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Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-first Century” explained

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

A Piketty guide for lifelong learners.

When Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-first Century” was published earlier this year, it was something of a sensation. That’s no small feat for a chart-heavy doorstop on “the dismal science” of economics.

A fair portion of the book’s notoriety was due to its subject matter: wealth distribution, an intensely political topic if ever there was one. (Watch Piketty’s TED Talk: New thoughts on capital in the twenty-first century.)

What makes this French economist’s conclusions worth global notice? The short answer is that Piketty and his research team amassed a mountain of data, much of it going back centuries, suggesting that the concentration of wealth in ever-fewer hands is not an anomaly or a recent development. Check out the infographic below for a longer explanation:

piketty-infographic-compressed

As the data visualization above suggests, this is simply how capitalism works. Without a significant force to counterbalance rising…

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Can imagination be measured?

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

Behold, the new multimillion-dollar effort to quantify what happens when you let your mind wander.

Try this: Picture a famous monument. Let’s say it’s the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. You’re directly in front of it and you can see the whole thing, or at least your version of it—sandals, robe, face, crown, torch. Now, rotate it so you see one side, then the rear, the other side, and now the front again.

Finished? Well done. You’ve just flexed your imagination — or at least one of the many cognitive processes that make it possible.

Imagination, that vast and scintillating internal fountain of all things strange and new, is now at the center of some exceptionally focused and well-financed academic work.

So what is “imagination,” exactly?

“At the most basic level, imagination is the mental representation of things that are not immediately present to your senses,” says Scott Barry Kaufman…

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