Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Watch the rest of Niel deGrasse Tyson's interview http://bigthink.com/neildegrassetyson. Neil deGrasse Tyson says Newton's writings defy gravity by making his hair stand up. Question: Who's the greatest physicist in history?DeGrasse Tyson: Isaac Newton. I mean, just look... You read his writings. Hair stands up... I don't have hair there but if I did, it would stand up on the back of my neck. You read his writings, the man was connected to the universe in ways that I never seen another human being connected. It's kind of spooky actually. He discovers the laws of optics, figured out that white light is composed of colors. That's kind of freaky right there. You take your colors of the rainbow, put them back together, you have white light again. That freaked out the artist of the day. How does that work? Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet gives you white. The laws of optics. He discovers the laws of motion and the universal law of gravitation. Then, a friend of his says, "Well, why do these orbits of the planets... Why are they in a shape of an ellipse, sort of flattened circle? Why aren't... some other shape?" He said, you know, "I can't... I don't know. I'll get back to you." So he goes... goes home, comes back couple of months later, "Here's why. They're actually conic sections, sections of a cone that you cut." And... And he said, "Well, how did find this out? How did you determine this?" "Well, I had to invent integral and differential calculus to determine this." Then, he turned 26. Then, he turned 26. We got people slogging through calculus in college just to learn what it is that Isaac Newtown invented on a dare, practically. So that's my man, Isaac Newton. Question: Who's the greatest physicist in history?DeGrasse Tyson: Isaac Newton. I mean, just look... You read his writings. Hair stands up... I don't have hair there but if I did, it would stand up on the back of my neck. You read his writings, the man was connected to the universe in ways that I never seen another human being connected. It's kind of spooky actually. He discovers the laws of optics, figured out that white light is composed of colors. That's kind of freaky right there. You take your colors of the rainbow, put them back together, you have white light again. That freaked out the artist of the day. How does that work? Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet gives you white. The laws of optics. He discovers the laws of motion and the universal law of gravitation. Then, a friend of his says, "Well, why do these orbits of the planets... Why are they in a shape of an ellipse, sort of flattened circle? Why aren't... some other shape?" He said, you know, "I can't... I don't know. I'll get back to you." So he goes... goes home, comes back couple of months later, "Here's why. They're actually conic sections, sections of a cone that you cut." And... And he said, "Well, how did find this out? How did you determine this?" "Well, I had to invent integral and differential calculus to determine this." Then, he turned 26. Then, he turned 26. We got people slogging through calculus in college just to learn what it is that Isaac Newtown invented on a dare, practically. So that's my man, Isaac Newton.
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Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 The physicist scoffed at the idea of quantum entanglement, calling it "spooky action at a distance." And while it has in fact been proven to exist, this entanglement can't be used to transmit any usable information.
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Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Dr. Kaku answers the question of whether it is possible to resurrect the dinosaurs by "turning on" their ancient genes? Moreover, now that we have also sequenced the genes of the Neanderthal man, at some point in the future it may be possible to bring him back. And then of course, if a young Neanderthal boy is born then the question is where do you put the boy, in a zoo or at Harvard? Transcript-- Michio Kaku: We have taken cells from the carcass of an animal that died decades ago and brought them back to life and so it is possible using today's technology to take bodies, carcasses of animals that died decades ago and resurrect them in the form of clones. Now we have also sequenced the genes of the Neanderthal man, meaning that at some point in the future it may be possible to bring back the Neanderthal man. In fact, at Harvard University one professor even made a proposal as to how much it would cost to reassemble the genome of the Neanderthal man. And then of course, if a young Neanderthal boy is born then the question is where do you put the boy, in a zoo or at Harvard? This is a question that we're going to be facing in the coming decades because it is possible that we might be able to bring back the mammoths. We're talking about creatures that walked the surface of the earth tens of thousands of years ago and we have their genome and it's a serious proposal now that we're closing in on sequencing all the genes of a mammoth to bring the mammoth - by inserting a fertilized egg inside the womb of an elephant and having an elephant give birth to a mammoth. Now dinosaurs are much more difficult. They perished 65 million years ago, not tens of thousands of years ago. However, something has happened that I thought would not happen in my lifetime and that is we have soft tissue from the dinosaurs. I never thought it would be possible in my lifetime. If you take a hadrosaur and crack open the thigh bones, bingo. You find soft tissue right there in the bone marrow. Who would have thought? T-Rex's too and scientists have analyzed not the DNA, but the proteins inside the soft tissue. Not surprisingly, we find the proteins of chickens and also frogs and reptiles, which means of course that dinosaurs we can now show biochemically are very closely related to birds. In fact, we think birds are dinosaurs that survived the cataclysm of 65 million years ago. Now there is another proposal to use what is called epigenetics. Nature does not simply throw away good genes. Nature simply turns them off. For example, we have the genes in our own body that would put hair all over our body and you can actually turn that gene and create, quote, unquote, a werewolf. In fact, in Mexico City there are two young boys with hair all over their bodies that are acrobats in a circus and scientists have sequenced the genes and yes, it is a very ancient gene that they have. With chickens we can actually see the genes for chickens that were turned off because of epigenetics, genes that give webbing between the toes of a chicken because a long time ago chickens had webbed feet and also teeth. You can actually bring back teeth inside chickens. So then the question is, is it possible to make the next big leap to use epigenetics, to use gene therapy, to use all the different kinds of therapies we have, mix all these things up in the memory of a computer and have the computer give the best fit for a reptile that is like a dinosaur, insert that perhaps, into the womb of maybe an alligator or a whatever and perhaps give birth to an egg, which will hatch something resembling a dinosaur. Well that's not possible today, but it's not out of the question. It's not out of the question that at some point in the future we'll use a computer to take all these bits of DNA from living lizards, from the—extracting information from the proteins of soft tissue from hadrosaurs and assemble the best mathematical approximation to a dinosaur and have it give birth to an egg. Directed / Produced by Elizabeth Rodd and Jonathan Fowler
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Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 We'll have to recalibrate everything -- the age of the universe, the age of stars, the distance to the stars, the basic structure of modern electronics, the GPS, nuclear weapons -- all of that would have to be recalibrated and rethought ...
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Dan Harris explains the neuroscience behind meditation, but reminds us that the ancient practice isn't magic and likely won't send one floating into the cosmic ooze. He predicts that the exercise will soon become regularly scheduled maintenance, as commonplace as brushing your teeth or eating your veggies. Harris, an ABC News correspondent, was turned on to mediation after a live, on-air panic attack. His latest book is 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story (http://goo.gl/wfSX4E). Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Transcript - There’s no way a fidgety and skeptical news anchor would ever have started meditating were it not for the science. The science is really compelling. It shows that meditation can boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, help you deal with problems ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to psoriasis. And the neuroscience is where it really gets sci-fi. There was a study out of Harvard that shows that short daily doses of meditation can literally grow the gray matter in key areas of your brain having to do with self-awareness and compassion and shrink the gray matter in the area associated with stress. There was also a study out of Yale that looked at what’s called the default mode network of the brain. It’s a connected series of brain regions that are active during most of our waking hours when we’re doing that thing that human beings do all the time which is obsessing about ourselves, thinking about the past, thinking about the future, doing anything but being focused on what’s happening right now. Meditators not only turn off the default mode network of their brain while they’re meditating but even when they’re not meditating. In other words, meditators are setting a new default mode. And what’s that default mode? They’re focused on what’s happening right now. In sports this is called being in the zone. It’s nothing mystical. It’s not magical. You’re not floating off into cosmic ooze. You are just being where you are – big cliché in self-help circles is being in the now. You can use that term if you want but because it’s accurate. It’s slightly annoying but it’s accurate. It’s more just being focused on what you’re doing. And the benefits of that are enormous. And this is why you’re seeing these unlikely meditators now, why you’re seeing the U.S. Marines adopting it, the U.S. Army, corporate executives from the head of Ford to the founders of Twitter. Athletes from Phil Jackson to many, many Olympians. Scientists, doctors, lawyers, school children. There’s this sort of elite subculture of high achievers who are adopting this because they know it can help you be more focused on what you’re doing and it can stop you from being yanked around by the voice in your head. My powers of prognostication are not great. I bought a lot of stock in a company that made Palm Pilot back in 2000 and that didn’t go so well for me. But having said that I’m going to make a prediction. I think we’re looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution. In the 1940s if you told people that you went running they would say, who’s chasing you. Right now if you tell people you meditate – and I have a lot of experience with telling people this, they’re going to look at you like you’re a little weird most of the time. That’s going to change. Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you. These are all things that if you don’t do you feel guilty about. And that is where I think we’re heading with meditation because the science is so strongly suggestive that meditation can do really, really great things for your brain and for your body. The common assumption that we have, and it may be subconscious, is that our happiness really depends on external factors – how was our childhood, have we won the lottery recently, did we marry well, did we marry at all. But, in fact, meditation suggests that happiness is actually a skill, something you can train just the way you can train your body in the gym. It’s a self-generated thing. And that’s a really radical notion. It doesn’t mean that external circumstances aren’t going to impact your happiness. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to be subject to the vagaries of an impermanent, entropic universe. It just means you are going to be able to navigate this with a little bit more ease. Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
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Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson claims the title "scientist" above all other "ists." And yet, he says he is "constantly claimed by atheists." So where does he stand? "Neil deGrasse, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic." Neil deGrasse Tyson: I'm often asked -- and occasionally in an accusatory way -- "Are you atheist?" And it's like, you know, the only "ist" I am is a scientist, all right? I don't associate with movements. I'm not an "ism." I just - I think for myself. The moment when someone attaches to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you, and when you want to have a conversation they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association. And that's not the way to have a conversation. I'm sorry. It's not. I'd rather we explore each other's ideas in real time rather than assign a label to it and assert, you know, what's going to happen in advance. So what people are really after is, what is my stance on religion or spirituality or God? And I would say, if I find a word that came closest it would be agnostic. Agnostic -- the word dates from the 19th century -- Huxley -- to refer to someone who doesn't know but hasn't yet really seen evidence for it but is prepared to embrace the evidence if it's there but if it's not won't be forced to have to think something that is not otherwise supported. There are many atheists who say, "Well, all agnostics are atheists." Okay. I'm constantly claimed by atheists. I find this intriguing. In fact, on my Wiki page -- I didn't create the Wiki page, others did, and I'm flattered that people cared enough about my life to assemble it -- and it said, "Neil deGrasse is an atheist." I said, "Well that's not really true." I said, "Neil deGrasse is an agnostic." I went back a week later. It said, "Neil deGrasse is an atheist." -- again within a week -- and I said, "What's up with that?" and I said, "I have to word it a little differently." So I said, okay, "Neil deGrasse, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic." And some will say, well, that's -- "You're not being fair to the fact that they're actually the same thing." No, they're not the same thing, and I'll tell you why. Atheists I know who proudly wear the badge are active atheists. They're like in your face atheist and they want to change policies and they're having debates. I don't have the time, the interest, the energy to do any of that. I'm a scientist. I'm an educator. My goal is to get people thinking straight in the first place, just get you to be curious about the natural world. That's what I'm about. I'm not about any of the rest of this. And it's odd that the word atheist even exists. I don't play golf. Is there a word for non-golf players? Do non-golf players gather and strategize? Do non-skiers have a word and come together and talk about the fact that they don't ski? I don't—I can't do that. I can't gather around and talk about how much everybody in the room doesn't believe in God. I just don't—I don't have the energy for that, and so I . . . Agnostic separates me from the conduct of atheists whether or not there is strong overlap between the two categories, and at the end of the day I'd rather not be any category at all. Directed / Produced byJonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
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Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Rollins describes the seminal moment when he decided to leave his job as manager of Haagen Dazs to become the lead singer of Black Flag. Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd http://bigthink.com/
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Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 The physicist sees two major trends in the world today: the first is toward a multicultural, scientific, tolerant society; the other, as evidenced by terrorism, is fundamentalist and monocultural. Whichever one wins out will determine the fate of mankind.
