Ideas

Dangerous Satire? Americans Know Nothing Of Dangerous Satire

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“America simply never had a Werner Finck, and we certainly don’t have a Bassem Youssef, even though we’d like to think we do. It is far safer and easier to canonize Chaplin’s ballet performance [in The Great Dictator] while forgetting the unsafe, uneasy provocations of Finck [and Youssef]. Americans tolerate bullshit even when we know – we know – it’s bullshit. At the best of times, there is something luxurious about this.”

Men’s And Women’s Brains Are Indeed Different – But Only A Little

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“Two years ago, a study of the differences between male and female brains caused a storm. The researchers, based at the University of Pennsylvania, claimed to have found that, from adolescence onwards, men’s brains have more connections within each hemisphere, whereas women’s brains have more cross-connections between the hemispheres.” Well, they’ve updated their findings.

Finally – An App That Might Make Learning Easier

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“As the system learns more about a student, it can automatically recommend the pieces of content that are most likely to help that student improve. In other words, it lifts the burden of those decisions off of the teacher.”

When Freud Meets fMRIs – Neuropsychoanalysis Is Now A Thing

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“With their starkly different goals, methods, and cultures, psychoanalysis and neuroscience can appear to be two different species, mutually alienated, as if preoccupied with two altogether different pursuits. But to some, like Solms, they are merely two views of the same object.”

Is Scientific Research Just More Wrong Than It Used To Be?

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“By one estimate, from 2001 to 2010, the annual rate of retractions by academic journals increased by a factor of 11 (adjusting for increases in published literature, and excluding articles by repeat offenders) [2]. This surge raises an obvious question: Are retractions increasing because errors and other misdeeds are becoming more common, or because research is now scrutinized more closely?”

Are The Social Sciences Ultimately Futile? The Problem With P-Values

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“In research, the p-value represents the odds that your finding is a fluke, a coincidence, nothing more than a chance occurrence. In p-values, as in golf, lower is better. … And yet it says almost nothing about the size or strength of a result.” If the results of research can always be a fluke, why bother? The problem lies in what we expect from science.

Guarding Machu Picchu, With Drones

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“Peru’s drone archaeology team has quickly become one of the most active in the world, working to accurately survey and preserve the South American nation’s thousands of valuable archaeological sites.”

Sorting All The Numbers In The World

Neil Sloane, founder of the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (OEIS), works in Highland Park, NJ, home office on July 16, 2105. OEIS, which has more than 250,000 sequences, celebrated it 50 anniversary last year. (Photo: John Smock)

“What’s the greatest number of cake slices that can be made with n cuts? Look up sequence A000125 in the OEIS. How many chess positions can be created in n moves? That’s sequence A048987.”

The Tyranny Of Algorithms: How Our Choices Are Being Narrowed

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“Cyberspace is no longer an escape from the ‘real world’. It is now a force governing it via algorithms: recipe-like sets of instructions to solve problems. From Google search to OkCupid matchmaking, software orders and weights hundreds of variables into clean, simple interfaces, taking us from query to solution. Complex mathematics govern such answers, but it is hidden from plain view, thanks either to secrecy imposed by law, or to complexity outsiders cannot unravel.”

The Neuroscience Of Being A Selfish Jerk

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A team of Hungarian researchers scanned the brains of people who got high scores on a test for Machiavellianism (yes, this is a clinical term for a personality trait) while they played a game of trust. “They found that Machiavellians’ brains went into overdrive when they encountered a partner who exhibited signs of being fair and cooperative. Why? … Because the Machiavellians are immediately figuring out how to exploit the situation for their own gain.”

Taking To Kickstarter, A Major Architect Wants To Fund Activist Public Art

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The Kickstarter campaign is as much about activism as it is about funding—an increasingly popular tactic in the architecture world. “You could say the whole idea of the project is an exercise in radical transparency. What the project does is make blatantly legible a carbon footprint that is invisible, and only exists in the form of numbers and specifics and news.” The point of the tower is to raise environmental awareness. By asking the public to contribute, the firm is putting it to the people to decide if they want a visual representation of pollution on the skyline. It also detaches the project from any corporate influence.

