Vali Nasr: What inspires you?

Question: What inspires you?

Vali Nasr: Well there are different things we try to achieve.

Within the narrow confines of academia, you strive for intellectual excellence. We’re all interested in complex issues. We’re driven by the life of the mind. We enjoy the intellectual give and take. And we like to learn more and shed more light on what we work on, be it theoretical issues or issues about countries we’re interested in.

But also, at least in my own case, I strive to make the Middle East much more understandable to a broader American public. Because I think at this particular juncture in time, it is the one relationship we have in the world which matters much more than any others to our future security, prosperity, our position in the world – in ways that it didn’t only a decade ago.

And I think there is a dearth of knowledge. There is a huge vacuum of knowledge in the United States about fundamental issues, and our relationship with the Muslim world and the Middle East. And therefore I think engaging in the public discourse of the kind that we’re actually doing now for a broader audience is an important service.

As an American and as a Muslim; as somebody with an origin in the Middle East, I see it as an important duty to help create that bridge in the public arena.

Recorded on: Dec 3, 2007

"I strive to make the Middle East much more understandable to a broader American public."

Do you worry too much? Stoicism can help

How imagining the worst case scenario can help calm anxiety.

Credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY via Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Stoicism is the philosophy that nothing about the world is good or bad in itself, and that we have control over both our judgments and our reactions to things.
  • It is hardest to control our reactions to the things that come unexpectedly.
  • By meditating every day on the "worst case scenario," we can take the sting out of the worst that life can throw our way.
Keep reading Show less

Study: People will donate more to charity if they think something’s in it for them

A study on charity finds that reminding people how nice it feels to give yields better results than appealing to altruism.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Personal Growth
  • A study finds asking for donations by appealing to the donor's self-interest may result in more money than appealing to their better nature.
  • Those who received an appeal to self-interest were both more likely to give and gave more than those in the control group.
  • The effect was most pronounced for those who hadn't given before.
Keep reading Show less

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
Keep reading Show less

160-million-year-old ‘Monkeydactyl’ was the first animal to develop opposable thumbs

The 'Monkeydactyl' was a flying reptile that evolved highly specialized adaptations in the Mesozoic Era.

Credit: Zhou et al.
Surprising Science
  • The 'Monkeydactly', or Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, was a species of pterosaur, a group of flying reptiles that were the first vertebrates to evolve the ability of powered flight.
  • In a recent study, a team of researchers used microcomputed tomography scanning to analyze the anatomy of the newly discovered species, finding that it was the first known species to develop opposable thumbs.
  • As highly specialized dinosaurs, pterosaurs boasted unusual anatomy that gave them special advantages as aerial predators in the Mesozoic Era.
Keep reading Show less