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Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 The physicist explains why other universes in the mulitverse could have many more dimensions—and could comprise Einstein's "Mind of God." Question: Are there only three dimensions in other universes or could there be more? (Submitted by Andre Lapiere)Michio Kaku: Andre, we believe, though we cannot yet prove, that our multiverse of universes is 11-dimensional. So think of this 11-dimensional arena and in this arena there are bubbles, bubbles that float and the skin of the bubble represents an entire universe, so we're like flies trapped on fly paper. We're on the skin of a bubble. It's a three dimensional bubble. The three dimensional bubble is expanding and that is called the Big Bang theory and sometimes these bubbles can bump into each other, sometimes they can split apart and that we think is the Big Bang. So we even have a theory of the Big Bang itself. Now you ask a question what about the dimensions of each bubble. Well in string theory—which is what I do for a living; that's my day job—In string theory we can have bubbles of different dimensions. The highest dimension is 11. You cannot go beyond 11 because universes become unstable beyond 11. If I write down the theory of a 13-, 15-dimensional universe it's unstable and it collapses down to an 11-dimensional universe. But within 11 dimensions you can have bubbles that are 3 dimensional, 4-dimensional, 5-dimensional. These are membranes, so for short we call them brains. So these brains can exist in different dimensions and let's say P represents the dimension of each bubble, so we call them p-brains. So a p-brain is a universe in different dimensions floating in a much larger arena, and this larger arena is the hyperspace that I talked about originally. Also remember that each bubble vibrates, and each bubble vibrating creates music. The music of these membranes is the subatomic particles. Each subatomic particle represents a note on a vibrating string or vibrating membranes. So, believe it or not, we now have a candidate for the "Mind of God" that Albert Einstein wrote about for the last 30 years of his life. The "Mind of God" in this picture would be cosmic music resonating throughout 11-dimensional hyperspace. Recorded September 29, 2010Interviewed by Paul Hoffman Question: Are there only three dimensions in other universes or could there be more? (Submitted by Andre Lapiere)Michio Kaku: Andre, we believe, though we cannot yet prove, that our multiverse of universes is 11-dimensional. So think of this 11-dimensional arena and in this arena there are bubbles, bubbles that float and the skin of the bubble represents an entire universe, so we're like flies trapped on fly paper. We're on the skin of a bubble. It's a three dimensional bubble. The three dimensional bubble is expanding and that is called the Big Bang theory and sometimes these bubbles can bump into each other, sometimes they can split apart and that we think is the Big Bang. So we even have a theory of the Big Bang itself. Now you ask a question what about the dimensions of each bubble. Well in string theory—which is what I do for a living; that's my day job—In string theory we can have bubbles of different dimensions. The highest dimension is 11. You cannot go beyond 11 because universes become unstable beyond 11. If I write down the theory of a 13-, 15-dimensional universe it's unstable and it collapses down to an 11-dimensional universe. But within 11 dimensions you can have bubbles that are 3 dimensional, 4-dimensional, 5-dimensional. These are membranes, so for short we call them brains. So these brains can exist in different dimensions and let's say P represents the dimension of each bubble, so we call them p-brains. So a p-brain is a universe in different dimensions floating in a much larger arena, and this larger arena is the hyperspace that I talked about originally. Also remember that each bubble vibrates, and each bubble vibrating creates music. The music of these membranes is the subatomic particles. Each subatomic particle represents a note on a vibrating string or vibrating membranes. So, believe it or not, we now have a candidate for the "Mind of God" that Albert Einstein wrote about for the last 30 years of his life. The "Mind of God" in this picture would be cosmic music resonating throughout 11-dimensional hyperspace. Recorded September 29, 2010Interviewed by Paul Hoffman
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Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Graphene is in incredibly strong, one-molecule thick layer of carbon atoms that could someday be used to create life-sustaining nanorobots. Michio Kaku: Matthew, there is nothing in the laws of physics to prevent nanobots, microscopic robots, from circulating in the bloodstream and bulking us up, strengthening our bones, giving us the power of Superman. There is nothing in the laws of physics to prevent that. However, the reality is much, much more complicated. Let's take a look at nanotechnology today. It's very primitive. It is a multibillion dollar industry only because we use it for coatings, coatings to make fabric stronger and coatings for different kinds of appliances. We also use it in airbags. Believe it or not there is a tiny sensor, an accelerometer in your airbag—compliments of nanotechnology—that create the gigantic explosion of an airbag. But that's today. The promise is that in the coming decades with carbon nanotubes, with graphene, we'll create even new substances which can replace the silicon of computers, maybe even give us a space elevator. Graphene for example, is a substance made out of one-molecule-thick layer of carbon. Think about that. Think of like Saran Wrap made out of one-molecule-thick carbon atoms. That graphene is so strong in principle you can take an elephant, put the elephant on a pencil, suspend the pencil on graphene and graphene will not break. That is how strong it is. It is the strongest material known to science at the present time. However, having these nanobots in our body—that is decades away. We can't even create a nanobot that is large that will do most of these things on a microscopic scale. Forget going down to the atomic scale. So to summarize: yes, in principle there is nothing in the laws of physics to prevent nanobots from invigorating us, changing our molecular structure, changing our bone structure and skeleton. However, the practical implementation of that is staggering. It's not going to happen for many decades to come. Michio Kaku: Matthew, there is nothing in the laws of physics to prevent nanobots, microscopic robots, from circulating in the bloodstream and bulking us up, strengthening our bones, giving us the power of Superman. There is nothing in the laws of physics to prevent that. However, the reality is much, much more complicated. Let's take a look at nanotechnology today. It's very primitive. It is a multibillion dollar industry only because we use it for coatings, coatings to make fabric stronger and coatings for different kinds of appliances. We also use it in airbags. Believe it or not there is a tiny sensor, an accelerometer in your airbag—compliments of nanotechnology—that create the gigantic explosion of an airbag. But that's today. The promise is that in the coming decades with carbon nanotubes, with graphene, we'll create even new substances which can replace the silicon of computers, maybe even give us a space elevator. Graphene for example, is a substance made out of one-molecule-thick layer of carbon. Think about that. Think of like Saran Wrap made out of one-molecule-thick carbon atoms. That graphene is so strong in principle you can take an elephant, put the elephant on a pencil, suspend the pencil on graphene and graphene will not break. That is how strong it is. It is the strongest material known to science at the present time. However, having these nanobots in our body—that is decades away. We can't even create a nanobot that is large that will do most of these things on a microscopic scale. Forget going down to the atomic scale. So to summarize: yes, in principle there is nothing in the laws of physics to prevent nanobots from invigorating us, changing our molecular structure, changing our bone structure and skeleton. However, the practical implementation of that is staggering. It's not going to happen for many decades to come.
Views: 1963935 Big Think
Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Quantum computing already exists, but on a truly miniscule scale. We'll probably have molecular computers before true quantum ones, says the physicist.
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Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Enzymes like Telomerase and Resveratrol, though not the Fountain of Youth unto themselves, offer tantalizing clues to how we might someday soon unravel the aging process. Question: Do you think the enzyme Telomerase could be used to reverse the aging process in our lifetime? (Submitted by Paul Cellura) Michio Kaku: Paul, Telomerase hit the headlines; however, I think we have to put it into perspective. It is not the fountain of youth; however, it is a significant breakthrough. We have to put it into a much larger perspective. First of all, we know that DNA is sort of like a shoelace. It has plastic tips at the end. Every time a cell reproduces, the tips get shorter and shorter and shorter until finally they fray. And you know that your shoelace, without the plastic tips will simply fall apart. That's what happens inside a cell. A cell, for example, your skin cell, will divide about 60 times, that's called a Hayflick Limit. Then the cell goes into senescence and eventually dies. So in some sense, every cell has a biological clock. It is doomed to die after about 60 reproductions. However, Telomerase can eliminate some of the contraction of the chromosomes and the chromosomes can maintain their length. So at first you may say, "ah-ha! We can now defeat the biological clock." But not so fast, first of all, cancer cells also use Telomerase. Cancer cells are immortal. Cancer cells are immortal and that's precisely why they kill you. Why are cancer cells so dangerous? Because they are immortal. They grow and they grow and they grow until they take over huge chunks of your body, meaning that your bodily functions cannot be performed and you die. So we have to make sure that when you hit ordinary cells with Telomerase that you don't also trigger cancer in the process. Now, also you have to realize that genes are also very essential for the aging process. It turns out that we know what aging is. Aging is the buildup of error. That's all aging is. The build up of genetic and cellular error. And cells begin to age; they begin to get sluggish because genetic mistakes start to build up. Now cells; however, have a repair mechanism. They can repair damage to their cells; otherwise we would all basically rot very soon after birth. However, even the repair mechanisms eventually get gummed up and then the cell really starts to get old as a consequence. So then the question is, can you accelerate cell repair? That is another branch of gerontology which is being looked at using genes and using chemicals to accelerate the repair mechanisms. For example, if I take any organism on the planet Earth from yeast cells to spiders, insects, rabbits, dogs, and even monkeys now. And I reduce their caloric intake by 30%, they live 30% longer. In fact the only organism which has not yet been deliberately tested by scientists are homo sapiens. All the other species obey this basic rule. You starve them to death, they live longer. This is independent of Telomerase. This is a function of the wear and tear that we have on the cells. And this is the only known way of actually deliberately extending the lifespan of any organisms almost at will. Now, what we want is a genetic way of mimicking this mechanism without having to starve yourself because how many people do you know would be willing to starve themselves in order to live 30% longer? Not too many. So then the question is, are there genes that control this process. And the answer is apparently, yes. There's something called the Sirtuin genes, Sir2 being the most prominent of them. They in turn stimulate certain enzymes, among them Resveratrol, which is found in red wine, for example. So this does not mean that drinking red wine or taking Telomerase is the fountain of youth. I don't think that anyone has the fountain of youth yet. What I am saying is, we are now finding pieces of the fountain of youth, tantalizing clues that mean that perhaps in the coming decades, we might be able to actually unravel the aging process. We don't have it yet. Don't go out to the drug store and stock up on these kinds of chemicals and enzymes thinking you're going to live forever. However it is conceivable that in the coming decades we'll come very close to finding it.
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Lawrence Krauss describes quantum computing and the technical obstacles we need to overcome to realize this Holy Grail of processing. Lawrence Krauss: Let me briefly describe the difference between a quantum computer and a regular computer, at some level. In a regular computer, you've got ones and zeros, which you store in binary form and you manipulate them and they do calculations. You can store them, for example, in a way that at least I can argue simply. Let's say you have an elementary particle that's spinning. If it's spinning, and we say it's spinning, it's pointing up or down depending upon whether it's spinning this way or this way, pointing up or down. And so, I could store the information by having lots of particles and some of them spinning up and some of them spinning down. Right? One's and zero's. But in the quantum world, it turns out that particles like electrons are actually spinning in all directions at the same time, one of the weird aspects of quantum mechanics. We may measure, by doing a measurement of an electron, find it's spinning this way. But before we did the measurement, it was spinning this way and this way and that way and that way all at the same time. Sounds crazy, but true. Now that means, if the electron's spinning in many different directions at the same time, if we don't actually measure it, it can be doing many computations at the same time. And so a quantum computer is based on manipulating the state of particles like electrons so that during the calculation, many different calculations are being performed at the same time, and only making a measurement at the end of the computation. So we exploit that fact of quantum mechanics that particles could do many things at the same time to do many computations at same time. And that's what would make a quantum computer so powerful. One of the reasons it's so difficult to make a quantum computer, and one of the reasons I'm a little skeptical at the moment, is that - the reason the quantum world seems so strange to us is that we don't behave quantum mechanically. I don't -- you know, you can - not me, but you could run towards the wall behind us from now 'til the end of the universe and bang your head in to it and you'd just get a tremendous headache. But if you're an electron, there's a probability if I throw it towards the wall that it will disappear and appear on the other side due to something called quantum tunneling, okay. Those weird quantum behaviors are manifest on small scales. We don't obey them - have those behaviors 'cause we're large classical objects and the laws of quantum mechanics tell us, in some sense, that when you have many particles interacting at some level those weird quantum mechanical correlations that produce all the strange phenomena wash away. And so in order to have a quantum mechanical state where you can distinctly utilize and exploit those weird quantum properties, in some sense you have to isolate that system from all of its environment because, if it interacts with the environment, the quantum mechanical weirdness sort of washes away. And that's the problem with a quantum computer. You want to make this macroscopic object, you want to keep it behaving quantum mechanically which means isolating it very carefully from, within itself, all the interactions and the outside world. And that's the hard part, Is isolating things enough to maintain this what's called quantum coherence. And that's the challenge and it's a huge challenge. But the potential is unbelievably great. Once you can engineer materials on a scale where quantum mechanical properties are important, a whole new world of phenomenon open up to you. And you might be able to say - as we say, if we created a quantum computer, and I'm not - I must admit I'm skeptical that we'll be able to do that in the near-term, but if we could, we'd be able to do computations in a finite time that would take longer than the age of the universe right now. We'd be able to do strange and wonderful things. And of course, if you ask me what's the next big breakthrough, I'll tell you what I always tell people, which is if I knew, I'd be doing it right now. Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd
Views: 359233 Big Think
http://bigthink.com Because of relativity, time moves faster the farther away you are from the center of the earth, meaning that your head ages slightly quicker than your feet. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/why-your-head-is-older-than-your-feet Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Believe it or not, a clock on your head beats at a different rate than a clock on your foot. We can now measure this and it has practical importance as well. First of all, Einstein said that time is a river. It's a gigantic river were all swept up in the river of time and it can speed up and it slows down. For example, on the moon; did you know, that time beats faster on the moon than it does on the earth and we can measure this? On Jupiter, time beats slower on Jupiter that it does on the Earth. So time beats at different rates. When an object moves very fast, time slows down inside that rocket that is moving very fast. If that rocket is then placed on the Moon, time beats faster. So we have to do competing effects. This has a direct implication with regards to your cell phone. Your cell phone has GPS which allows you to locate objects on planet Earth by focusing in on satellites orbiting the planet Earth. Satellites travel at 18,000 mph if they're in lower earth orbit; therefore time slows down for those low-lying satellites. But if satellites go farther and farther away, gravity gets less and less and less so time speeds up. So in outer space we have two competing effects. Fast satellite slowdown in time, very faraway satellites speed up inside and in fact, at one radius you could calculate time beats exactly at the same rate as it does on the planet earth. So what does it mean? Your GPS system would totally fail without Einstein's theory of special and general relativity.This also means that the top of your head because it is farther from the center of the earth, beats at a faster rate... time beats at a faster rate then your feet. So you can actually show that even within your own body now—our instruments are so accurate—that you could show within your own body the fact that time beats at different rates within your own body.
