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Why All the Hype about Thomas Piketty’s “Capital”?

Includes videos

It’s nearly 700 pages. It covers dense economic theory. And it’s written by a French guy you’ve probably never heard of.

So why is “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” Thomas Piketty’s far-reaching economic analysis of global inequality, flying off the shelves faster than a new Beyoncé album?

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A Brief History of May Day and the Battle for the 8-Hour Work Day

Includes videos

The Haymarket affair, as depicted in a Harper’s Magazine engraving (Wikimedia Commons)


For some, May Day is a time to prance like a wood nymph around a flower-wreathed pole. But that’s probably not what thousands of workers around the world have in mind when they take to the streets today. Continue reading

A Brief History of Earth Day

Includes videos
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Donning a gas mask, a demonstrator participates in the first Earth Day celebration in 1970. (AP)


Quick quiz:

1. Which labor organization helped fund and organize the first Earth Day celebration?

2. Who said this:

“Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions … It is a cause of particular concern to young Americans, because they, more than we, will wreak the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disaster later.”

Keep reading for answers. Continue reading

How Big Is the Wage Gap Between Women and Men?

Includes maps, videos, interactive charts
Courtesy of PBS

Courtesy of PBS

The wage gap between men and women has gradually narrowed in recent decades, but it remains significant.

According to the Obama Administration, full-time working woman in the US. make, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar that men make. At that rate, it’d take more than 60 additional days for a woman to earn what a man had made at the end of the previous year. Continue reading

Eight Short Videos to Help Make Some Sense of the Conflict in Ukraine

Includes videos

So much for the “spirit of international brotherhood” that the Olympics was supposed to inspire.

The crisis in Ukraine has reached a boiling point, with tensions between the United States and Russia at a level not seen since the Cold War. But in spite of the sometimes alarmist deluge of round-the-clock media coverage, it’s surprisingly challenging to sift through the noise and get a good grip on what’s actually going on. These seven short videos do a good job getting to the point and explaining specific aspects of the confrontation.

The latest developments (as of March 16)


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The Math of Credit Card Debt, Explained

Includes animated video

Beware the lure of that plastic in your wallet!

According to the Federal Reserve data, the average indebted U.S. household in 2013 shouldered credit card debt of more than $15,000 (although that figure is skewed by a relatively small number of extremely debt-ridden families). While U.S. credit card debt has fallen since the height of the recent recession, and pales in comparison to average mortgage debt (about $148,000) and student loan debt (about $32,000), it still remains a major burden for millions of U.S. consumers who cumulatively owe upwards of $850 billion to credit card companies.

So how do credit cards actually work? And more importantly, how do the credit card companies make their millions from all your swipes? Animator Josh Kurz explains.


Josh Kurz started out as an embryo, 53 times smaller than a US nickel. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he began at an early age fusing the abstract concepts of science and comedy. Now he works as an independent filmmaker specializing in humorous science explainers ranging from the economics of voting to why some people (like he himself) hate cilantro. His work has been featured on WGBH, ABC, PBS, NPR, TEDed, and Radiolab.

What Are Your Odds of Winning the Lottery?

By Joe Golling

If you gamble on faith — not on odds — you might want to stop reading this now. Because the chances of winning just about any big stakes lottery game — like Mega Millions  — is just north of impossible. Let’s take Powerball, for instance. Odds of winning the jackpot: about 1 in 175 million. By comparison, your odds of getting hit by lightening — a presumably less favorable outcome — are significantly higher. So, be sure to take shelter during thunderstorms, and, if you play the lottery: you might not want to quit your day job just yet. But hey, you never know, right? People win all the time. In this animation and accompanying infographic, animator Joe Golling explains how to calculate the mathematical possibilities of buying the winning ticket.

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The Math of Trash: A Music Video

Includes animated video

How much trash do you produce in a day? How about a year?

It adds up a lot faster than you might  think — especially in the United States, which collectively generates more garbage — or municipal waste — than any other nation on earth. With only five percent of the world’s population, America creates roughly 25 percent of the planet’s waste. On average, each American produces more than seven pounds of trash a day (or 2,555 pounds a year) according to a recent Columbia University survey. That’s a big pile of garbage, and it’s the cause of some unsettling consequences. But it’s also great fodder for a catchy animated music video, composed by the folks at Explainer Music for The Lowdown.
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In One-Day Strike, Fast-Food Workers Demand A Living Wage

Includes video
wage_hike_pic

Workers and advocates demonstrate outside of a McDonald’s in Oakland last summer. (Flickr/Steve Rhodes)

Fast-food workers at restaurants in more than 100 cities across the country, including Oakland and other East Bay cities, are walking off the the job today in a push for a major wage hike.

Backed by organized labor, the one-day actions are part of a year-old campaign to highlight the difficulties low-wage workers face in paying for basic living costs.

Following on the heels of similar protests last summer, demonstrators are demanding a wage of $15 an hour, a significant — though unlikely — raise from the current average fast-food industry wage of less than $9 an hour. Continue reading

Six Good Resources to Help Make Some Sense of Iran’s Nuclear Agreement

Includes resource roundup

Secretary of State John Kerry and leaders from five other world powers reached a temporary agreement early Sunday with Iran on its controversial nuclear program. The deal, good for six months while a more conclusive arrangement is negotiated, is intended to curb the development of Iran’s nuclear program. In exchange, there will be an easing of international sanctions against Iran, that have long crippled its economy. Although criticized by Israel and a host other nations that remain highly skeptical of Iran’s intentions, the deal has been hailed as a historic diplomatic breakthrough, a step forward after roughly a decade of failed negotiations. Continue reading