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How to Be An Awesome Underling

In 1990, Kate O'Connor was the aide for the lieutenant governor of a small, largely inconsequential New England state. Fourteen years later, when Howard Dean became a front runner for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, that job -- her first -- suddenly changed.

 

 

Make Your Employees' Lives Easier

A dramatic worldwide shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plans has also given employees the ability to take planning into their own hands. But with this freedom comes a confusion: What's the role of the employer versus the role of the employee in all this?

 

A Rainbow Is A Song: The Wild, Curious & Wonderful World of Synesthesia

On a late winter day in 1922, the sound of a gun shot resounded with a loud boom in the hills surrounding the house of three-year-old Edgar Curtis. The sound itself wasn't out of the ordinary, since the Curtises lived near a firing range. What was extraordinary was the question the boy turned to ask his mother: "What is that big, black noise?" 

 

What Happened to the Future?

The future is a difficult thing to grasp, and not just because we can't see it. Bringing innovation to life requires imagination, resourcefulness, the sort of limitless creative ambition we today associate mainly with science fiction writers.

 

 

The Ghost in the Machine: Unraveling the Mystery of Consciousness

Reductionists believe that memories, emotions, and feelings can be broken down to nothing more than interactions between brain cells and their associated molecules. In other words, "you" are your brain.

Why "Having it All" Is Not Just About Having it All

What happens when you do make it to the top of your field, only to find that it’s not exactly what you’d expected or been told to expect?

How to Get More Women At the Table

Monique Leroux managed to get herself elected (yes, elected) as the first female CEO in the organization’s history.

Human Beings are Information-Seeking Creatures

We’ve long been fascinated by the endless streams of data available in the world around us, and we especially love to try to make sense of them. 

Welcome to Your Future Brain: Inside David Eagleman's Neuro Lab

The presiding philosophy of the Laboratory for Perception is ultimately more informed by the possibilities of the future than by the past. Eagleman is fascinated by the idea that we could import the technology into human biology to enhance our sensory perception of the world, broadening and deepening our reality.

Braingasm: How Porn "Shuts Down" Women's Brains

What really goes on in a brain-on-porn? A recent study conducted at the University of Groningen Medical Center came to a surprising conclusion.

Is Bipartisanship Overrated?

Momentary enthusiasm, a few nice words at the inauguration, then gridlock: it’s the ebb and flow of electoral politics in America, and it's lead liberal and conservative insiders alike to argue that representatives ought to capitulate every now and then, if only for the sake of negotiation.

 

The Beautiful Universe: A Convergence of Art and Science

We expect works of art to enlighten us, and we expect science to enlighten us -- yet the two fields are frequently regarded as separate, distinct entities which we respond to using different areas of the brain. Are those distinctions are arbitrary?

A Biological Basis for the Unconscious?

Today, the question of how people make decisions is an animated and essential one, capturing the attention of everyone from neuroscientists to lawyers to artists. In 1956, there was one person in all of New York known for his work on the brain: Harry Grundfest. An aspiring psychiatrist, Eric Kandel chose to take an elective in brain science and found himself studying alongside Grudfest at Columbia University. 

Learning to See in 3-D: A Neurobiologist Rewires Her Own Brain

Brain imaging studies show that every time we learn a new task, we're changing our brain by expanding our neural network.

Who Wants to Run the World?

Google versus Facebook. Silicon Valley versus Hollywood. Wall Street versus Main Street. Increasingly, the rivalries and alliances that define our lives have nothing to do with kings, queens, or Congress. What we’re witnessing is a fundamental shift in the way our society is organized.

Consent of the Networked: a Conversation with Rebecca MacKinnon

Information is power. The Internet has made it possible to share and spread information faster than ever before. Unprecedented levels of access to information means that democracy is bound to take root and flower in even the most authoritarian corners of the world -- right? Not necessarily, says MacKinnon.

When Does Learning Begin?

Diane Ravitch tells Big Think what really matters when it comes to learning, inside schools and out. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it's not K-12 teachers who are most responsible.

No, Seriously. Science Can Be Funny.

Lighten up, says Bill Nye aka The Science Guy. The idea is to get people to embrace science, not force it.

Adultolescence: It's the Beginning of a New Age

When we think family, we often think values, tradition, averages: 2 parents, 2.5 kids. But the concept of what makes up a family is anything but stable, says Sonia Arrison, a policy analyst who studies the impact of new technologies on society. And due to an unprecedented recent increase in longevity, it's changing again.

Life's Messy. Train Your Brain to Adapt.

Margaret Moore, co-founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital/ Harvard Medical School, answers all our burning questions about how to sift through the chaos of the digital age and organize our lives and minds. (Hint: it starts with the brain.)

DNA In the Cloud

Michael Schatz, a researcher at Cold Spring Laboratory, wants to use Google's algorithms to understand genomic data. 

Brains Are Automatic, But People Are Free

“If you think about it this way, if you are a Martian coming by earth and looking at all these humans and then looking at how they work you wouldn’t—it would never dawn on you to say, ‘Well, now, this thing needs free will!’ What are you talking about?” says Michael Gazzaniga, one of the world's leading researchers in cognitive neuroscience.

This Is Your Brain On Sports

Athletes may be paid millions, but implicit in the bargain is that ownership of their bodies is no longer entirely theirs.