Views: 413049 Big Think
Michio Kaku describes how our prefrontal cortex disengages as we dream, thus suppressing the fact-checking component of our consciousness. Dr. Kaku's latest book is The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind (http://goo.gl/G06jvb). Read more at BigThink.com: http://goo.gl/odYmq4 Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: There’s a whole lore about dreaming. In fact, Sigmund Freud wrote a book called The Interpretation of Dreams which many people think is the foundation of psychoanalysis. Well scientists now have looked at Freudian psychology and the brain using all these modern techniques. And first of all we realize that perhaps Sigmund Freud wasn’t totally wrong. There are many textbooks which simply dismiss Freudian psychology calling it nuts. That is nothing but the sexual fantasies of a repressed Venetian scientist of the last century. But now we realize there’s more to it. First of all the unconscious mind. We can actually see the brain in motion and we realize that much of the activity is totally unconscious. Just like what Freud predicted. And Freud also said there is the ego, the id and the superego, that we are in a constant battle with our desires and our conscious. And we see that now with brain scans. The ego is basically your prefrontal cortex. That is who you are. When you wonder where am I anyway. Well, you’re right there. You are sitting right behind your forehead. And then your desires. We see the pleasure center right there at the center of the brain. That is the libido. We see where the pleasure center is located. And then your conscience is right behind your eyes. The orbital frontal cortex right behind your eyes is where your conscience is. And so we actually see that in motion. If you were to see a chocolate cake you would see these three parts of the brain going zippity back and forth like a ping pong ball because you’re constantly debating the pleasure of eating a chocolate cake versus how fat you’re gonna become and all the sugar and the calories that you don’t really need. So we see the beginnings of Freudian psychology coming out of brain scans. And now dreams. Freud had a whole collection of interpretation of dreams. Scientists have looked at and said, “Nonsense.” Now we understand the physiology of the dreaming process. And we realize that it comes at the back of the brain, the very primitive part of the brain and that certain parts of the brain are shut off when you dream. First of all your prefrontal cortex is basically shut off, it’s quiet. Your orbital frontal cortex that is your conscience is also shut off. But that part of the brain is your fact checker. The part of the brain that said, “Hmmm, that’s not right. Something’s wrong” is right behind your eyes. That’s shut off. What is active when you dream is your amygdala. Now what does your amygdala govern? Fear and emotions. And so right then you know that when you dream the active part of the brain is not the fact checker, not the rational brain – it’s the emotional brain, the fearful brain that is active when you dream. And then there’s some superstition called lucid dreaming where you can actually control the direction of the dream. Well that superstition last year became science fact. At the Max Planck Institute in Germany they were able to show once and for all that lucid dreaming is testable, reproducible – it is real. And here’s how they did it. They took a person who was about to go to sleep and told them that when you dream clench your right fist and then clench your left fist. Now when you dream you are paralyzed. You cannot move when you dream. Otherwise we’d be able to carry out all sorts of horrible things and destroy ourselves. So we are paralyzed when we dream. But when this person went into a dream state you can clearly see that the brain initiated orders to clench your right fist and your left fist. In other words, he was conscious while he was dreaming. There are many Buddhist texts, many texts hundreds of years old that give you the outlines of how to control dreams. Lucid dreaming. We now know that it’s not hogwash that you can actually do this. You can actually direct the course of your dream. And then one day we may be able to brain scan the brain as you dream and put it on a screen. In which case somebody will be able to see you dream and know the direction of the dream and you are conscious of the process. In other words, the movie Inception is not totally hogwash. Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton
Views: 423165 Big Think
Why should you bother to wake up tomorrow knowing that we're all going to die billions and billions of years from now when the universe turns to absolute zero, when the stars blink out, when we have nothing but neutron stars and black holes? Dr. Kaku says that billions of years from now we may be able to move to a different universe. Transcript -- In cosmology we believe that the universe started off in a big bang 13.7 billion years ago. All alternatives have been pretty much ruled out. Steady state theories, other alternatives have been ruled out. However, how will the universe end? We have several possibilities. One possibility is a big crunch when the universe squashes together in a gigantic ball of flame and maybe bangs once again. Another possibility is the big freeze, that the universe expands and just keeps on going and we're all going to freeze to death and we're all going to die when the universe reaches near absolute zero. Then there is something called the big rip where the universe goes into an exponential expansion and expands so rapidly that the distant galaxies can no longer be seen because they travel faster than the speed of light, that even the distant galaxies break the light barrier, and that's called the big rip, meaning that the night sky will be totally black except for some of the nearby stars. Which of the three alternatives is the fate of the universe? Well, the short answer is we don't know. However, what we do know is that the universe is undergoing an exponential runaway expansion. The universe at the present time is careening out of control. Every astronomy textbook says that there was a big bang. The universe is expanding, but it's slowing down. It also says that the universe is mainly made out of atoms. Every textbook says that. The universe is made out of atoms. The universe is expanding, but slowing down. Both are wrong. We have to rewrite every single high school textbook on the planet earth. The universe is not mainly made out of atoms. Four percent of the universe is made out of atoms, just four percent. 23% is made out of dark matter. 73%, which makes up most of the universe, is dark energy, and unfortunately, we are clueless as to what dark energy is and what dark matter is. In fact, if you ever find out what dark energy and dark matter is, be sure to tell me first. Now why is that important? Because the amount of matter and energy in the universe determines the rate of expansion. We now know there is a lot more dark energy than we previously thought. Therefore, the universe is undergoing an inflationary exponential expansion. It is in a runaway mode, but here is the catch: we don't know how long that runaway mode is going to last. Some people say that it's temporary. We're in this huge expansion right now, exponential expansion, but it's going to reverse itself. Instead of a red shift, we'll have a blue shift as the universe collapses. At the present time we simply don't know. Why don't we know? Because we don't know what dark energy is. In fact, if you were to try to write down a theory of dark energy, your number would not correspond to the data by a mismatch of 10 to the 120. That is the largest mismatch in the history of science. There is no mismatch bigger than 10 to the 120. So this is a mystery. Until we solve the mystery of dark energy, we do not know the ultimate fate of the universe. My personal thoughts are that perhaps we will continue with this exponential expansion and perhaps go into a big rip mode and at that point all intelligent life in the universe will die. All the tears and all the struggles and all the heartbreak of humanity since we rose from the swamp, it's all for nothing. Why should you bother to wake up tomorrow knowing that we're all going to die billions and billions of years from now when the universe turns to absolute zero, when the stars blink out, when we have nothing but neutron stars and black holes? What does it all mean anyway, if we're all going to die in a big rip? Well, my personal attitude is that when the universe is about to die, why not leave the universe? Trillions of years from now, we will have the ability to bend space and time into a pretzel. We'll be able to tie space into knots. We'll be what is called a type three, maybe a type four civilization, a galactic civilization with the capability of harnessing galactic power. At that point, when the universe becomes so cold that all life is freezing to death, I say let us escape the universe, go into hyperspace and go to another universe. Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd
Views: 395864 Big Think
Even if science is able to teleport humans across large distances, would the teleported human really be the same person or just an exact replica? What would happen to the soul? Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/dr-kakus-universe/the-metaphysics-of-teleportation Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: If quantum teleportation could teleport a whole human, would that transported human really be the same person or just an exact copy? (Submitted by Matthew Miossec) Michio Kaku: Matthew, you ask one of the most embarrassing and deepest theological questions at the merger, at the area where physics and philosophy collide. At the present time we can only teleport photons, particles of light and atoms like cesium and rubidium. That is it for the present time. However, in the coming years we do expect to be able to teleport molecules, maybe water, carbon dioxide. After that who knows? Maybe even DNA, maybe organic molecules. Now to teleport a human raises all the ethical questions that you mentioned, because the original first of all has to be destroyed in the process of quantum teleportation. So if get Captain Kirk, zap him across the room, you have now seen Captain Kirk die. You've seen his atoms fall apart, but here is this other Captain Kirk on the other side of the room who has the same bad jokes, who has the same character, all the personality quirks as the original Captain Kirk. So the imposter says, "No, I'm real. I have the memories, the personality, the quirks. I am Captain Kirk." Well you just saw the original die and if you believe in a soul that soul went to heaven or maybe the other place, but that person is dead, so who is this imposter over there? Does the imposter have a soul? So it raises the question are we nothing but information? Is the soul, the essence of who we are, nothing but information? Well I'm a physicist. We don't know the answer to that. All we're saying is: it is physically possible to teleport an entire human being across the room or maybe onto Mars. It is physically possible to do that and it raises a valid question. What happened to the soul if your original copy died and somebody out there has all your memories? What does that mean? And the answer is we don't know. Interviewed by Paul Hoffman
Views: 585352 Big Think
In this excerpt from his Floating University/Great Big Ideas lecture, Dr. Michio Kaku explains that string theory begins where Einstein's framework breaks down. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michio-kaku-explains-string-theory Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Full lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NbBjNiw4tk
Views: 751230 Big Think
Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Michio Kaku says that God could be a mathematician: "The mind of God we believe is cosmic music, the music of strings resonating through 11 dimensional hyperspace. That is the mind of God." Transcript-- Some people ask the question "Of what good is math?" What is the relationship between math and physics? Well, sometimes math leads. Sometimes physics leads. Sometimes they come together because, of course, there's a use for the mathematics. For example, in the 1600s Isaac Newton asked a simple question: if an apple falls then does the moon also fall? That is perhaps one of the greatest questions ever asked by a member of Homo sapiens since the six million years since we parted ways with the apes. If an apple falls, does the moon also fall? Isaac Newton said yes, the moon falls because of the Inverse Square Law. So does an apple. He had a unified theory of the heavens, but he didn't have the mathematics to solve the falling moon problem. So what did he do? He invented calculus. So calculus is a direct consequence of solving the falling moon problem. In fact, when you learn calculus for the first time, what is the first thing you do? The first thing you do with calculus is you calculate the motion of falling bodies, which is exactly how Newton calculated the falling moon, which opened up celestial mechanics. So here is a situation where math and physics were almost conjoined like Siamese twins, born together for a very practical question, how do you calculate the motion of celestial bodies? Then here comes Einstein asking a different question and that is, what is the nature and origin of gravity? Einstein said that gravity is nothing but the byproduct of curved space. So why am I sitting in this chair? A normal person would say I'm sitting in this chair because gravity pulls me to the ground, but Einstein said no, no, no, there is no such thing as gravitational pull; the earth has curved the space over my head and around my body, so space is pushing me into my chair. So to summarize Einstein's theory, gravity does not pull; space pushes. But, you see, the pushing of the fabric of space and time requires differential calculus. That is the language of curved surfaces, differential calculus, which you learn in fourth year calculus. So again, here is a situation where math and physics were very closely