Gee – We REALLY Don’t Like To Be Alone With Our Own Thoughts

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“In 11 experiments involving more than 700 people, the majority of participants reported that they found it unpleasant to be alone in a room with their thoughts for just 6 to 15 minutes. Moreover, in one experiment, 64 percent of men and 15 percent of women began self-administering electric shocks when left alone to think.”

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Why Do We Love Little Free Libraries So Much?

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“Though they owe their spread largely to the Internet, Little Free Libraries often serve as an antidote to a world of Kindle downloads and data-driven algorithms. The little wooden boxes are refreshingly physical—and human.”

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The Best Way To Support An Artist

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“You may want your supportive activities to make her happy, but for some artists happiness doesn’t lead to creativity; they do their best work in times of turmoil or struggle – and they know it.”

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What’s It Like Working With, And Managing, Robots?

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“When the errors crop up–and they always do, in spectacularly catastrophic ways–it sort of feels like a rebellion because I am telling it to do this thing, and it doesn’t follow my instructions. And then it becomes this question of management. Can I convince this entity to do for me what I want it to do and what the entire company is telling it it should be doing?”

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Algorithm “Mutates” Art

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“The algorithm mutates the image in different ways: chopping it in half, overlaying it on another image or randomly altering it. The resulting images are either culled or kept depending on how closely they adhere to the user’s initial stylistic choices, and the process repeats. The person can stop the process at any time and select an image they like, or let it keep running.”

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Short Attention Spans? Why, That’s Just A Sign Of How Smart We’re Getting

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“The world is faster, faster, faster these days. That’s the current reality, and it’s not going anywhere. Leaving a page that isn’t loading isn’t a character fault; it’s smart. You can get the information you were after elsewhere, and you can get it faster. If we really valued what we were made to wait for, well, we would wait.”

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Why Do Our Brains Leap To Stereotypes?

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“In essence, they write, our minds are hard-wired to categorize information and create mental shortcuts (attribute A is associated with behavior B). This helps us retain knowledge using minimal mental effort, and provides a needed sense of structure to an otherwise chaotic universe. In doing so, however, nuances and complications tend to be discarded.”

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Does This Make Me Sound Insecure? The Linguistic Tics That Reveal Self-Doubt

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“Like a scarlet sock in the load of white wash, insecurity has the irksome power to stain our speech and writing, interfering with the immaculate poise we’d like to project. Yet if you know what linguistic tics to look for, you can recognize self-doubt (and perhaps bleach the fuchsia from your pants before anyone notices).”

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Self-Improvement, Original Sin, And The West’s Spiritual Crises

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“Most people assume the western church shares the same creation story as Jews, Muslims, and Orthodox Christians.” Not so: the doctrine of original sin is unique to Western Christianity. “The search for salvation from an inherently broken self has defined modernity as much as it did Christendom. The need for redemption has shaped the language of the market, technological innovation, advertising, politics and, most obviously, self-help movements. But what is new is for there to be so little consensus on how to find salvation.”

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Do Creative Geniuses *Have* To Be Nuts?

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“Neuroscientist and literary scholar Nancy C. Andreasen tries to answer the question: If high IQ does not indicate creative genius, then where does the trait come from, and why is it so often accompanied by mental illness?” (audio)

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Happiness is… (How Can We Be It If We Can’t Define It?)

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“What is unhappiness? Your intuition might be that it is simply the opposite of happiness, just as darkness is the absence of light. That is not correct. Happiness and unhappiness are certainly related, but they are not actually opposites. Images of the brain show that parts of the left cerebral cortex are more active than the right when we are experiencing happiness, while the right side becomes more active when we are unhappy.”

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The Way Kids, Um, Talk Is, You Know, Like, Actually Conscientious

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“Often enough, something we propose as a serious idea turns out to be more or less a joke. It’s much rarer that something proposed as a joke – or, at least, proposed as a semi-serious conceit, offered in the spirit of what’s often called, grimly, ‘tongue in cheek’ – turns out to be, or to have the germ of, a serious idea.” But Adam Gopnik has one.

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How The Moon Became A Real Place

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“In popular imagination, the moon vivid, expansive, and fantastic. There was talk of winged creatures, moon elephants, scalding heat, and deep oceans. Newspapers were filled with stories—fictional, scientific, and artistic. In 1902, The San Francisco Call had an actual man act out the various faces of the man in the moon.”

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In Praise Of (And In Search For) Broads

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“Like a lot of theater fans, I’ve been mourning the death of brassy Broadway legend Elaine Stritch. It means there’s one less fabulous, foul-mouthed, talented, gin-swilling broad on this earth.”

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A Childhood Spent During The Philosophy Of Nudity

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“Nudity proponents of every stripe harbored the romantic notion that humans are naked in their natural state and feel no shame about it. This belief provided the underlying justification for every gospel of nakedness — but we now know that it is mistaken.”

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The Art Of Tests (How Testing Makes Us Smarter)

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“The question is how to structure and use tests effectively. One insight that we and other researchers have uncovered is that tests serve students best when they’re integrated into the regular business of learning and the stakes are not make-or-break, as in standardized testing. That means, among other things, testing new learning within the context of regular classes and study routines.”

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A Creativity Pill? A Doctor Looks At The Evidence

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“I started painting from morning till night, and often all through the night until morning. I used countless numbers of brushes at a time. I used knives, forks, sponges … I would gouge open tubes of paint–it was everywhere. But I was still in control at that point. Then, I started painting on the walls, the furniture, even the washing machine. I would paint any surface I came across. I also had my ‘expression wall’ and I could not stop myself from painting and repainting [it] every night in a trance-like state. My partner could no longer bear it. People close to me realized that I crossed some kind of line into the pathological, and, at their instigation, I was hospitalized.”

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What We Really Taste When We Drink Wine

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Researchers are finding that we – all of us – are way more suggestible than we’d like to think, and influenced by factors even the savviest of us might not expect. (They’ve even fooled a class of oenology students by coloring a white wine red.)

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