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What are the big ideas shaping our world now?

The Big Idea BBC

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What are the big ideas shaping our world now?

    How to topple a dictator

    How to topple a dictator

    Suppose a country is ruled by a dictator. Suppose many people want to topple the dictator. What’s the best way of doing it – a campaign of violence or non-violence? There’s an academic from Harvard who has the answer.

    Picture: Romanian waving flag over Bucharest Square
    Picture Credit: Peter Turnley/Corbis Historical/Getty

    • 9분
    How to topple a dictator

    How to topple a dictator

    Suppose a country is ruled by a dictator. Suppose many people want to topple the dictator. What’s the best way of doing it – a campaign of violence or non-violence? There’s an academic from Harvard who has the answer.

    • 8분
    Why do we laugh?

    Why do we laugh?

    There are thousands of academic papers about depression. There are, in comparison, virtually none about laughter. We’ve been talking to a leading expert on laughter – who argues that we should take it more seriously.

    Picture Credit: Tim Robberts/Getty

    • 10분
    The Afterlife

    The Afterlife

    Suppose you knew that after your natural death the human race would die out – perhaps, for some reason, humans had become infertile. How would that alter how you live your life? How would it change your attitude to the ideas and projects to which you are currently committed? This thought experiment is posed by American philosopher Samuel Scheffler. He believes that in this scenario, most of what currently gives our life significance would come to feel meaningless. This leads him to conclude that we care deeply about the survival of our species. We need the human race to survive for our lives to seem valuable.

    Presenter David Edmonds
    Producer Ben Cooper

    • 9분
    Why Are Some Nations Rich?

    Why Are Some Nations Rich?

    Some countries, like Norway, are rich. Other countries, like Niger, are poor. Why? Why do some countries succeed whilst others fail? There are various possible theories. Some say that certain countries have geographical or resource advantages. Others claim that the real explanation is cultural – in some cultures, it’s said, there’s a stronger work ethic than in others. But the distinguished economist James Robinson, co-author of Why Nations Fail, proposes an alternative answer. He says it’s all to do with how a nation is governed and the strength of its institutions.



    Presenter: David Edmonds

    Producer: Ben Cooper



    Image: Interior of City Hall in Oslo, pictured during the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

    • 9분
    How does language work?

    How does language work?

    Humans are a unique species in many ways, but an important one is that we communicate with sophisticated language, using words and grammar. So how does language work? Is there a single mechanism in the brain, or multiple mechanisms? Is it useful to learn a second language – what are the cognitive advantages to being bilingual? Cathy Price is a neuroscientist and a leading expert in language.



    Presenter David Edmonds

    Producer Ben Cooper



    Image: A man delivering a speech (Credit: BBC)

    • 10분

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