combined, but this time math came first. The theory of curved surfaces came first. Einstein took that theory of curved surfaces and then imported it into physics. Now we have string theory. It turns out that 100 years ago math and physics parted ways. In fact, when Einstein proposed special relativity in 1905, that was also around the time of the birth of topology, the topology of hyper-dimensional objects, spheres in 10, 11, 12, 26, whatever dimension you want, so physics and mathematics parted ways. Math went into hyperspace and mathematicians said to themselves, aha, finally we have found an area of mathematics that has no physical application whatsoever. Mathematicians pride themselves on being useless. They love being useless. It's a badge of courage being useless, and they said the most useless thing of all is a theory of differential topology and higher dimensions. Well, physics plotted along for many decades. We worked out atomic bombs. We worked out stars. We worked out laser beams, but recently we discovered string theory, and string theory exists in 10 and 11 dimensional hyperspace. Not only that, but these dimensions are super. They're super symmetric. A new kind of numbers that mathematicians never talked about evolved within string theory. That's how we call it "super string theory." Well, the mathematicians were floored. They were shocked because all of a sudden out of physics came new mathematics, super numbers, super topology, super differential geometry. All of a sudden we had super symmetric theories coming out of physics that then revolutionized mathematics, and so the goal of physics we believe is to find an equation perhaps no more than one inch long which will allow us to unify all the forces of nature and allow us to read the mind of God. And what is the key to that one inch equation? Super symmetry, a symmetry that comes out of physics, not mathematics, and has shocked the world of mathematics. But you see, all this is pure mathematics and so the final resolution could be that God is a mathematician. And when you read the mind of God, we actually have a candidate for the mind of God. The mind of God we believe is cosmic music, the music of strings resonating through 11 dimensional hyperspace. That is the mind of God. Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
Views: 3193200 Big Think
Michio Kaku on why Hollywood needs to make better aliens. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/the-alien-mind Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I love to watch science fiction movies but I cringe – I cringe whenever I see a depiction of the aliens. First of all the aliens speak perfect English. Not just British English. They speak perfect American English. And obviously they’re a human inside some kind of monkey suit. I mean we have Hollywood special effects, right. So why can’t we get better aliens. And then the aliens think just like us. They’re territorial. They want to conquer. They want resources. They want – they see humans as inferior. But you see, that’s only a byproduct of our evolution. Look at other animals in the animal kingdom. Some animals are not territorial, okay. They don’t have to conquer. We have other paradigms in the animal kingdom which are totally different form the way our brain is constructed. But when we look at aliens in the movies we’re basically projecting our own consciousness in aliens. Our fears, our desires are projected and they are a mirror of who we are, not a mirror of who they really are. For example, if we take a look at a bat or a dog, the dog’s brain is mainly interested in smells. It’s swirling in a universe of smells while a bat’s brain mainly is concentrated on sonar, on detecting clicks and echoes. Same thing with the dolphin brain. Their consciousness is totally different from our consciousness because they see things differently than us because of their evolutionary history. For example when we see a cat and the cat comes up to us and tries to purr next to us, we say to ourselves, “Oh, nice cat. The cat is being affectionate.” No. The cat is not being affectionate. It’s simply rubbing his hormones on you and saying, “I own this human. This human is mine. I’m marking my territory. This human feeds me twice a day. I’ve trained him.” So a cat sees the universe totally different than we do and yet we impose our thinking on an alien. Now on the question of intelligence. If these aliens are more intelligent than us, how would they be more intelligent? In the book I say that one of the main ingredients of intelligence is to predict the future. The ability to simulate today so we see tomorrow. And that requires a high level of intelligence to be able to understand the laws of nature, the laws of people. What is the most likely outcome of a future event. That requires intelligence. If they are more intelligent than us they will see the future much better than us. They will see outcomes that we cannot foresee. They will simulate scenarios that we cannot even dream of. They can outwit us every time. Think of a safecracker. A safecracker may have a low IQ, may have dropped out of elementary school. But the safecracker can simulate the future much better than a cop can and that’s why he can rob banks and get away with it. And so in other words, the criminal mind is not necessarily stupid because it has low IQ. It’s quite well adapted for what it does. And what it does is to simulate the future of a crime. Now think about when we encounter intelligent life that is more intelligent than us. They may see the world totally differently. Their world may be a world of smells, a world of sounds rather than a world of eyesight like our brain is constructed. And most important, they may be able to see the outcome of future events much better than us. They’ll be able to actually run circles around us because they see the future. Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton
Views: 731211 Big Think
Dr. Michio Kaku returns to Big Think studios to discuss his latest book, The Future of the Mind. Here, he explains how the quantifying approach common in physics can be used to model consciousness. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/consciousness-can-be-quantified Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: In the entire universe the two greatest scientific mysteries are first of all the origin of the universe itself. And second of all the origin of intelligence. Believe it or not, sitting on our shoulders is the most complex object that Mother Nature has created in the known universe. You have to go at least 24 trillion miles to the nearest star to find a planet that may have life and may have intelligence. And yet our brain only consumes about 20-30 watts of power and yet it performs calculations better than any large supercomputer. So it's a mystery. How is the brain wired up? And if we can figure that out what can we do with it to enhance our mental capabilities. When you look at the brain and all the parts of the brain they don't seem to make any sense at all. The visual part of the brain is way in the back, for example. Why is the brain constructed the way it is? Is this nothing but an accident of evolution? Well one way to look at it is through evolution. That is, the back of the brain is a so-called reptilian brain. The most ancient primitive part of the brain that governs balance, territoriality, mating. And so the very back of the brain is also the kind of brain that you find in reptiles. Now when I was a child I would go to the science museum and look at the snakes sometimes and they would stare back at me. And I would wonder, "What are they thinking about?" Well, I think now I know. What they're thinking about was, "Is this person lunch?" Then we have the center part of the brain going forward and that's a so-called monkey brain, the mammalian brain. The brain of emotions. The brain of social hierarchies. And then finally the front of the brain is the human brain, especially the prefrontal cortex. This is where rational thinking is. And when you ask yourself a question where am I anyway. The answer is right behind your forehead. That's where you really are. Well, I have a theory of consciousness which tries to wrap it all up together. There've been about 20,000 or so papers written about consciousness and no consensus. Never in the history of science have so many people devoted so much time to produce so little. Well, I'm a physicist and when we physicists look at a mysterious object the first thing we try to do is to create a model. A model of this object in space. And then we hit the play button and run it forward in time. This is how Newton was able to come up with the theory of gravity. This is how Einstein came up with relativity. So I tried to use this in terms of the human brain and evolution. So what I'm saying is I have a new theory of consciousness based on evolution. And that is consciousness is the number of feedback loops required to create a model of your position in space with relationship to other organisms and finally in relationship to time. So think of the consciousness of a thermostat. I believe that even a lowly thermostat has one unit of consciousness. That is, it senses the temperature around it. And then we have a flower. A flower has maybe, maybe ten units of consciousness. It has to understand the temperature, the weather, humidity, where gravity is pointing. And then finally we go to the reptilian brain which I call level 1 consciousness and reptiles basically have a very good understanding of their position in space, especially because they have to lunge out and grab prey. Then we have level 2 consciousness, the monkey consciousness. The consciousness of emotions, social hierarchies, where are we in relationship to the tribe. And then where are we as humans. As humans we are at level 3. We run simulations into the future. Animals apparently don't do this. They don't plan to hibernate. They don't plan the next day's agenda. They have no conception of tomorrow to the best of our ability. But that's what our brain does. Our brain is a prediction machine. And so when we look at the evolution from the reptilian brain to the mammalian brain to the prefrontal cortex, we realize that is the process of understanding our position in space with respect to others -- that is emotions -- and finally running simulations into the future.
Views: 574711 Big Think
What's beyond silicon? There have been a number of proposals: protein computers, DNA computers, optical computers, quantum computers, molecular computers.
Views: 396075 Big Think
Neil deGrasse Tyson says "the greatest of people that have ever been in society, they were never versions of someone else. They were themselves." Transcript-- I've had several people come up to me and say, "What can I do to be you?" And the only aspect of me that's really doable is I can tell you what my academic pedigree is and what I did as a kid and what things interested me, but what I do day-to-day is not the fulfillment of some preexisting job description. It's just things that I took interest in on my own that the general public happened to also appreciate or like or want access to. And so within my job description as Director of the Hayden Planetarium and as an educator, as an astrophysicist, I kept accreting other things that I did that people responded to, positively responded to. So, I can tell you about the academic pedigree. The rest, you have to create what it is that you do best that layers onto the formal training that may be behind it. I think the greatest of people that have ever been in society, they were never versions of someone else. They were themselves. You don't think about Michael Jordan the basketball player and say, "Oh, he was just like this other player." No, you don't even say, "He was like this player plus that player divided by two plus this." No. He's Michael Jordan. I think the greatest of people in society carved niches that represented the unique expression of their combinations of talents, and if everyone had the luxury of expressing the unique combinations of talents in this world, our society would be transformed overnight. It's the great tragedy -- people employed in ways that don't fully tap everything they do best in life. I am privileged and I don't take a day for granted on the job about the fact that what I do, what people most warmly receive about what I do, are some of the things that I do best in life. I'm honored and flattered by that combination of facts as they apply to me. So, your task is to find the combination of facts that apply to you. Then people will beat a path to your door. Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd Originally recordeed February 2012.
Views: 831961 Big Think
There's something fundamental we all need to understand about dark matter—it may not actually be matter at all. Neil deGrasse Tyson has a bone to pick with this misnomer that is distracting physicists and the public from the real discoveries to be made. Scientists know very little about "dark matter", and in fact it can only be observed indirectly by its effect on other objects. Tyson has a few suggestions for its re-naming: how about "Fred", he jokes, which is a name devoid of any implied meaning—suitable for our current level of knowledge. But if you want it to sound sexy and be accurate, then the way to go is dark gravity, according to Tyson. Why? Because when you add up everything in the universe—the stars, moons, gas clouds, black holes, everything—85% of gravity is unaccounted for. That is so-called "dark matter". What makes it so interesting isn't the wild-goose-chase question of whether or not it exists, but why it doesn't interact with ordinary, known matter? On the way to explaining that dark matter "doesn't give a rats ass about us," Tyson explores ghost particles, the essence of objects, and why we haven't found any dark matter planets. Tyson's new book is Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/neil-degrasse-tyson-dark-matter-is-a-misnomer Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink
Views: 334576 Big Think
Dan Ariely, the author of "Predictably Irrational," believes in associating undesirable tasks with pleasurable activities.