Better Than Free: How Lynda.com Made a Pay Wall Pay

It's unusual for a website to charge for its services, admits Lynda Weinman, but the fee "allows us to have a sustainable business model where we can pay contributors." Her approach represents a compromise between the open ideals of the web and the financial needs of the people who fill its pages.

WTF Wikipedia? What SOPA, PIPA, and the Blackout Mean To You

According to the online community that has formed in opposition to the legislation, it amounts to online censorship. But is the controversy really about free speech, or is it just another showdown between rich and powerful Hollywood, and even richer and more powerful Silicon Valley? How will SOPA and PIPA affect everyone?

Do You Have the Moral Compass of a Toddler?

Are we born with a sense of morality? 

How to Regrow a Limb

Once they’re gone, mammalian arms and legs can't ever be restored. But if you cut off a salamander's leg it will reappear in just a few weeks. The enigma of amphibian organ regeneration has long puzzled scientists. Now, a new wave of scientists hopes to put it to use.

The End of Free Will?

The social contract is clear: if you commit a violent crime, you go to prison. But what if you commit a violent crime because you have a brain tumor in a region of the brain that controls good judgment? 

Will the Next War Be Fought Over Water?

As soon as 2025, large parts of the world could experience perrennial water shortages, says Dr. Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center and a leading expert on hydroclimatology, climate change adaptation, and risk analysis.

The "Messiah" Is Worth the Ticket Price: On Leading an Orchestra

Roberto Díaz was the principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the National Symphony orchestra. Watch as he explains why bringing a hundred musicians together in to one synchronized ensemble is not easy - it's a feat of human expression well-deserving of our attention.

How Will Future Historians See Us?

As barbarians, says Lawrence Summers, economist and former President of Harvard.

What We Want From Work: Are Generational Differences Bigger Than Cultural Ones?

Patricia Milligan discusses the conflict between a generation that has carved out a niche and is intent on securing it and a generation that's burning for a shot. The give-and-take between the two is global in scale.

Michio Kaku: The Energy of the Future

"We are children when we talk about the cosmic scale of energies throughout the entire universe," says theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. But with a little (okay, a lot) of human ingenuity, we may one day have the ability to harness the energy of the stars.

How to Resist the Irresistible

Do holiday sales make your palms sweat with anticipation? That's because they're designed to. There's a very, very deep art and science to pricing," says Lee Eisenberg, author of Shoptimism. Watch as he explains the tricks of the trade and how you can avoid them.

The Man Who Was "Cured" of HIV

“We are at the cusp of a revolution in medicine and biotechnology that will radically increase not just our life spans but also, and more importantly, our health spans," says Sonia Arrison, author of 100: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything.

Why Mozart Rocks So Hard. Artistic Genius Explained.

What's the difference between a Jackson Pollock painting and a finger-painting? Why is "The Magic Flute" so enduring, while other classical compositions have been forgotten? Leon Botstein, the dean of Bard College, examines what we're talking about when we talk about art.

The Age of Regenerative Medicine: How to Heal Faster

 

"All of the cells in the body have this potential to make other kinds of cells. This has led to the discovery of human embryonic stem cells and other stem cells, which we’d now like to use to replace tissue and body parts," says Dr. Douglas Melton.

 

How to Grow a Heart: Transforming Cells Into Human Organs

In the 21st century, biology will usher in advances in regenerative medicine. Stem cells will be at the center of discovery and application in that new field.  

Consciousness: The Black Hole of Neuroscience

"Consciousness of course is one of the largest questions of brain structure and function. And we approach it now perhaps differently than we have in the past with our new tools. But I’m not convinced that we understand it any better," says Joy Hirsch.

 

What Happens When the Average Lifespan Hits 100?

The next Scientific Revolution is already underway. And it may make it possible for you to celebrate your 150th birthday, says Sonia Arrison. 

Earth to Academia: Student Loan Debt Is Mounting - And It's Unethical.

Unemployment among those aged 16-29 is at its highest rate since WWII. “Follow your passion,” while hard to argue with, is clearly an inadequate career plan.

The 21st Century Brain: A New Series at Big Think

We now have the power to map the brain, peering into the human mind to decode words from silent thoughts. But what will human consciousness look like, if we ever finally catch a glimpse of it? Neuroscientist Joy Hirsch kicks off the debate.

Consider the Slime Mold: How Amoebas Form Social Networks

"It turns out we’re not the only species that assembles ourselves into networks," says sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis.

Goodbye, Knowledge Workers. Hello, Insight Workers!

Yes, we know our laptops know more than us. Now what will we do at work?

The 10 Rules of Brilliant Women

Tara Sophia Mohr has a challenge for working women. “You’re brilliant and thoughtful, but could you move a few more inches in the arrogant idiot direction please?” Be an arrogant idiot is rule #5 of Mohr's 10 Rules for Brilliant Women.

 

Who Should Win the Nobel Peace Prize?

The winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced this Friday, October 7th. Last week, a former Norwegian prime minister ignited speculation about this year's winner by announcing, "It will be an interesting and very important prize ... I think it will be well-received." 

What Girls Can Teach the World

If we want to change our society, we need to focus our attention on our women, says Sir Fazle Abed, founder of one of the most efficient microfinance organizations in the world.

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