Sunday Lectures: Ghosts, Gerrymandering, and Steven Pinker

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Sunday Lectures is a weekly roundup of the internet’s most interesting educational videos. Get smarter without getting out of bed.

Facing The Unknown

Technology, science, and the environment are changing at unprecedented rates, making it harder to predict the future we’ll need to prepare for. Here, Oxford Professor Nick Bostrom, director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, explores how we got this far and what’s crucial to decide for the long term.

Crash Course in Gerrymandering

Voting districts take on some weird shapes, especially in Census years, thanks to a process known as gerrymandering. It’s easy to sum it up as a redrawing of voting boundaries to maximize voters for a particular political party, but how it actually works — and deciding whether it’s fair — is a lot more complicated.

The Science of Ghosts

Even some of the best-known science skeptics have had brushes with the paranormal. While definitive proof of the supernatural has yet to surface, science has some explanations why we sometimes see what actually isn’t there.

Did We Evolve to Believe in God?

A recent study in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that deactivating a part of the brain reduced participants’ belief in God. Is faith simply biological, or did humans evolve to have religion?

Steven Pinker on Linguistics, Style and Writing in the 21st Century

Renowned linguist Steven Pinker believes speech is instinctive, but writing is hard. Today, we continually struggle with style and tone, but as modes of communication become more terse and instantaneous, will it even matter whether future generations will be able to write well? By digging into the latest in linguistics and cognitive science research, he explores what tools we’ll actually need to communicate in the future.