Views: 225490 Big Think
Sales guru and persuasion expert Daniel H. Pink explains how you can use motivational interviewing to influence others' thoughts and behaviors. Pink's latest book is To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/robby-berman/the-right-questions-get-others-to-convince-themselves-youre-right Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: So let me give you a hypothetical. Suppose that you're a parent and you have a daughter, say a teenage daughter, who's room is an absolute mess. It just looks like a bomb went off in there and you want your daughter to clean her room. You're trying to sell her on the idea of cleaning her room. What do you do? Well, you could try to bribe her and that might work in the short term. You could try to threaten her -- that might work in the short term. You can try to exhort her, you can try to, you know, tell her about the meaning of clean rooms. But there's actually a technique from actually the counseling literature really crystallized by a fellow named Mike Pantalon of Yale University called motivational interviewing. And what you can do more effectively is ask two irrational questions. So, let's say that you have a daughter named Maria and Maria has a messy room and you want Maria to clean her room. The two questions you could ask Maria are this. "Maria, on a scale of one to ten, one meaning I'm not ready at all; ten meaning I'm ready to do it right now. How ready are you, Maria, to clean your room." Now, Maria's room is a pig sty so she's not going to give you a ten or a nine or even a five. Maybe she'll give you a two. So she says, "Dad, I'm a two." Well here's where the second question comes in and it's a really interesting counterintuitive question. You say to Maria, "Okay, Maria. You're a two. Why didn't you pick a lower number?" Now our instincts as parents is to say -- as a parent of three kids I have this instinct very strongly. If my kid were to say to me I'm a two, I would say, "What, why are you a two? You should be a nine." But you say, "Why didn't you pick a lower number, Maria?" So here's what happens. Maria has to explain why she isn't a one. Okay. So she says, "Well, you know, I am 15 and I probably should get my act together. You know, if I had my room cleaner I'd be able to get to school on time, faster and maybe see my friends a little bit more. You know, you and mom never know where anything is anyway so I'm kind of wasting my time asking you to help me." What happens? With that second question why didn't you pick a lower number, Maria begins articulating her own reasons for doing something. And this is really axiomatic in sales and persuasion. When people have their own reasons for doing something -- not yours -- their own reasons for doing something they believe those reasons more deeply and adhere to the behavior more strongly. Now suppose Maria says, "Dad, on a scale of one to ten I'm a one." Okay. That makes things a little more complicated but it's actually really, really important to understand this. If you say to Maria -- if Maria says, "Dad, I'm a one." Here's what you say to Maria. "Maria, what can we do to make you a two." And what often that does is this. Maria will say, "Well maybe if you and mom help me for 15 minutes to get this started." "Maybe if you maybe not set the table and take out the trash tonight, that would free up some time for me." Because usually when people are a one, it's often because -- not because they're purely obstinate. It's because there's some kind of environmental obstacle in front of them. And if someone says they're a one, find out what that obstacle is, try to make them a two and that might give you some more momentum. Now the example I just gave had to do with parenting but you can use this more universally. Now you can't whip it out at every single persuasive encounter but you can use it to persuade your boss. You can use it maybe to persuade a reluctant prospect in an actual sales encounter. You can use it with someone -- your neighbor who's resisting moving his garbage cans or something like that. The key here -- and again you've got to go back to first principles here. The key here is that we tend to think that persuasion or motivation is something that one person does to another. And what the social science tells us very clearly is that it's really something that people do for themselves. And your job as a persuader, as a motivator, is to reset the context and surface people's own reasons for doing something. Because it works a lot better.
Views: 601466 Big Think
If we were able to move our brains, neuron-for-neuron, into a robot, would we still be the same person? Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/could-we-transport-our-consciousness-into-robots-2 Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Is consciousness imprinted in the brain, and will it be possible to transfer that via teleportation? (Submitted by Robin de Roover) Michio Kaku: Robin, you ask yet another very embarrassing question. Believe it or not even though tens of thousands of papers have been written about consciousness in the literature nobody has a suitable definition for "consciousness." What does it mean to be conscious and how do you encode it and what is the minimum amount of consciousness necessary to animate something else? This raises questions for artificial intelligence because some people in the field of AI believe that one day we will be immortal; we will live forever. But the question is what will live forever? The atoms that make up our body, that give us consciousness, that give rise to our personality and our fears and desires—that may die, but yet the essence of the neural circuits may survive. Now there are many ways to do this, so let’s break some of them down. The most ambitious has been proposed by people who believe that one day we will create a robot body that is perfect, a Superman, beautiful, elegant, super-powerful body with no brain. Then we will start to extract our brain tissue neuron-for-neuron and duplicate it with transistors. So for every neuron we take out of our brain we replace it with a transistor. Sooner or later chunks of our brain are removed and inserted transistor-for-transistor inside this robot body. Now we’re fully conscious during this process. Part of our brain computes here and part of our brain computes over there connected by wires. Well, after a few hours large portions of the brain are gutted and huge chunks of transistors are added to this robot of silicon and steel and when it’s finally finished you now have no brain in your head and here is a robot with a complete brain and a complete body. That is one of the most ambitious ways to transfer consciousness from our body to another body and then the question is: is that really you? Well there is another way to do it and that way was explored in "The Sixth Day" with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In that movie the bad guys get killed, but each bad guy was cloned, cloned. And somebody was able to somehow photograph all the memories of our brain and insert these memories into the clone. Now we don’t know how to do that, obviously. That is way beyond our technology, so don’t expect Arnold Schwarzenegger to come back fully-formed, with all his memories, as a clone. That is not going to happen anytime soon. However, the initial steps are once again being made at CalTech for example. They’ve been able to take a mouse brain and look at a certain part of the brain where memories are processed. Memories are processed at the very center of our brain and they’ve been able to duplicate the functions of that with a chip. So again, this does not mean that we can encode memories with a chip, but it does mean that we’ve been able to take the information storage of a mouse brain and have a silicon chip duplicate those functions. And so was mouse consciousness created in the process? I don’t know. I don’t know whether a mouse is conscious or not. But it does mean that at least in principle maybe it’s possible to transfer our consciousness and at some point maybe even become immortal.
Views: 624503 Big Think
It's foreign-born scientists that keep the U.S. winning all those Nobel Prizes. But we can't rely on their superior education forever. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/the-secret-weapon-of-american-science Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Unfortunately, I'm rather pessimistic about the way we teach science. And some people ask me a simple question. They are visitors from overseas. And they say that, "Wow, America has so many Nobel laureates, but it has one of the worst education programs known to science." This is measurable. Our kids scored dead last of all the other developed nations. And our students ranked actually a little bit below the students of Jordan in science and math tests. So my friends from overseas ask a simple question. Why doesn't America collapse? I mean, where do all these Nobel laureates come from, and these innovations come from that we see coming from Silicone Valley? Well, America has several secret weapons that most nations have never heard of. First of all, our secret weapon, the weapon that keeps us at the forefront of innovation and scientific progress and high tech, is the H1B. That is our secret weapon that most nations and people have never heard of. The H1B is the genius visa. You are "a genius," a PhD, you have wealth, you're an established figure, zoom you go right into the United States to energize Silicon Valley, which is 50% foreign born. Yes, you see Bill Gates. Yes, you see Steve Jobs out there, but 50% of the **** scientists behind Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are foreign-born. There's a brain drain. A tremendous brain drain into the United States. The top talent comes here. This is where innovation takes place and is rewarded financially. But there are other reasons why America does catch up. First of all, America does "see the genius in the classroom." The young Bill Gates, the young Steve Jobs, the young Albert Einstein. These people **** because in the East there is an expression, "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down." In the East there is this Confucian tradition that you're not supposed to make your peers look bad by excelling and trying to achieve something beyond their abilities. However, in the West, we have another saying, and that is, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." So, the innovators, the real imaginative thinkers, they are rewarded in the American system, while in the East they are hammered down. And third, our college system is not so bad. Even though our high school system graduates generations of near-illiterate students, by the time they hit college, then that's when they begin to accelerate. That's when they begin to get up to speed. But you know, we cannot sustain our scientific establishment this way. We cannot continue to depend on foreign scientists. We cannot continue to depend on the genius that may or may not arise, and we certainly cannot depend on college being a remedial high school.
Views: 464947 Big Think
Sam Harris discusses the virtues of psychedelics such as LSD and MDMA. While he does not condone the use of these drugs without caveat, he does acknowledge their profound consciousness-altering properties. Harris is the author of Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/think-tank/sam-harris-discusses-mdma-and-psychedelics Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Well many people ask me about the virtues of psychedelics because I’ve written about this on my blog and in my book Waking Up. And they were at a point early in my inquiry they were indispensable and this is an experience that’s shared by many Westerners. It’s hard to really recommend psychedelics without serious caveats because some of them I think are probably neurotoxic. Some are really well tolerated but still you can have very scary destabilizing experiences on them. So you just can’t without a caveat recommend that people drop acid or take MDMA. So it’s – everything I say on the subject should be understood in that context. But for some people taking a drug is the only way they’re going to notice that it’s possible to have a very different experience of the world. They’re sufficiently lumpen and uninquisitive about the nature of their own minds that if you tell them to meditate, if you teach them mindfulness, if you tell them how to follow their breath they will look inside for 30 seconds or 30 minutes and see nothing of interest and walk away feeling that there’s no there there. Either it doesn’t work for them or that everyone else must be just faking it or there’s – it requires a certain talent and a certain degree of luck, therefore, to have enough concentration to connect with any “spiritual practice” the first time or even the tenth time or even after a year of attempting it because it’s just – these practices are difficult and the conditioning of our minds to just ceaselessly talk is deep. So, as Terence McKenna once said, “Psychedelics are the only method that truly guarantee an effect.” And this effect can be, again, very painful. You’re not necessarily going to have a good experience but there’s no question that if someone gives you 100 micrograms of acid something is going to happen. Two hours later, the significance of your existence will have just been borne down on you like an avalanche. And again this can be terrifying or it can be absolutely sublime depending on various causes and conditions. But the one thing it cannot be is boring. And that is you can’t say that about yoga or meditation or just going into solitude or anything else that – any other, you know, non-pharmacological means of inquiry. So, where drugs have been indispensable for many people is in advertising the possibility of a change in consciousness. And so I don’t think they’re durable methods for people that – I don’t think you need or should just keep taking drugs month after month, year after year, as a mode of spiritual inquiry. But there’s certainly a period in many people’s lives at the beginning where you wouldn’t even see a glimmer of reason to suspect that a radical change in the nature of your experience would be possible. My first experience with psychedelics that was important, that actually shifted my view of human possibility was with MDMA which I took before it became a club drug. I think this was in 1987 I took it. And no one I knew, no one of my generation had taken it. And although the drug obviously goes back many decades before that. And it had not been adopted by popular culture as a party drug. So this was coming pretty much coming out of the therapeutic community. People were doing in a closeted way psychotherapy with it. And I took it as a means of discovering something about the nature of my mind. It was not a social situation. I was just – a friend and I were alone and we took it together and just had a conversation on this drug. And what was revelatory about it was that it was an experience of absolute sobriety. It was not – there was no druggy component to it. We just became clearer and clearer and clearer in our thinking and feeling. And the crucial component of this was a loss of any feeling of self-concern.
Views: 561020 Big Think
http://bigthink.com The co-founder of Field String Theory explains why the universe has 11 dimensions rather than any other number. Question: Why are there only 11 dimensions in the universe rather than something higher? (Submitted by John Menon) Michio Kaku: I work in something called String Theory, that's what I do for a living. In fact, that's my day job. I'm the co-founder of String Field Theory, one of the main branches of String Theory. The latest version of String Theory is called M-Theory, "M" for membrane. So we now realize that strings can coexist with membranes. So the subatomic particles we see in nature, the quartz, the electrons are nothing but musical notes on a tiny vibrating string. What is physics? Physics is nothing but the laws of harmony that you can write on vibrating strings. What is chemistry? Chemistry is nothing but the melodies you can play on interacting vibrating strings. What is the universe? The universe is a symphony of vibrating strings. And then what is the mind of God that Albert Einstein eloquently wrote about for the last 30 years of his life? We now, for the first time in history have a candidate for the mind of God. It is, cosmic music resonating through 11 dimensional hyperspace. So first of all, we are nothing but melodies. We are nothing but cosmic music played out on vibrating strings and membranes. Obeying the laws of physics, which is nothing but the laws of harmony of vibrating strings. But why 11? It turns out that if you write a theory in 15, 17, 18 dimensions, the theory is unstable. It has what are called, anomalies. It has singularities. It turns out that mathematics alone prefers the universe being 11 dimensions. Now some people have toyed with 12 dimensions. At Harvard University, for example, some of the physicists there have shown that a 12-dimensional theory actually looks very similar to an 11-dimensional theory except it has two times, double times rather than one single time parameter. Now, what would it be like to live in a universe with double time? Well, I remember a movie with David Niven. David Niven played a pilot, who was shot down over the Pacific, but the angels made a mistake, he was not supposed to die that day. And so the angels brought him back to life and said, "Oh, sorry about that. We killed you off by accident; you were not supposed to die today." So in a great scene, David Niven then walks through a city where time has stopped. Everyone looks like this. And there's David Niven just wandering around looking at all these people. That's a world with double time. David Niven has one clock, but everyone else has a separate clock and these two clocks are perpendicular to each other. So if there's a double time universe, you could walk right into a room, see people frozen in time, while you beat to a different clock. That's a double time universe. Now this is called F-Theory, "F" for father, the father of strings. It's not known whether F-Theory will survive or not; however, M-Theory in 11 dimension is the mother of all strings. And that theory works perfectly fine. So to answer your question, in other dimensions, dimensions beyond 11, we have problems with stability, these theories are unstable, they decay back down to 11 dimensions, they have what are called anomalies, singularities, which kill an ordinary theory. So the mathematics itself forces you to 11 dimensions. Also because this is a Theory of Everything, there's more room in higher dimensions to put all the forces together. When you put gravity, electromagnetism and the nuclear force together, four dimensions is not big enough to accommodate all these forces. When you expand to 11 dimensions, bingo, everything forms perfectly well.
