Help Science Guide This Child
David Berreby is the author of "Us and Them: The Science of Identity." He has written about human behavior and other science topics for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Smithsonian, The New Republic, Nature, Discover, Vogue and many other publications. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Paris, a Science Writing Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, a resident at Yaddo, and in 2006 was awarded the Erving Goffman Award for Outstanding Scholarship for the first edition of "Us and Them." David can be found on Twitter at @davidberreby and reached by email at david [at] davidberreby [dot] com.
The big cognitive and emotional news in the Mind Matters household is that it is expecting the arrival in a few weeks of a demanding, very long-staying guest, whose personality and tastes are unknown to either current member. This being, a human infant, inspires us, its soon-to-be mother and father, with hope, terror and powerful urges at various levels of analysis: We must make money! We must become better people! We must urinate now!
What will this new person be like? We, the parents, don't run the casino of genetics, nor the crap shoot that is the overall state of society in 2019, nor the lottery that is his (it's a he) peer group. And the outcome of those gambles will have more to do with the kid's mind matters than whether or not we play him Mozart in his bassinette. (Note to self: Obtain bassinette soon.) Judith Rich Harris persuaded me of this years ago.
Still, we'd like to keep our oar in, which leads me to this request to you, oh readers: I would like to know what non-obvious books or articles you'd recommend to new parents about the mind, psychology, neuroscience or related subjects.
By non-obvious I mean works that aren't clearly designed to advise, warn, or recount. We don't need to be told about memoirs like Anne Lamott's on motherhood or Michael Lewis' on fatherhood or Michael Chabon's on both. All fine books, but I didn't need a guide to find them. Don't need pointers to Doctors Spock or Sears either. I'd like to know about mind-science work that, without being explicitly about baby-handling or child-rearing, nonetheless had an influence on you.
For instance, I keep coming back to Temple Grandin's Animals in Translation, because it's about how to understand minds that can't talk and don't see the social world in which most people—but not newborns—live. Among blogs I like Parentingscience.
However, this first child of ours is not yet born, which means that I, by definition, don't really know what I'm talking about here. A thought, by the way, I find restful. As people can't control or predict the future, I find the expectation that I should to be pointlessly stressful. Like Nicholas Nassim Taleb, who has said he likes the Muslim phrase inshallah ("God willing"), appended to most future-tense sentences, for this reason: It's a sage reminder that no one really knows for sure what's going to happen, whatever wishful thinking we prefer to enjoy.)
Anyway, if there is a scientific work out there that helped you in your parent experience, or that you wish now you had known about then, please add a few lines to the comments section.
Your Blogging Pledge of Quality: Neither baby pictures, nor gassy reflections on what it all means, nor cute nicknames (MM 2.0, Neuron Matters) will besmirch this blog. If in some future month you notice me violating this pledge, please (a) let me know and (b) ask yourself why you have so much free time to devote to the blogosphere.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
From time-traveling billiard balls to information-destroying black holes, the world's got plenty of puzzles that are hard to wrap your head around.
- While it's one of the best on Earth, the human brain has a lot of trouble accounting for certain problems.
- We've evolved to think of reality in a very specific way, but there are plenty of paradoxes out there to suggest that reality doesn't work quite the way we think it does.
- Considering these paradoxes is a great way to come to grips with how incomplete our understanding of the universe really is.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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