What Defines Your Identity? Your Moral Compass, Suggests Study

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“What defines a person? Is it their memories? Their hobbies? … According to a new study, kindness, loyalty, and other traits of morality are what really constitute someone’s being. … Contrary to what generations of philosophers and psychologists have thought, memory loss doesn’t make someone seem like a different person.”

So The Culture Wars Are Over? Oh Really?

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“Whether the internet is simply a new, more broadly accessible forum for old debates about the meaning of America, or whether it is facilitating a new kind of culture war altogether, is not entirely clear. Nor are online spaces any less susceptible to the imperatives of capitalism than any other part of American culture. But if the culture wars are over, no one told their most energetic partisans: on this new frontier, the battle rages on.”

Archaeology’s Fraught Relationship With Religion

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The very beginnings of the discipline are tied up with religion, particularly attempts to validate the Bible. Today, there are students who neither know nor care much about the Bible and aren’t willing to take its importance as a given. How will that change the field?

The Brain Implant That Can Wirelessly Control Emotions

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“What if we could, with the push of a button, make microscopic alterations of a few neurons, causing the happy chemicals to ring out in a jackpot celebration, with no side effects? Would we be ready to handle such complete control over our emotional reality?”

The Lies And Infidelities Of Translation

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“In translation, a discontent with reality expresses itself forcefully and most hauntingly by the longing to reproduce this one. The fabrication of a new, parallel reality flies in the face of the already created and as such is based on negation, and what should be the vacuum of a dream becomes continually replete as the source of dreams.”

The Neuroscience Of Drumming: Why Drummers Drum And What It Does For Them

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Drumming ultimately has therapeutic value, providing the emotional and physical benefits collectively known as “drummer’s high,” an endorphin rush that can only be stimulated by playing music, not simply listening to it. In addition to increasing people’s pain thresholds, Oxford psychologists found, the endorphin-filled act of drumming increases positive emotions and leads people to work together in a more cooperative fashion.

What Emotion Produces The Best Creativity?

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But what can we do, then, to increase states of creativity? Inducing states of both positive and negative emotions (“emotional ambivalence”) is suggested, as is creating an environment that is unusual. This may be why you’ve never heard someone say, “Cubicles?

The Key To Real Creativity? Study Says Persistence

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“Researchers report that people consistently underestimate how many creative ideas they can come up with if they continue to work on a problem, rather than giving up in the wake of mediocre initial results. What’s more, the study finds the most creative ideas tend to arise after many others have been considered and discarded. If you give up too soon, chances are you’re not allowing your most promising notions to emerge.”

When People Have The ‘Porcupine Problem’ (As Schopenhauer Called It)

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“Imagine a group of porcupines trying to survive a cold winter. They huddle together for warmth, only to then poke one another with their quills and withdraw. Schopenhauer wrote that human relationships are like this: Much as cold drives the animal porcupines together, ‘the need of society drives the human porcupines together, only to be mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of their nature.'”

“Micro-Aggressions” – Are Our College Campuses Shutting Down Intellectual Debate?

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This new climate is slowly being institutionalized, and is affecting what can be said in the classroom, even as a basis for discussion. During the 2014–15 school year, for instance, the deans and department chairs at the 10 University of California system schools were presented by administrators at faculty leader-training sessions with examples of microaggressions. The list of offensive statements included: “America is the land of opportunity” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”

What Matters Isn’t What Happened – It’s The Stories We Tell Ourselves About What Happened That Make Us Who We Are

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“Though perhaps the facts of someone’s life, presented end to end, wouldn’t much resemble a narrative to the outside observer, the way people choose to tell the stories of their lives, to others and – crucially – to themselves, almost always does have a narrative arc. In telling the story of how you became who you are, and of who you’re on your way to becoming, the story itself becomes a part of who you are.”

Can Envy Be Good for You? (Definitely, Sometimes)

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“Admiration is seen as a noble sentiment – we admire people for admiring others, detecting, in their admiration, a suggestion of taste and humility. Envy, by contrast, is thought to be inherently bad … Is that really the case? Or can something frustrating and painful lead, almost in spite of itself, to positive ends – to even better ends, perhaps, than its more admired counterpart? Not all envy, we are learning, is created equal.”