Views: 193292 Big Think
We spend the first year teaching children to walk and talk and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down. Transcript-- I'm often asked by parents what advice can I give them to help get kids interested in science? And I have only one bit of advice. Get out of their way. Kids are born curious. Period. I don't care about your economic background. I don't care what town you're born in, what city, what country. If you're a child, you are curious about your environment. You're overturning rocks. You're plucking leaves off of trees and petals off of flowers, looking inside, and you're doing things that create disorder in the lives of the adults around you. And so then so what do adults do? They say, "Don't pluck the petals off the flowers. I just spent money on that. Don't play with the egg. It might break. Don't...." Everything is a don't. We spend the first year teaching them to walk and talk and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down. So you get out of their way. And you know what you do? You put things in their midst that help them explore. Help 'em explore. Why don't you get a pair of binoculars, just leave it there one day? Watch 'em pick it up. And watch 'em look around. They'll do all kinds of things with it. For me at age 11, I had a pair of binoculars and looked up to the moon, and the moon wasn't just bigger, it was better. There were mountains and valleys and craters and shadows. And it came alive. Not the full moon because there are no shadows cast when the moon is full; got to wait for it to be half moon or crescent moon, and look at the edge between light and dark with a simple pair of binoculars. I was transformed by picking up a pair of binoculars and looking up, and that's hard to do for a city kid because when you look up you just see buildings -- and really your first thought is to look in people's windows. So to look out of the space -- out of living space -- and look up to the sky, binoculars go far, literally and figuratively. That's what got me started on the universe. It might get some kids you know started the same way. --Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd--
Views: 309871 Big Think
You've just achieved a goal you've been working towards for two years. You did it! Congratulations. Someone asks you: how does it feel? "Kind of anti-climactic, actually," you say. This scenario is quite common among those who have achieved even the highest benchmarks in business, athletics, or art, says Adam Alter, and it's because the goal setting process is broken. With long-term goals particularly, you spend the large majority of the time in a failure state, awaiting what could be a mere second of success down the track. This can be a hollow and unrewarding process. Alter suggests swapping quantitative goals (I will write 1,000 words of my novel per day. I will run 1km further every week) for qualitative systems—like writing every morning with no word target, or running in a new environment each week—that nourish you psychologically, and are independently rewarding each time you do them. Adam Alter is the author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/adam-alter-want-to-succeed-dont-set-goals-set-systems Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Goal setting is fascinating because it's sort of a broken process in many respects. This is the way a goal works: You say to yourself, “When I achieve (whatever the thing is), that's how I'll know I'll have succeeded, and I'm going to do everything I can to get to that point as quickly as possible.” What that means is you exist in a failure state for a long time until you reach that goal, if it's a long-range goal. And so as you evaluate your process all you get is the negative feedback of not having achieved that goal. Perhaps as you move closer to it there's some positive feedback, but if the goal is really the end state that you're seeking out, there's a lot of failure before you get there. And now here's the thing: when you do get there it's a massive anti-climax. So there are people who achieve the highest highs; people who achieve the highest highs in athletics, in business, and if you talk to them and you ask them to describe what it's like to reach their goals they say things like, “I got there and it was an incredible anti-climax. The minute I got there I had to start something new, I had to find a new goal.” And that's partly because there's something really unsatisfying about the moment of reaching the goal. Unless it has its own benefits that come from reaching the goal, if it's just a sort of signpost; that doesn't do much for us, it doesn't nourish us psychologically. And what that ends up meaning is that we have to try to find something new. So really if you look at life as a series of goals, which for many of us it is, it's a period of being unsuccessful in achieving the goal, then hitting the goal, then feeling like you haven't really got much from that goal, going to the next one—and it's a sort of series of escalating goals. A really good example of this is, say, smart watches or Fitbits or exercise watches. People, when they get those watches, a lot of them hit on the number 10,000. “I want to walk 10,000 steps.” When you do that, the thing will beep; you'll feel pretty good about it for a minute but then that feels a little hollow and the goal escalates over time. People will describe going from 10 to 11 to 12 to 14,000 steps to the point where they're moving through injuries, through stress-related injuries, because the goal is there; they respond to the goal more than they do to their internal cues, and basically there's something really unfulfilling about that. The reason the goal keeps escalating and becoming more and more intense is because when they achieve the goal they don't actually get anything for that achievement, and so goals, generally I think, are in many ways broken processes. I think part of the problem with goals is that they don't tell you how to get to where you're going. A better thing to do is to use a system. So the idea behind a system rather than a goal is that a system is saying things like, “I’m a writer, my goal is to finish writing this book but I'm not going to think about it in that way. Eventually I'll have 100,000 words, but my system will be that for an hour every morning I will sit in front of my computer screen and I will type. It doesn't matter what that looks like. I'm not going to evaluate the number of words. I'm not going to set some benchmark, some artificial number or benchmark that I should reach, what I'm going to do is just say, 'Here's my system: an hour a day in front of the screen. I'll do what I can—bam.'”
Views: 520616 Big Think
Alain de Botton sees literature as a series of lenses that can significantly change the way you view the world. Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a 'philosophy of everyday life.' He's written on love, travel, architecture and literature. His books have been bestsellers in 30 countries. Alain also started and helps to run a school in London called The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education. Alain's latest book is titled Religion for Atheists and is published in the Netherlands, Italy, Korea, Turkey and Brazil in 2011 and in the UK, US and other territories in 2012. Alain started writing at a young age. His first book, Essays in Love [titled On Love in the US], was published when he was twenty-three. Transcript-- I think the way to look at literature is as an instrument that sensitizes us to different things. We all know that if five different people are asked to describe one scene, they will all describe it differently. Some will describe the light, others will focus on what people's feet were doing, others will look at the, you know, material, shape of the room or whatever. A great writer picks up on those things that matter. It's almost like their radar is attuned to the most significant moments. What literature is about is a record of people with very sophisticated radars who are picking up on the really important stuff. The interesting thing is that, for me, that radar is not something we should simply passively accept while we read the book. It's something we should learn from. We should shut the book and then say, "Okay, I've read Jane Austin or Proust or Shakespeare and now I'm going to see my mother or I'm going to have a chat with my aunt or I'm going to go and, you know, talk to some friends in a coffee shop, and rather than just doing it the normal way, I'm going to look at them and I'm going to ask myself that basic question, 'how would Jane Austin see them? How would Proust see them? How would Shakespeare see them?'" In other words, I'm not just going to look at the world of Shakespeare or Jane Austin through my eyes, I'm going to look at my world through their eyes. That is the benefit that is the intelligence giving power of great literature. We are sensitized by the books we read. And the more books we read and the deeper their lessons sink into us, the more pairs of glasses we have. And those glasses will enable us to see things that we would otherwise have missed. Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd Alain de Botton: I think the way to look at literature is as an instrument that sensitizes us to different things. We all know that if five different people are asked to describe one scene, they will all describe it differently. Some will describe the light, others will focus on what people's feet were doing, others will look at the, you know, material, shape of the room or whatever. A great writer picks up on those things that matter. It's almost like their radar is attuned to the most significant moments. What literature is about is a record of people with very sophisticated radars who are picking up on the really important stuff. The interesting thing is that, for me, that radar is not something we should simply passively accept while we read the book. It's something we should learn from. We should shut the book and then say, "Okay, I've read Jane Austin or Proust or Shakespeare and now I'm going to see my mother or I'm going to have a chat with my aunt or I'm going to go and, you know, talk to some friends in a coffee shop, and rather than just doing it the normal way, I'm going to look at them and I'm going to ask myself that basic question, 'how would Jane Austin see them? How would Proust see them? How would Shakespeare see them?'" In other words, I'm not just going to look at the world of Shakespeare or Jane Austin through my eyes, I'm going to look at my world through their eyes. That is the benefit that is the intelligence giving power of great literature. We are sensitized by the books we read. And the more books we read and the deeper their lessons sink into us, the more pairs of glasses we have. And those glasses will enable us to see things that we would otherwise have missed. Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
Views: 167674 Big Think
Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Since Branson founded Virgin in 1970, the company has grown from a small record outlet to a global powerhouse. Can the brand continue its success without him? Question: What is your advice for entrepreneurs? Richard Branson: I think the most important thing about running a company is to remember all the time what a company is. A company is simply a group of people. And as a leader of people you have to be a great listener and you have to be a great motivator. You have to be very good at praising and looking for the best in people. People are no different from flowers. If you water flowers they flourish, if you praise people they flourish. And that is a critical attribute of a leader. Question: What has been the most difficult part about running Virgin?Richard Branson: There is a very thin dividing line between success and failure. Most people who set off in business without financial backing they fail at some times in their lives. I've only just stayed at the right side of that dividing line. For instance, just after... You know we had a record company. I was fed up flying on other people's airlines. I felt that the experience of flying on other people's airlines was an unpleasant one and I decided to set up an airline. Well our bank went into a complete panic attack and when I came back from doing the inaugural flight of Virgin Atlantic's very, very first flight from London to New York I came back to find the bank manager sitting on my doorstep and informing me that they were going to close Virgin down on the Monday and this was the Friday and that I had two days to effectively pay them off the monies that they'd loaned us and I remember pushing the bank manager out of my house, telling him he wasn't welcome, which is a dangerous thing to do to your bank manager and then spending the weekend ringing around the world to all of the distributors of our music asking if they could give us a temporary loan to get us through the following week, which they were good enough to do and by the end of the week we had changed banks and we actually managed to find a bank that was willing to lend us 30 times the overdraft facility that our bank had lent us and we managed to survive. And I think the moral of that story is actually don't think of your bank as somebody that you're beholden to. I mean don't... You know people just don't move from one bank to another. Sometimes you need to be willing to step up and move your banks in the same way that you should step up and move your doctor on occasions and anyway, I learned from that lesson. Question: Can Virgin continue to be successful without you?Richard Branson: Virgin does work very well without me. I mean I use myself to build the brand, to build the sort of three or four hundred companies around the world, but I also learned the art of delegation. I have a fantastic team of people who run the Virgin companies, give them a lot of freedom to run the companies as if they were their own companies. I give them the freedom to make mistakes and the Virgin brand is now maybe one of the top 20 brands in the world, well respected. And when my balloon bursts Virgin will continue to flourish. And maybe I add the icing on the cake on occasions, maybe they'll have to spend a bit more money on marketing, but fortunately Virgin is in a state where it can live on healthily without me. Recorded September 22, 2010 Interviewed by Victoria Brown
Views: 1904359 Big Think
The story of the Penn Jilllette's weight loss is, as you might expect, quite extreme. In fact it was the radical nature of his diet that attracted him to it in the first place. Jillette's latest book is "Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales" (http://goo.gl/jJDkz1). Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/penn-jillette-on-losing-100lbs-of-weight Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I lost over 100 pounds, a third of my weight. I was probably at my heaviest. You don’t ever weigh yourself at your heaviest but I was probably over 340, certainly around there. And now as I sit here in front of you I’m probably about 232. There’s a fluctuation of a couple of pounds, it goes back and forth. That’s a lot of weight. And I did not lose it for vanity. I was pretty happy with myself fat. I didn’t mind being fat. It wasn’t a big deal to me. I didn’t mind how I looked. But my health was getting bad. I didn’t even mind how I felt very much. I didn’t mind not being energetic and stuff. But I started having blood pressure that was stupid high like, you know, like English voltage, like 220 even on blood pressure medicine. And I have two young children. I’m an old dad. My daughter was born when I was 50. So I’m 61 now. And my life expectancy, the actuary tables were crashing down and the doctor said that I had to get a stomach sleeve. It was a wonderful moment because it then gave me the option to go crazy. If you’re going to surgically do something to me to stop me from swallowing that means I don’t have to worry about doing a sane diet. I can get nutty. And being given the option to be nutty was all I needed. I realized that not only am I not good at moderation, I also don’t respect moderation. Anyone I know who’s able to do moderation I don’t like them. The people I respect and love are people that go wild. I mean I don’t want to go into Kerouac here but the mad ones. No one brags about climbing a nice little slope. You brag about climbing Everest. So once my friend Ray Cronise who I can Cray Ray, once Cray Ray told me that I could lose the weight but it was going to be really hard, it got really easy. Once you make something a challenge, you make something I can brag about, I can do it. Read Full Transcript Here: https://goo.gl/X54URE.
