and it will be the source of many high quality jobs in the near future. 

Can Libertarian Paternalism Change Our Gun Culture?

How can the government change the framework of choices that particular people are faced with so that their own small errors in risk perception don’t expose the whole of society?


Can We Win the Race Against the Machines?

When there is exponential improvement in the price and performance of technology, jobs that were once thought to be immune from automation suddenly become threatened. 

Penn Jillette: Let's Take the Christ Out of Christmas

Atheist author and magician Penn Jillette asks why we can't use the word "holidays" instead of "Christmas" to be more inclusive. 

Would You Save This Man's Life? The Bystander Effect Revisited

We have a blind spot when it comes to predicting our own moral and ethical behavior, but new research suggests we are better, not worse, when part of a crowd. 

Kim Jong-un Sure Isn't Sexy. But He May Not Be Crazy, Either.

Parodies of Kim Jong-un and North Korea are indicative of the scary reality that we simply don't have a lot of information about what is actually happening inside North Korea. 

Obama's Pot Dilemma: Is It Time to Evolve?

Ethan Nadelmann, a leading expert on drug policy, sees evidence that Obama is willing to move in "a somewhat new direction" on drug policy. 

Jack Myers: The Cult of the Celebutante is Over

As more people derive their income from careers that rely on public exposure, the cachet and economic appeal of simply being a celebrity will decrease. 

Estrangement, Italian Style: The Myth of the Jersey Shore

How is it that such a persistent stereotype -- which is certainly not unique to Jersey Shore-- has been reproduced for so long, and continues to resonate in today's culture? 

Joi Ito: I'm Not a Futurist, I'm a Nowist

Joi Ito says the key to innovation is not the ability to see things through a crystal ball, but rather, to figure it out as you go along.

Big Data Rears Its Head, And It's Beautiful

Big Data is becoming as powerful an asset as oil, and it will be the source of many high quality jobs in the near future. 

Bill Nye and Pat Robertson Agree on What?

Evolution is by definition a difficult concept to grasp since you can't observe it happening in front of you. Nevertheless, some unlikely converts are coming over to Bill Nye's point of view. 


Ray Kurzweil's Top 5 Reasons to Be Optimistic for 2013

Will you be better off this year than your were in the past? To the futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, the answer is a resounding yes. 

The Right Brain at the Right Place at the Right Time

Our prehistoric ancestors are the ones who did the heavy mental lifting for which we owe our expanded frontal cortexes. So who has the right brain for today?


Inside Elon Musk's Mars Math

Like any big, bold idea, Elon Musk's plan for colonizing Mars strikes you at first glance as indeed crazy. And yet, the reason for Musk's success in leading four of the most innovative companies in America is that he is analytically minded, first and foremost. 

Helping Employees Make Smart Benefit Choices

Increased benefit choice brings along with it increased risk. For instance, what if employees choose options like paid time off at the expense of long-term benefits that will be much more valuable to themselves and their families over time?

The Rationalist's Guide to Charitable Giving

According to Julia Galef, simply asking question "how do I compare expected benefits against each other?" is already "far more than most people just intuitively do when they want to help the world."


Big Data is Watching You

What do Jeremy Bentham's nineteenth-century prison reforms have to do with David Petraeus and Google's biannual "Transparency Report"?

The Most Amazing Race: Reverse-Engineering the Brain

How long will it take for computers to exhibit human-level intelligence? Experts wildly disagree, and the most exciting scientific race of the 21st century is underway.

James Bond's guide to seduction

Why do women find it so hard to resist ruthless, deceitful narcissists?

Want to be the Next Neil deGrasse Tyson? Be Yourself.

Your task, Neil de Grasse Tyson says, is to find opportunities that allow you to express your unique talents in ways that society will value and reward.

The Stockdale Paradox: How Optimism Creates Resilience

Just as POWs developed a method to communicate by tapping a code through their cell walls, Dr. Dennis Charney says we all need a tap code to enable us to share feelings with people we can count on. 

Playing Chicken With the Fiscal Cliff

If all of the spending cuts and revenue increases that make up the fiscal cliff go into effect, it would represent an estimated $720 billion in total austerity measures for 2013. Who is ready to stomach that?

The 2012 Election: A Big Win for Big Data

This was indeed a choice election, if you consider the choice between consuming entertainment journalism or data-based journalism. Entertainment is fun, and math is hard. Math won. 

How to speak Republican: It's about results, not rights

Richard Tafel says that failed social movements are the ones that ignore the conservative mindset that is based on resultswhereas the liberal mindset is based on rights.

Sandy's Legacy: DIY Urbanism

New York City recently became radicalized out of necessity in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Simply put, when systems broke down, New Yorkers improvised, and took matters into their own hands. 

Grover Norquist: Hyper Pol in the Age of Hyper-Polarization

In an age of hyper-polarization, Norquist represents ideological rigidity at its core. So does this make him a hero or "the roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code"? 

Larry Lessig: End Raging Cronyism, Save Our Republic

A higher percentage of Americans believed in the British crown in 1776 than the percentage of Americans who trust Congress today. Larry Lessig has an idea to change all of that.