Thinking Cap: Podcasts, Articles And Clips To Make You Smarter

This week we're talking about heroes in history who were actually terrible people, doling out justice for one-star Yelp reviewers and looking back at computer viruses that wreaked havoc around the globe. Title illustration by Nick Criscuolo. Additional photo by Benecee.

Welcome to Lifehacker's Thinking Cap, a series where we round up interesting, informative and thought-provoking podcasts, interviews, articles and other media that will teach you something new, inspire you and hopefully cap off your week nicely.

Five Computer Viruses that Wreaked Havoc Around the World

From Code Red to Stuxnet, Cryptolocker to Chernobyl, the folks at SciShow put together this list of five computer viruses (a follow-up to an original video of the same name) that have changed the world and the way we think about computer security.

Of course, we're long removed now from the Great Virus Winter of 2003, when viruses and worms made the evening news because of their broad impact, mostly because computers are (somewhat) better protected today and users are (somewhat) more informed, but that doesn't mean malware isn't a huge problem. This video explains why. We shared this video last week, but we're including it in Thinking Cap just in case you missed it. [via SciShow (YouTube)]

This Water Cooled, 72,000 Lumen Torch Lights Up the Night

If you didn't already know, there's a massive, thriving community of torch enthusiasts out there modding lights; building ever-brighter, ever-more-efficient lights; and who have pocket LEDs that will put that expensive Maglite to shame. In that vein, in the video above, Samm Sheperd managed to build one of the brightest LEDs I've ever seen — and it's water cooled.

He runs eight 100-watt LED chips together, all of which generate so much heat that he had to find a way to cool the whole thing — and he turned to a modified computer cooling pump to get the job done. The results are pretty amazing. [via Samm Sheperd (YouTube), thanks Awesomer!]

10 Eerie Ghost Towns Around the World You Can Visit

Travel site Oyster has been all about the creepy travel and destination articles this month, and this rundown of ghost towns you can actually visit is no exception. From Pripyat in the Ukrane — a town that was almost entirely made up of Chernobyl workers, now completely abandoned, to Bodie, California, a former gold mining town that now resembles an artefact from America's dusty, wild west past, the full list has destinations around the globe.

Some of those towns are more difficult to get to than others, but all of which have a very compelling story to tell about how they were built and why they're abandoned today. [via Oyster]

Historical Heroes Who Were Actually Horrible People

This thread at Quora about people in history generally viewed as heroes, thanks to the lens of time and distance, but who were actually either problematic at best or just straight terrible people at worst, is an entertaining and enlightening read.

From Albert Einstein's horrible relationship issues to the creeping antisemitism of Martin Luther, the whole thread is a stark reminder that the names and accomplishments of people in our history books are a snippet of who they were as complete individuals, with faults and prejudices, many of whom were products of their time.

There are names you probably recognise today as people whose actions, when more carefully studied, don't warrant the praise we generally get for them as schoolchildren, like Thomas Edison or Christopher Columbus, but the thread also includes some pretty solid dressdowns of more recent larger-than-life historical figures, like Winston Churchill and General Douglas MacArthur. They're far too long to blockquote here, so definitely be sure to read the whole thread. [via Quora]

The Case of the One-Star Yelp Review

Food Court is a new series by the folks over at Tastemade, and while it's only a few videos right now, it's already shaping up to be pretty funny. This episode specifically is fantastic, because it's a hilarious look at those one-star Yelp reviews — you know the ones — and the type of people who leave them. Of course, those people will never see the kind of justice doled out in the video above, but hey, we can hope. After all, Yelp is just awful for everyone. We already established this. [via Tastemade (YouTube)]

That's all for this week. If you have thought-provoking stories, interesting podcasts or eye-opening videos, share them in the comments below!


    I usually like Quora as a website. Its topics vary in quality and the reliability of its references also vary. There are many sweeping statements in that link. I was aware that Churchill had some dark history. However, we need to temper many of these analyses and if you really want to know, double check, especially in the absence of a reference.
    There are people throughout history who have been exemplary. Some are a mixed bag of greatness and some are just overrated. Some famous people are also viewed differently depending on the culture.
    To give an example, today's society is (without doubt) far more sexist than it's been in a long time. Define equality (50/50 when it suits, other times it's just plain stereotyping as a "man thing" or a "woman thing"). I've looked long and hard and found very few modern leaders with the courage to rise above such hypocrisy and sexism. Kathleen Kennedy, Jo Rowling and Mary Beard are a handful of rare women in this respect who are mostly non-sexist and I respect most things they say. These people are intelligent enough and decent enough not lower themselves when many others are so willing to.
    The villains of history are also often underrated. Genghis Khan. Read up on the Mongol society he shaped. Read about his view of traitors that supported him. He was a very forward thinker in some ways and deeply respected loyalty. He was a tyrant and mass murderer, but he achieved some amazingly positive things. He is highly respected in some parts of the world and seen as pure evil in other parts.
    Alexander The Great. He forced his soldiers to marry foreigners in a bid to build racial harmony. He accepted soldiers from any nationality. He dragged his soldiers through a desert and killed many of them in doing so. He was renowned for fits of rage.
    Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). Lived a lavish lifestyle. However, he expressed empathy for common folk. He also condemned racism, despite living in a town that practiced slavery. He was also a heavy drinker and a gambler.
    Steve Jobs. Hero or a villain? Bill Clinton, hero or villain?
    There are very few purely good or purely bad people in this world. Those that inspire hate and violence should be condemned by history. Most great acts should be commended and it's reasonable to attribute them to a person.
    However, I will say this. In a time where we are so aware of prejudice, we drive prejudice hard (and not in a good way). To be aware of prejudice and drive it as hard as Australia does is unforgivable and I hope history judges these awful people accordingly. To quote a friend of mine "why people are so obsessed with the genitals of an employee or an actor makes no sense to me". She isn't the only one who doesn't understand the modern prejudice. Diversity is based on personality and skills, not what is in your pants! Anyone that says that something is a male or female behaviour is a liar! However, we must not ignore equal opportunity (as we are doing more and more today). Everyone should have the right to an opportunity, but it does not guarantee an outcome (ie. why 50/50 is a fallacy). Is that really so hard to understand? With so much prejudice from so many websites, media and government, you'd think not.

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