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Kurt Vonnegut found the tidy, satisfying arcs of many stories at odds with reality, and he set out to explore the ambiguity between good and bad fortune in his own novels. He tried to make sense of human behavior by studying the shapes of stories — ditching straightforward chronologies and clear-cut fortunes. Mia Nacamulli dives into the sometimes dark, yet hopeful works of Vonnegut.
What does it look like inside the mind of a machine? Inspired by the architectural vision of a futuristic Los Angeles in “Blade Runner,” media artist Refik Anadol melds art with artificial intelligence in his studio’s collaborations with architects, data scientists, neuroscientists, musicians and more. Witness otherworldly installations that might make you rethink the future of tech and creativity.
Before he fought in the galactic battles of Star Wars, Adam Driver was a United States Marine with 1/1 Weapons Company. He tells the story of how and why he became a Marine, the complex transition from soldier to civilian — and Arts in the Armed Forces, his nonprofit that brings theater to the military. Because, as he says: “Self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder.
Poet and policymaker Aaron Maniam describes how the language we use to explain COVID-19 shapes the way we think about it — whether it’s as a “war,” a “journey” or, as he suggests, an “ecology.” He encourages us to explore a range of imaginative, interlocking metaphors to gain a deeper understanding of the pandemic — and shows how this can help us to envision a better, more inclusive future.
On January 17, 1920, less than one hour after spirits had become illegal throughout the United States, armed men robbed a Chicago freight train and made off with thousands of dollars worth of whiskey. It was a first taste of the unintended consequences of Prohibition. So what exactly was Prohibition, and why did it happen? Rod Phillips investigates this chapter of American history.
The New Yorker receives around 1,000 cartoons each week; it only publishes about 17 of them. In this hilarious, fast-paced, and insightful talk, the magazine’s longstanding cartoon editor and self-proclaimed “humor analyst” Bob Mankoff dissects the comedy within just some of the “idea drawings” featured in the magazine, explaining what works, what doesn’t, and why.
How do you end a story? Host of “Radiolab” Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.
Being open and vulnerable with your loneliness, sadness and fear can help you find comfort and feel less alone, says writer and artist Jonny Sun. In an honest talk filled with his signature illustrations, Sun shares how telling stories about feeling like an outsider helped him tap into an unexpected community and find a tiny sliver of light in the darkness.
After the devastating rebel invasion of Freetown in 1999 and the Ebola epidemic in 2014, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of the city, refused to be paralyzed by her frustration with the status quo. Instead, she used her anger as a catalyst for action. In this inspiring talk, she shares how she transformed her city by taking the risks necessary to bring about dramatic change — and shows how you can find power in your dissatisfaction.
In a talk that’s by turns heartbreaking and hilarious, writer and podcaster Nora McInerny shares her hard-earned wisdom about life and death. Her candid approach to something that will, let’s face it, affect us all, is as liberating as it is gut-wrenching. Most powerfully, she encourages us to shift how we approach grief.
How can we return to work without spurring a second surge of coronavirus infection? Biologist Uri Alon shares a thought-provoking strategy: four days at work followed by 10 days of lockdown, a cycle that would exploit a weakness in the virus’s biology and potentially cut its reproductive rate to a manageable level. Learn more about this approach — which has already been adopted by both companies and countries — and how it could be a key to reopening the economy responsibly.
Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help.
Suspicious emails: unclaimed insurance bonds, diamond-encrusted safe deposit boxes, close friends marooned in a foreign country. Standard procedure is to delete on sight, but what happens when you reply? Writer and comedian James Veitch narrates a hilarious, weeks-long exchange with a spammer who offered to cut him in on a hot deal.
Philanthropist and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates offers insights into the COVID-19 pandemic, discussing why testing and self-isolation are essential, which medical advancements show promise and what it will take for the world to endure this crisis.
Your hands, up close, are anything but smooth. With peaks and valleys, folds and rifts, there are plenty of hiding places for a virus to stick. If you then touch your face, the virus can infect you. But there are two extraordinarily simple ways you can keep that from happening: soap and water, and hand sanitizer. So which is better?
Web cartoonist Randall Munroe answers simple what-if questions (“what if you hit a baseball moving at the speed of light?”) using math, physics, logic and deadpan humor. In this charming talk, a reader’s question leads Munroe down a circuitous path to a hilariously over-detailed answer.
Backed by stunning illustrations, David Christian narrates a complete history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the Internet, in a riveting 18 minutes. This is “Big History”: an enlightening, wide-angle look at complexity, life and humanity, set against our slim share of the cosmic timeline.
Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy argues that “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our chances for success.
Cameron Russell admits she won “a genetic lottery”: she’s tall, pretty and an underwear model. But don’t judge her by her looks. In this fearless talk, she takes a wry look at the industry that had her looking highly seductive at barely 16 years old.
Is there a definitive line that divides crazy from sane? With a hair-raising delivery, Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test, illuminates the gray areas between the two.
Reuben Margolin is a kinetic sculptor, crafting beautiful pieces that move in the pattern of raindrops falling and waves combining. Take nine minutes and be mesmerized by his meditative art — inspired in equal parts by math and nature.
The coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in health care, says emergency physician Esther Choo. Sharing insights into how health workers are responding to the outbreak, she explains what makes this public health emergency different from others — and provides a few simple things you can do to help. Recorded April 7, 2020)
Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn’t make sense, but he’s never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window — and encourages us to think harder about what we’re really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.
Research shows that helping others makes us happier. But in her groundbreaking work on generosity and joy, social psychologist Elizabeth Dunn found that there’s a catch: it matters how we help. Learn how we can make a greater impact — and boost our own happiness along the way — if we make one key shift in how we help others. “Let’s stop thinking about giving as just this moral obligation and start thinking of it as a source of pleasure,” Dunn says.