Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time as predicted by HG Wells.
Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge. The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said - before a decline due to dependence on technology. People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added. ...more
The universality of English and the spector of dying languages.
The going idea among linguists and anthropologists is that we must keep as many languages alive as possible, and that the death of each one is another step on a treadmill toward humankind's cultural oblivion. This accounted for the melancholy tone, for example, of the obituaries for the Eyak language of southern Alaska last year when its last speaker died. That death did mean, to be sure, that no one will again use the word demexch, which refers to a soft spot in the ice where it is good to fish. ...more
Depression is not a malfunction, but a mental adaptation that brings certain cognitive advantages.
So what could be so useful about depression? Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time. This analytical style of thought, of course, can be very productive. ...more
How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting.
This desire to search is not just about fulfilling our physical needs. Panksepp says that humans can get just as excited about abstract rewards as tangible ones. He says that when we get thrilled about the world of ideas, about making intellectual connections, about divining meaning, it is the seeking circuits that are firing. The juice that fuels the seeking system is the neurotransmitter dopamine. ...more
They civilize men and preserve society as we know it.
You have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: "I don't love you anymore. I'm not sure I ever did. I'm moving out. The kids will understand. They'll want me to be happy." But wait. This isn't the divorce story you think it is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. ...more
How Did Humans Come Down From The Trees And Why Did No One Follow?.
In the 6 million years since hominids split from the evolutionary ancestor we share with chimpanzees and bonobos, something happened to our brains that allowed us to become master cooperators, accumulate knowledge at a rapid rate, and manipulate tools to colonize almost every corner of the planet. ...more
Using the Lottery Effect to Make People Save.
Psychologists have long known that people tend to overestimate the odds of rare events. Applying that behavioral insight, finance professor Peter Tufano of Harvard Business School has devised a clever program called "Save to Win." Launched earlier this year for members of eight credit unions in Michigan, it is a cross between a certificate of deposit and a raffle ticket. Members who put $25 or more into a Save to Win one-year CD are entered into a monthly "savings raffle" for prizes up to $400, plus one annual drawing for a $100,000 jackpot. ...more
Violence is declining, argues psychologist Steven Pinker. What are we doing right?
Now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler. In fact, our ancestors were far more violent than we are today. Indeed, violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth. ...more
Calorie restrictive eating for longer life? The story we didn't hear in the news.
Nourishment is one of life's greatest pleasures, as well as one of its most basic necessities. Advising people to live their lives obsessed with counting calories and restrained eating, where the pleasures of eating are replaced by punitive dietary regimens and chronic hunger, and where avoiding death becomes the main preoccupation of living, takes on more of a religious ideology, than sound science. ...more
This author explains an arcane subject in amazing crsytal clear language.
Let me be plain about it. Addition and multiplication are different operations on numbers. There are, to be sure, connections. One such is that multiplication does provide a quick way of finding the answer to a repeated addition sum. Indeed, if the only thing anyone ever needed to do with numbers is add them, either once or repeatedly, then there would be no need to have something called multiplication; there would simply be a clever shortcut to find the answer to a repeated addition. ...more
It's saturday night and I'm hanging out on twitter just wearing a kimona.
About a month ago, i was at home on a friday night (loser that i often am when i'm not touring, i almost never go out) and was, of course, on my mac, shifting between emails, links and occasionally doing some dishes and packing for a trip the next day. just a usual friday-night-rock-star-multi-tasking extravaganza. i twitter whenever i'm online, i love the way it gives me a direct line of communication with my fans and friends. ...more
For some people, optimistic thoughts can do more harm than good.
"I CAN pass this exam", "I am a wonderful person and will find love again" and "I am capable and deserve that pay rise" are phrases that students, the broken-hearted and driven employees may repeat to themselves over and over again in the face of adversity. Self-help books through the ages, including Norman Vincent Peale's 1952 classic, "The Power of Positive Thinking", have encouraged people with low self-esteem to make positive self-statements. New research, however, suggests it may do more harm than good. ...more
Why Are Humans Different From All Other Apes?
Human beings are not obviously equipped to be nature's gladiators. We have no claws, no armor. That we eat meat seems surprising, because we are not made for chewing it uncooked in the wild. Our jaws are weak; our teeth are blunt; our mouths are small. That thing below our noses? It truly is a pie hole. To attend to these facts, for some people, is to plead for vegetarianism or for a raw-food diet. We should forage and eat the way our long-ago ancestors surely did. ...more
Until recently, examining paranoid politics was not a respectable occupation for serious writers.
Stephen Jay Gould once wrote that few of his scientific colleagues wanted to spend years looking for fraudulent science when they could be concentrating on making their own discoveries. The same unwillingness to waste precious time protected fraudulent history. The effort needed to go through the shifting assertions of, say, the 9/11 "truth" campaigners would question the researcher's sanity as much as the sanity of his or her targets. ...more
They don't just think differently, they also feel differently.
Liberals and conservatives often form judgments through flash intuitions that aren't a result of a deliberative process. The crucial part of the brain for these judgments is the medial prefrontal cortex, which has more to do with moralizing than with rationality. One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty. ...more
Achieving Fame, Wealth And Beauty Are Psychological Dead Ends.
Reaching materialistic and image-related milestones actually contributes to ill-being; despite their accomplishments, individuals experience more negative emotions like shame and anger and more physical symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, stomachaches, and loss of energy. By contrast, individuals who value personal growth, close relationships, community involvement, and physical health are more satisfied as they meet success in those areas. ...more
Men with stronger muscles from regular weight training are up to 40 per cent less likely to die from cancer.
The findings, by an international team of researchers, suggest muscular strength is as important as staying slim and eating healthily when it comes to protecting the body against deadly tumours. The scientists who came up with the findings are recommending men weight train at least twice a week, exercising muscle groups in both the upper and lower body. ...more
Foods high in fat, salt and sugar alter the brain's chemistry and stimulate overeating.
These foods stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center, he found. In time, the brain gets wired so that dopamine pathways light up at the mere suggestion of the food, such as driving past a fast-food restaurant, and the urge to eat the food grows insistent. Once the food is eaten, the brain releases opioids, which bring emotional relief. Together, dopamine and opioids create a pathway that can activate every time a person is reminded about the particular food. This happens regardless of whether the person is hungry. ...more
25 years to bounce back?
A careful analysis of the record shows that the picture is more complex and, ultimately, far less daunting: An investor who invested a lump sum in the average stock at the market's 1929 high would have been back to a break-even by late 1936 — less than four and a half years after the mid-1932 market low. How can this be? ...more
If you want to succeed in business, don't get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead.
All economic organizations involve at least some degree of power, and power always pisses people off. That is the human condition. At the end of the day, it isn't a new world order that the management theorists are after; it's the sensation of the revolutionary moment. They long for that exhilarating instant when they're fighting the good fight and imagining a future utopia. What happens after the revolution – civil war and Stalinism being good bets – could not be of less concern. ...more
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