Views: 1539624 Big Think
Geniuses like Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman both had the ability to concentrate with a sort of intensity that is hard for mortals to grasp. Transcript -- I'm tempted to say smart, creative people have no particularly different set of character traits than the rest of us except for being smart and creative, and those being character traits. Then, on the other hand, I wrote a biography of Richard Feynman and a biography of Isaac Newton. Now, there are two great scientific geniuses whose characters were in some superficial ways completely different. Isaac Newton was solitary, antisocial, I think unpleasant, bitter, fought with his friends as much as with his enemies. Richard Feynman was gregarious, funny, a great dancer, loved women. Isaac Newton, I believe, never had sex. Richard Feynman, I believe, had plenty. So you can't generalize there. On the other hand, they were both, as I tried to get in their heads, understand their minds, the nature of their genius, I sort of felt I was seeing things that they had in common, and they were things that had to do with aloneness. Newton was much more obviously alone than Feynman, but Feynman didn't particularly work well with others. He was known as a great teacher, but he wasn't a great teacher, I don't think, one on one. I think he was a great lecturer. I think he was a great communicator. But when it came time to make the great discoveries of science, he was alone in his head. Now, when I say he, I mean both Feynman and Newton, and this applies, also, I think, to the geniuses that I write about in The Information, Charles Babbage, Alan Turing, Ada Byron. They all had the ability to concentrate with a sort of intensity that is hard for mortals like me to grasp, a kind of passion for abstraction that doesn't lend itself to easy communication, I don't think. Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
Views: 2154047 Big Think
Dr. Kaku addresses the question of the possibility of utopia, the perfect society that people have tried to create throughout history. These dreams have not been realized because we have scarcity. However, now we have nanotechnology, and with nanotechnology, perhaps, says Dr. Michio Kaku, maybe in 100 years, we'll have something called the replicator, which will create enormous abundance. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/dr-kakus-universe/can-nanotechnology-create-utopia Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Throughout human history people have tried to create utopia, the perfect society. In fact, America, the American dream, in some sense was based on utopianism. Why do we have the Shaker movement? Why did we have the Quakers? Why did we have so many different kinds of religious movements that fled Europe looking to create a utopia here in the Americas? Well, we know the Shakers have disappeared and many of these colonies have also disappeared only to be found in footnotes in American textbooks, and the question is why? One reason why is scarcity because back then the industrial revolution was still young and societies had scarcity. Scarcity creates conflict and unless you have a way to resolve conflict, your colony falls apart. How do you allocate resources? Who gets access to food when there is a famine? Who gets shelter when there is a snowstorm and all of the sudden you've eaten up your seed corn? These are questions that faced the early American colonists, and that's the reason why we only see the ghost towns of these utopias. However, now we have nanotechnology, and with nanotechnology, perhaps, who knows, maybe in 100 years, we'll have something called the replicator. Now the replicator is something you see in Star Trek. It's called the molecular assembler and it takes ordinary raw materials, breaks them up at the atomic level and joins the joints in different ways to create new substances. If you have a molecular assembler, you can turn, for example, a glass into wood or vice versa. You would have the power of a magician, in fact, the power of a god, the ability to literally transform the atoms of one substance into another and we see it on Star Trek. It's also the most subversive device of all because if utopias fail because of scarcity then what happens when you have infinite abundance? What happens when you simply ask and it comes to you? One of my favorite episodes on Star Trek is when the Enterprise encounters a space capsule left over from the 20th century, the bad 20th century. People died of all these horrible diseases, and many people froze themselves knowing that in the 23rd century or so they'll be thawed out and their diseases will be cured. Well, sure enough, it's the 23rd century now. The Enterprise finds a space capsule and begins to revive all these people and cure them of cancer, cure them of incurable genetic diseases, and then one of these individuals, however, was a banker. He is revived and he says to himself, "My God, my gamble worked; I'm alive; I'm in the 23rd century," and he said, "Call my stock broker; call my banker; I am rich; I am rich; my investments, they have been sitting there in the bank for centuries; I must be a quadrillionaire!" And then the crew of the Enterprise looks at this man and says, "What is money; what is a bank; what is a stock broker? We don't have any of these in the 23rd century," and then they say, "If you want something, you simply ask for it and you get it." Now that's subversive. That's revolutionary because if all utopian societies vanished because of scarcity and conflict, what happens when there is no scarcity? What happens when you simply ask and you get what you want? This has enormous philosophical implications. For example, why bother to work? Why bother to go to work when you simply ask for things and it comes to you?
Views: 541953 Big Think
http://bigthink.com Stroustrup shares some secrets about his work habits. Question: What is your work setup like? Bjarne Stroustrup: I travel with a little laptop, the smallest real computer I can get. So the 12-and-something screen and... but a decent processor speed. And where I am, I plug it into a dock and I use two screens and such and then I network to any other resources I want. If at all possible, I would like to make that machine smaller, but... or at least lighter. Larger and lighter would be nice, but I don't get it and too light if you're stuck in a sardine-class seat on a plane, you still should be able to open up and write. And you can't do that with one of those bodybuilder's editions. So a smaller machine, convenient machine that you can carry with you and plug it into a bigger system network to more resources. My laptop is a Windows. People always ask that. And they can't understand why it's not my Linux. Well, my Linux happens to sit on my desk and it talks to a traditional Unix through it. So I use both on a daily basis. It just happened that it's easier to carry the Windows books around. Question: Do you prefer to work at night or during the day? Bjarne Stroustrup: Real thinking, real work goes on fairly early in the day. And then in the evening, no, not really sort of thought work, not creative work. I can polish stuff. I'm not a night bird like that. I like to think when I'm fresh. Question: Do you listen to music while writing code? Bjarne Stroustrup: Quite often, yes. I have a mixture of stuff on the computer; I just plug in the earphones and listen. And there's a mixture, there's classical, there's a bit of rock, there's a bit of country. It's quite surprising what I can actually work with and what I can't because it really does affect it. There's music that sort of takes over and you think about the music, rather than the code. That's no good. And then there's music that you don't hear... that doesn't help either. And well, so well I found something that works, probably just for me, but I like some music. Recorded August 12, 2010 Interviewed by Max Miller
Views: 313843 Big Think
Dr. Michio Kaku returns to Big Think studios to discuss his latest book, The Future of the Mind (http://goo.gl/1mcGeb). Here he explains the evolution of human intelligence. Don't miss new Big Think videos! Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Transcipt - Some people think that intelligence is the crowning achievement of evolution. Well if that's true there should be more intelligent creatures on the planet Earth. But to the best of our knowledge we're the only ones. The dinosaurs were on the Earth for roughly 200 million years and to the best of our knowledge not a single dinosaur became intelligent. We humans, modern humans, had been on the Earth for roughly a hundred thousand years. Only a tiny fraction of the 4.5 billion years that the Earth has been around. So you come to the rather astounding conclusion that intelligence is not really necessary. That Mother Nature has done perfectly well with non-intelligent creatures for millions of years and that we as intelligent creatures are the new kid on the block. And so then you begin to wonder how did we become intelligent? What separated us from the animals? Well there are basically three ingredients -- at least three that help to propel us to become intelligent. One is the opposable thumb. You need a tentacle, a claw, an opposable thumb in order to manipulate the environment. So that's one of the ingredients of intelligence -- to be able to change the world around you. Second is eyesight. But the eyesight of a predator. We have eyes to the front of our face, not to the side of our face and why? Animals with eyes to the front of their face are predators -- lions, tigers and foxes. Animals with eyes to the side of their face are prey and they are not as intelligent -- like a rabbit. We say dumb bunny and smart as a fox. And there's a reason for that. Because the fox is a predator. It has to learn how to ambush. It has to learn how to have stealth, camouflage. It has to psych out the enemy and anticipate the motion of the enemy that is its prey. If you're a dumb bunny all you have to do is run. And the third basic ingredient is language because you have to be able to communicate your knowledge to the next generation. And to the best of our knowledge animals do not communicate knowledge to their offspring other than by simply communicating certain primitive motions. There's no book. There's no language. There's no culture by which animals can communicate their knowledge to the next generation. And so we think that's how the brain evolved. We have an opposable thumb, we have a language of maybe five to ten thousand words. And we have eyesight that is stereo eyesight -- the eyesight of a predator. And predators seem to be smarter than prey. Then you ask another question. How many animals on the Earth satisfy these three basic ingredients. And then you come to the astounding conclusion -- the answer is almost none. So perhaps there's a reason why we became intelligent and the other animals did not. They did not have the basic ingredients that would one day propel us to become intelligent. Then the next question asked in Planet of the Apes and asked in any number of science fiction movies is can you accentuate intelligence. Can you take an ape and make the ape intelligent. Well, believe it or not the answer could be yes. We are 98.5 percent genetically equivalent to a chimpanzee. Only a handful of genes separate us from the chimps and yet we live twice as long and we have thousands of words in our vocabulary. Chimps can have maybe just a few hundred. And we've isolated many of those genes that separate us from the chimpanzees. For example the ASP gene governs the size of the crane, cranial capacity so that by monkeying with just one gene you can literally double the size of the brain case and the brain itself. And so in the future -- not today but in the future we may use gene therapy to begin the process of making perhaps a chimpanzee intelligent. We know the genes that'll increase the size of the brain. We've isolated now the genes that give you manual dexterity by which you can make tools. We have found the genes which give you the ability to articulate thousands of words. And so it may be possible to tinker with the genome of a chimpanzee so that they have a larger brain case, they have better manual dexterity and they have the ability to articulate a larger vocabulary. But then what do you get? You get a primate that looks very similar to a human. And so my personal attitude is why bother. We already have humans, just look outside the door. So why bother to manipulate a chimpanzee because as you make a chimpanzee more and more intelligent it becomes more and more humanlike with a vocabulary, with vocal chords, with manual dexterity, with a larger brain case and a spine to support a larger brain case. That's called a human. Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton
Views: 604632 Big Think
Our brains react subconsciously to what is said during business negotiations. To succeed, it's important to choose your words carefully and be aware of the tone of your voice. Chris Voss is the author of "Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It" (http://goo.gl/04OgLC). Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/chris-voss-gives-language-tips-for-negotiations Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript - How you use your voice is really important and it's really driven by context more than anything else, and your tone of voice will immediately begin to impact somebody's mood and immediately how their brain functions. There's actually scientific data out there now that shows us that our brains will work up to 31 percent more effectively if we're in a good mood. So if I smile at you and you see it or you can hear a smile in someone's voice, if I automatically smile at you and you can hear that I like you, I will actually be able to reach into your brain, flip the positive the switch, it puts you in a better mood there are mirror neurons in our brain that we have no control over; they automatically respond. And if I intentionally put you in a good mood your brain will be working more effectively and that already begins to increase the chances that you're going to collaborate with me. You'll be smarter and you'll like me more at the same time. Now upward and downward inflexion, downward inflexion is often used to say this is the way it is; there's no other way. And I will say it exactly like that. If there is a term in a contract that there's no movement on and I want you to know it and feel it without me having to say there's no movement on this, which maybe you want to yell at somebody and that's ineffective because that triggers a different part of the brain and makes people angry and they want to fight. And I've done this in contract negotiations. I've said things like, "We don't do work for hire," just like that. It lets the other side know there's no movement whatsoever. I also may need to put you in a more collaborative frame of mind and if I want to ask you a question I'll say something like it seems like this is important to you and I'll inflect up. It's more driven by context. And I can use an upward inflection to encourage you and smile while I'm questioning you. And that will make you feel less attacked by being questioned because people are made to feel a little bit defensive when they're question anyway. So if I know if I have to question you, if I want you to think about a different option then I'm going to be as encouraging as possible while I may be very assertive at the same time. Read The Full Transcript Here: http://goo.gl/jGBM66.
