Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

The Beauty of Bugs

Question: What makes an insect beautiful?

Hugh Raffles: I think insects are astonishingly beautiful and there is a chapter in the book called beauty which is about - it’s very short.  It’s just really just a little story about when I used to - as I said, I’m an anthropologist and the first fieldwork I do is in the Amazon in a village at the mouth of the Amazon and one day we were coming back on a boat, just like this little boat, and I had no idea it was coming, but all houses along the river - normally they were just these small, wooden house, sort of a brown color, and they were all just colored golden yellow and it was really trippy.  It was like - I don’t know what it was like actually.  It was very - I’ve never seen anything like it since. 

And then I could make out - and I asked people, but I could make out that actually it was butterflies.  These yellow butterflies that just arrive every summer just for a couple of days and so the whole place just gets completely transformed.  It’s like thousands and thousands and thousands of them and they come - they're actually attracted to the houses because they're attracted to animal waste and human waste and that’s what they come for, which isn’t quite so romantic, right?  But, the actual - what they do to the houses is just spectacular.  And they just stay for a couple of days and then they go.  So, that way one of the very dramatic things that I thought of or that - about beauty.

there's also individual insects.  That was like a mass beauty I suppose, but there's also individual insects and how amazing it is just to take the time and really look at them.  Even something like a fly is really quite amazing if you can look at them.  If I find dead insects I try to save them.  I keep them and then look at them under a little lens or something.  Even with a pair of glasses you can look at them.  They’re just - and really - and it’s amazing what you find in New York.  I found little scarab beetles and all kinds of things and they're really just amazing when you look at them and to think about too because they're just so different.  You have no - there's not really any way to sort of access their interior life at all.  With most animals we think that we’ve got some way of making some connection, but with insects we don’t really.  We can look at their behavior and sort of speculate, but not really.

Recorded on March 22, 2010

The New School University anthropologist thinks insects are "astonishingly beautiful," both individually and en masse.

LIVE TOMORROW | Jordan Klepper: Comedians vs. the apocalypse

Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

LGBTQ+ community sees spike in first-time depression in wake of coronavirus​

Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Coronavirus
  • Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
  • Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
  • The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Keep reading Show less

The mind-blowing science of black holes

What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.

Videos
  • When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
  • A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
  • Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Keep reading Show less

Space travel could create language unintelligible to people on Earth

A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.

Credit: NASA Ames Research Center.
Surprising Science
  • A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
  • Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
  • This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast