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Great risk for great gain: Immigrants and innovators are psychologically the same

Don't denigrate immigrants, says Jared Diamond. You are one.

JARED DIAMOND: Immigration in the United States is a controversial issue just as it is in most other countries of the world. Many other of not just first-world countries, like Japan, Australia, Western Europe are wrestling with immigration, but many developing countries. When I was last in Indonesia, Malaysia, Indonesia's neighbor, is having a problem with Indonesians migrating into Malaysia because the standard of living in Malaysia is higher than in Indonesia. And South Africa, an African country, is having issues with immigration with neighboring poorer African countries such as Zimbabwe sending immigrants into South Africa.

So immigration in the United States the fact is every American without exception, is an immigrant. Native Americans immigrated 13,000 years ago, and everybody else has immigrated within the last 400 years. My father immigrated at the age of 2 in 1904. My mother's parents immigrated around 1890. Most Americans are immigrants. If you look at the contribution of immigrants, if you ask yourself, do a thought experiment: take the citizens of any country in the world out there, take the citizens of Poland or Russia and divide them into two sets. Suppose you had a mechanism for dividing every citizen of Poland into either two categories. One category are those people who are healthy, ambitious, willing to take risks, willing to try new ways, young, strong. And the other category consists of those people who are weak, unwilling to take risks, unwilling to experiment, wanting to carry on in their old ways. In effect, dividing a country into those two groups is what's accomplished by the decision to emigrate. The decision to emigrate is made by people who are healthy, strong, willing to undertake risks, and face the unknown. And those who don't emigrate, on the average, lack those qualities. But willing to take risks and experiment, those are essential qualities for innovating. And the United States is a country of innovation. It's therefore, no surprise that the great majority of American Nobel Prize winners are either first-generation immigrants or the children of first-generation immigrants.

So immigration has made a strong contribution to the history of the United States. But it's controversial because whenever you get a batch of people who are there and then another batch people coming who are different the Vietnamese of the 1970s, etc. they are different and there are likely to be prejudices. There have been prejudices against immigrants throughout American history, beginning with the first non-British immigrants, the Irish and the Germans. And eventually, that settled down. Then the prejudice against the Eastern Europeans, the Japanese and Europeans of the late 1800s, and then the prejudice against the Vietnamese. So it's unsurprising that immigration is an issue in the United States today, but reflect on our history. Students of immigration say that the United States has benefited more from immigration than any other country in the world, and that for the United States, a higher percentage of our immigrants are highly trained, skilled people who contribute to our economy than the immigrants into any other country in the world. Yes, it's a problem for us. But we are better off than any other country with that problem.

  • Every American, without exception, is an immigrant. Native Americans immigrated 13,000 years ago, and everybody else has immigrated within the last 400 years.
  • The decision to emigrate is made by people who are healthy, strong, willing to undertake risks, and face the unknown. Those are also essential qualities for innovating.
  • It's no coincidence that the great majority of American Nobel Prize winners are either first-generation immigrants or the children of first-generation immigrants.



Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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White dwarfs hold key to life in the universe, suggests study

New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
Surprising Science
  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
  • What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
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Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
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How to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone

Unless you plan to try again in 6,800 years, this week is your shot.

Image source: Sven Brandsma/Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Comet NEOWISE will be most visible in the U.S. during the evenings from July 14-19, 2020.
  • After July 23rd, NEOWISE will be visible only through good binoculars and telescopes.
  • Look in the northwestern sky below the Big Dipper after dusk while there's a chance.

UPDATE: NASA is broadcasting a NASA Science Live episode highlighting Comet NEOWISE. NASA experts will discuss and answer public questions beginning at 3PM EST on Wednesday, July 15. Tune in via the agency's website, Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, LinkedIn, Twitch, or USTREAM.

Before last evening, July 14, 2020, the easiest way to see Comet NEOWISE — the brightest comet to zoom past Earth since 1977's Comet Hale-Bopp — from the United States was to catch it about an hour before sunrise. Now, however, you can see it in the evening, where it will remain for until the 19th. This is a definite don't-miss event — NEOWISE won't be coming back our way for another 6,800 years. It's the first major comet of the millennium, and by all accounts, it's unforgettable.

NEOWISE just got back from the Sun

Comet NEOWISE is named after the NASA infrared space telescope that first spotted it on March 27th. Its official moniker is C/2020 F3. It's estimated that the icy comet is about three miles across, not counting its tail.

NEOWISE is now heading away from our Sun, having made it closet approach, 27.4 million miles, to our star on July 3. The heat from that encounter is what's given NEOWISE its tail: It caused gas and dust to be released from the icy object, creating the tail of debris that looks so magical from here.

As NEOWISE moves closer to Earth, paradoxically, it will be less and less visible. By about July 23rd, you'll need binoculars or a telescope to see it at all. All of which makes this week prime time.

An evening delight

star constellation in sky

Image source: Allexxandar/Shutterstock/Big Think

First, find an unobstructed view of the northwest sky, free of streetlights, car headlights, apartment lights, and so on. And then, according to Sky & Telescope:

"Start looking about one hour after sunset, when you'll find it just over the northwestern horizon as the last of twilight fades into darkness."

It should be easy to spot since it's near to one of the most recognizable constellations up there, the Big Dipper. "Look about three fists below the bottom of the Big Dipper, which is hanging down by its handle high above, and from there perhaps a little to the right." Et voilà: Comet NEOWISE.

Says Sky & Telescope's Diana Hannikainen, "Look for a faint, fuzzy little 'star' with a fainter, fuzzier little tail extending upward from it."

The comet should be visible with the naked eye, though binoculars and a simple telescope may reveal more detail.

You may also be able to snap a photo of this special visitor, though you'll need the right gear to do so. A dedicated camera is more likely to capture a good shot than a telephone, but in either case, you'll need a tripod or some other means of holding the camera dead still as it takes a timed exposure of several seconds (not all phones can do this).

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