Views: 68040 Big Think
To ensure your survival, your brain evolved to avoid one thing: uncertainty. As neuroscientist Beau Lotto points out, if your ancestors wondered for too long whether that noise was a predator or not, you wouldn't be here right now. Our brains are geared to make fast assumptions, and questioning them in many cases quite literally equates to death. No wonder we're so hardwired for confirmation bias. No wonder we'd rather stick to the status quo than risk the uncertainty of a better political model, a fairer financial system, or a healthier relationship pattern. But here's the catch: as our brains evolved toward certainty, we simultaneously evolved away from creativity—that's no coincidence; creativity starts with a question, with uncertainty, not with a cut and dried answer. To be creative, we have to unlearn millions of years of evolution. Creativity asks us to do that which is hardest: to question our assumptions, to doubt what we believe to be true. That is the only way to see differently. And if you think creativity is a chaotic and wild force, think again, says Beau Lotto. It just looks that way from the outside. The brain cannot make great leaps, it can only move linearly through mental possibilities. When a creative person forges a connection between two things that are, to your mind, so far apart, that's a case of high-level logic. They have moved through steps that are invisible to you, perhaps because they are more open-minded and well-practiced in questioning their assumptions. Creativity, it seems, is another (highly sophisticated) form of logic. Beau Lotto is the author of Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/beau-lotto-creativity-is-another-form-of-logic Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Every behavior that we do, we do to reduce uncertainty. We do it to increase certainty. When you go down below in a boat and your eyes are moving and registering the boat, and your eyes are saying, “Oh, we’re standing still,” but your inner ears are saying, “No, no, we’re moving.” And your brain cannot deal with that conflict so it gets ill. The stress resulting from uncertainty is tremendous in our society. It increases brain cell death. It decreases plasticity. It makes you a more extreme version of yourself. We do almost everything to avoid uncertainty. And yet the irony is that that’s the only place we can go if we’re ever going to see differently. And that’s why creativity, seeing differently, always begins in the same way: it begins with a question. It begins with not knowing. It begins with a 'why?'. It begins with a 'what if?'. And I should also say that these assumptions are essential for your survival. Every time you take a step your brain has hundreds of assumptions: that the floor is not going to give way, that your legs aren’t going to give way, that that’s not a hole, it’s a surface. So these assumptions keep us alive. But they can also get in the way, because what was once useful may no longer be useful. So your brain evolved to evolve. It's adapted to adapt. So a deep question is: how is it possible to ever see differently if everything you see is a reflex grounded in your history of assumptions? Our assumptions—and the process of vision—is both our constraint and our savior at the same time. Because our brain evolved to take what is meaningless and make it meaningful. If you’re not sure that was a predator, it was too late. So your brain evolved to take this meaningless data and make meaning from it, and that’s the process of creating perception. And then we hold on to those assumptions. They create attractor states in your brain, right, and they become very stable. So how could we see differently? It’s by engaging the process of creating perception. Well the first step in that is to not just admit but embody the fact that everything you do right now is grounded in your assumptions—not sometimes, but all the time. Because if you don’t accept that then you’ll never create the possibility of seeing differently. So much of 'Deviate', if people walk away with anything, it’s knowing the process of perception and in some sense I want them to know less at the end than they think they know now, because nothing interesting begins with knowing, it begins with not knowing. Because the next step is to then identify your assumptions—because most of everything that we do, we don’t know why we do what we do—and then the final step is to question those assumptions. But questioning assumptions is incredibly difficult, because to question assumptions, to doubt what you assumed to be true already, especially if that assumption defines who you are, is to do the one thing that our brain evolved to avoid, which is uncertainty.
Views: 301265 Big Think
How can you create a universe from nothing? Well if you calculate the total matter of the universe it is positive. If you calculate the total energy of the universe it is negative because of gravity. Gravity has negative energy. When you add the two together what do you get? Zero, so it takes no energy to create a universe. Universes are for free. A universe is a free lunch. Michio Kaku -- We have found the Higgs boson. So then the next question is what's next? Well the Large Hadron Collider, this machine that is 27 miles in circumference, costing 10 billion dollars is big enough to create the next generation of particles. So the Higgs boson in some sense is the last hurrah for the old physics, the old physics of what is called the standard model, which gives us quarks and electrons. The new theory is going to take us into dark matter. Now we know dark matter exists. Dark matter is invisible, so if I held it in my hand you wouldn't see it. In fact, it would go right through my fingers, go right through the rock underneath my feet and go all the way to China. It would reverse direction and come back from China all the way here to New York City and go back and forth. So dark matter has gravitational attraction, but it is invisible and we are clueless as to what dark matter really is. The leading candidate for dark matter today is called the sparticle. The sparticle is the next octave of the string. Now look around you. Everything around you, we think, is nothing but the lowest vibration of a vibrating string, the lowest octave in some sense, but a string of course has higher octaves, higher notes. We think that dark matter could in fact be nothing but a higher vibration of the string. So we think that 23% of the universe, which is the dark matter's contribution to the universe, comes from a higher octave of the string. Now the standard model which we have ample verification of only represents four percent of the universe. So the universe of atoms, protons, neutrons, neutrinos - that universe only represents four percent of what there is. 23% is dark matter, which we think is the next vibration up of the string and then 73% of the universe is dark energy. Dark energy is the energy of nothing. It's the energy of the vacuum. Between two objects in outer space there is nothing, nothing except dark energy, dark energy, which is pushing the galaxies apart. So when people say if the universe is expanding they say two things, what's pushing the galaxies apart and what is the universe expanding into. Well what's pushing the galaxies apart is dark energy, the energy of nothing. Even vacuum has energy pushing the galaxies apart. And then what is the universe expanding into? Well if the universe is a sphere of some sort and we live on the skin of the sphere and the sphere is expanding what is the sphere expanding into? Well obviously a bubble, a balloon expands into the third dimension even though the people living on the balloon are two dimensional. So when our universe expands what does it expand into? Hyperspace, a dimension beyond what you can see and touch. In fact, string theory predicts that there are 11 dimensions of hyperspace, so we're nothing but a soap bubble floating in a bubble bath of soap bubbles and so in some sense the multiverse can be likened to a bubble bath. Our universe is nothing but one bubble, but there are other bubbles. When two bubbles collide that could merge into a bigger bubble, which could be the big bang. In fact, that is what probably the big bang is or perhaps a bubble fissioned in half and split off into two bubbles. That could be the big bang. Or perhaps the universe popped into existence out of nothing. That is also a possibility. And so the universe could essentially be nothingness, which was unstable and created a soap bubble Now you may say to yourself well that can't be right because that violates the conservation of matter and energy. How can you create a universe from nothing? Remainder of transcript - http://bigthink.com/ideas/49273 Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
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President of the Center for Applied Rationality Julia Galef described the pervasive "sunk costs fallacy." Transcript -- So I want to introduce you to a concept known as the sunk cost fallacy. Imagine that you're going to the store and you're halfway there when you realize, "Oh wait, the store is actually closed today." But you figure, "Well, I've already come ten blocks. I might as well just go all the way to the store, you know, so that my ten blocks of walking won't have been wasted. Well, this is a transparently silly way to reason and I doubt that any of us would actually go all the way to a store that we knew was closed just because we'd already gone ten blocks. But this pattern of thinking is actually surprisingly common in scenarios that are a little bit less obvious than the store example. So, say you're in a career and it's becoming more and more clear to you that this isn't actually a fulfilling career for you. You'd probably be happier somewhere else. But you figure I'll just stick with it because I don't want my past ten years of effort and time and money to have been wasted. So the time and money and effort and whatever else you've already spent is what we call the sunk cost. It's gone no matter what you do going forward. And now you're just trying to decide given that I've already spent that money or time or whatever, what choice is going to produce the best outcome for my future. And the sunk cost fallacy then means making a choice not based on what outcome you think is going to be the best going forward but instead based on a desire not to see your past investment go to waste. Once you start paying attention to the sunk cost fallacy you'll probably notice at least a few things that you would like to be doing differently. And maybe those will be small scale things like, in my case, I now am much more willing to just abandon a book if a hundred pages in I conclude that I'm not enjoying it and I'm, you know, not getting any value out of it rather than trudging through the remaining 200-300 pages of the book just because I don't want, you know, my past investment of a hundred pages, the time that I spent reading those hundred pages to go to waste. And you might notice some large things, too. For example, I was in a Ph.D. program and started realizing, "Gee, this really isn't the field for me." And you know, it's a shame that I have spent the last several years preparing for and working in this Ph.D. program but I genuinely predict going forward that I'd be happier if I switched to another field. And sometimes it really does take time to fully acknowledge to yourself that you don't have any good reason to stick with the job or Ph.D. or project that you've been working on so long because sunk costs are painful. But at least having the sunk cost fallacy on your radar means that you have the opportunity at least to push past that and make the choice that instead will lead to the better outcomes for your future. Produced/Directed by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton
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In the late 1970s, Stroustrup applied the idea of "classes" to the C programming language to create a new language that allows for high level abstraction—but is efficient and close to the hardware. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/why-i-created-c Follow Big Think here: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigthink Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: What inspired you to create C++? In the really old days, people had to write their code directly to work on the hardware. They wrote load and store instructions to get stuff in and out of memory and they played about with bits and bytes and stuff. You could do pretty good work with that, but it was very specialized. Then they figured out that you could build languages fit for humans for specific areas. Like they built FORTRAN for engineers and scientists and they built COBALT for businessmen. And then in the mid-'60s, a bunch of Norwegians, mostly Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard thought why can’t you get a language that sort of is fit for humans for all domains, not just linear algebra and business. And they built something called SIMULA. And that’s where they introduced the class as the thing you have in the program to represent a concept in your application world. So if you are a mathematician, a matrix will become a class, if you are a businessman, a personnel record might become a class, in telecommunications a dial buffer might become a class—you can represent just about anything as a class. And they went a little bit further and represented relationships between classes; any hierarchical relationship could be done as a bunch of classes. So you could say that a fire engine is a kind of a truck which is a kind of a car which is a kind of a vehicle and organize things like that. This became know as object-oriented programming or also in some variance of it as data abstraction. And my idea was very simple: to take the ideas from SIMULA for general abstraction for the benefit of sort of humans representing things... so humans could get it with low level stuff, which at that time was the best language for that was C, which was done at Bell Labs by Dennis Ritchie. And take those two ideas and bring them together so that you could do high-level abstraction, but efficiently enough and close enough to the hardware for really demanding computing tasks. And that is where I came in. And so C++ has classes like SIMULA but they run as fast as C code, so the combination becomes very useful. What makes C++ such a widely used language? If I have to characterize C++’s strength, it comes from the ability to have abstractions and have them so efficient that you can afford it in infrastructure. And you can access hardware directly as you often have to do with operating systems with real time control, little things like cell phones, and so the combination is something that is good for infrastructure in general. Another aspect that’s necessary for infrastructure is stability. When you build an infrastructure it could be sort of the lowest level of IBM mainframes talking to the hardware for the higher level of software, which is a place they use C++. Or a fuel injector for a large marine diesel engine or a browser, it has to be stable for a decade or so because you can’t afford to fiddle with the stuff all the time. You can’t afford to rewrite it, I mean taking one of those ships into harbor costs a lot of money. And so you need a language that’s not just good at what it’s doing, you have to be able to rely on it being available for decades on a variety of different hardware and to be used by programmers over a decade or two at least. C++ is not about three decades old. And if that’s not the case, you have to rewrite your code all the time. And that happens primarily with experimental languages and with proprietary commercial languages that change to finish—to meet fads. C++’s problem is the complexity part because we haven’t been able to clean it up. There’s still code written in the 80’s that are running and people don’t like their running codes to break. It could cost them millions or more. Interviewed by Max Miller
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