From mind-bending stats, hilarious man on the street experiments, and interactive game play, National Geographic delivers the answers to life's mysteries and gives you the tools to help ... See full summary »
Around the world there are people of different cultures who take actions and decisions that seem out of the ordinary to the average westerner. Considered taboo, these people and their stories are now being known.
Each episode of Extreme Engineering features a major construction and engineering project. Some projects are completed ones, like the new Hong Kong airport. Other projects are those under ... See full summary »
This show is an examination of how our brains work, with special emphasis on the cracks in what is its otherwise deeply impressive capabilities. The show is educational, but mostly it's fun to watch because you get to see how your own brain makes assumptions and mistakes under certain circumstances. These range from the fun, optical illusion types of errors to the downright spooky mistakes of reading errors or overconfidence in how common everyday technology works.
To illustrate with an example from the show, without cheating and going online or looking at a physical example, draw a picture of a bicycle with wheels and a frame, then look at a real picture and compare your picture to reality. Even though the mechanism is simple and easily understood, there is a very decent chance that your drawing contains significant errors. This is because our brains don't like to feel that we don't understand the world we live in, so we "hand wave" away the concept of a bicycle, telling ourselves that we understand the concept even if we really don't. And as the show points out with numerous examples, this isn't some isolated or rare example, but is in fact much closer to the norm than we would be comfortable admitting.
I don't know that I would agree with another reviewer that these types of examples should be used to screen job candidates because I think that the point of these examples is that whether or not you pass one particular test, you are almost certain to fail at least some of the tests. The problem isn't smart vs stupid or focused vs lazy, the problem is that our brains are imperfect computing devices. In fact, one could argue that by deciding that these errors don't apply to you by virtue of your intelligence or diligence you are making exactly the type of critical thinking error you are claiming to have overcome.
Observing these cracks in our understanding argues for an extra layer of caution and occasionally pausing to examine our assumptions when making key decisions. Did I really understand the question a coworker asked me or did I make a quick assumption and leap to an incorrect conclusion? Is it really safe for me to answer this one quick phone call while driving or will the conversation require too much attention to do it safely?
Not all of the topics on the show are equally applicable to our day to day lives, and the the show does occasionally rehash slight variations of themes it has previously covered, but all in all I think it's really fascinating to watch, and an excellent show in general to watch with your kids or significant other because there are plenty of opportunities for interactive group brain teasers or exercises to do with others.
By the way, did you catch the extra word in the previous paragraph? Yes? Good on you! Now catch a few episodes and see how well you do on the other tests...
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