from the world's big
Science Is a Pain in the Butt. Embrace It.
Science is often awkward and frustratingly uncertain and mindbogglingly complicated. It is also what enriches our lives.
Imagine you're at a black-tie gala. It's super fancy. Waiters slip through the chattering throngcarrying collages of crackers, caviar, and cheese. Others bear trays arranged with glasses of expensive champagne. Everybody important is there: friends, colleagues, influential media persons, celebrities, even politicians. And the best part of the whole shindig? You're fitting right in.
For the last fifteen minutes you've been regaling a group of a dozen or so people with your opinions on a controversial piece of legislation, sounding more intelligent than you ever have in your life. They devour your oration, nodding and agreeing with everything you say, like you're a respected, preeminent thinker. The personal gratification is out of this world.
Then, out of nowhere, a gangly chap appears at your side. "What are you talking about?" he inquires.
The question catches you off guard. Who the heck is this guy? Though you feel a bit slighted by his interruption, you gather yourself and muster a smile, then catch him up to speed with everyone else. He'll certainly agree with you anyway...
The chap listens politely while you speak. When finished, you expect him to proffer a reinforcing nod. He doesn't. "Well, actually..." he starts to say.
Instead of endorsing your opinions, he proceeds to dismantle them, offering a well-measured response replete with solid evidence. His rebuttal obliterates your case, and deep down, you know that he's right...
...But acquiescence isn't on your mind. He's spoiled your glorious moment and questioned your beliefs, all with an aura of innocence. You detest him for it.
That gangly chap is Science, and the situation is a metaphor for one of the biggest reasons why it's a total pain in the butt.
SINCE ITS INCEPTION, Science has been a thorn in the side: incessantly inconvenient, calculatingly cold, and questioning of one's deeply held beliefs. It disregards personal feelings and eschews political correctness.
But that's not the worst of it.
Science is the reason why Earth is no longer at the center of the Universe. We humans used to be so significant. Everything revolved around us until Science and it's meddling, pesky purveyors got in the way. Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo couldn't leave well enough alone. They simply had to burst our geocentric bubble of superiority. But we showed those scientists. We cast them out, banned their ideas, and placed them under trial. But alas, in the end, we couldn't stop them. The ideas far outlived their mortal originators. Now, the Earth is just a rock in a solar system, one of billions.
Science is also the reason why our planet is warming. Because of scientists and their "data," we might have to change everything: where we live, how we move, how we power our cities and towns. How inconvenient!
What's more, Science is frustratingly uncertain! On tons of issues, including nutrition, string theory, and psychiatric disorders, it can't seem to make up its mind! Who has time for such indecision? Additionally, Science is mind-bogglingly complicated. All of those darn science journals seem to be written in a foreign language. What a headache!
You know what else? Science is awkward. It makes us talk about sex! Moreover, Science is simply disgusting. Scientists do things like dissect animals. They also tell us that bacteria are everywhere, even inside us!!
YET FOR ALL OF Science's painful vexations, you want it at your party.
Science cures our diseases. For thousands of years, small pox, the "red plague," devastated humanity. Even great Egyptian pharaohs weren't immune to its deadly embrace. The disease killed more than 300 million people in the 20th Century, alone. Today it's gone, thanks in large part to the inquisitive scientist Edward Jenner, who took it upon himself to inoculate people with the pus from cowpox blisters.
Science feeds us. Research fueled the Green Revolution of the mid twentieth century, where novel pesticides, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, and improved crop varieties drastically increased crop yields worldwide, and may have saved up to a billion lives.
Science takes us to far away places. Desire for discovery has launched us to moons, planets, and -- soon -- interstellar space. Of course, there are almost an infinite number of places we haven't visited, but if we can't actually go there, we'll gaze as far as we can, with mighty telescopes as our eyes. Looking never hurts, quite the opposite in fact. It transports us.
Science enriches our lives. The origins of that television you watch can be traced far into the past. It was Christmas Eve 1883 when 23-year-old Paul Nipkow scribbled out an idea to use a spiral-perforated disk to divide a picture into a mosaic of points and lines. He had no idea the extent to which his scrawled diagram would evolve.
Science is predicated on the notion that we don't know everything. I think that's why, to many, Science elicits opprobrium. To human beings, nothing is more comforting than certitude, and the findings of science are uncontrollable. Sometimes our efforts to look farther and explore deeper reveal only chaos. Not looking might be the easy course of action, but it's surely not the correct one.
When one thinks long and hard, one realizes that science's annoying detractors aren't really detractors at all. We all want certainty, but certainty without evidence isn't certainty at all.
"The great thing about science is there are no unshakable truths," says physicist Lawrence Krauss.
According to Krauss, every college student should have "the opportunity to have something that is at the heart of their being -- something so central to their being that if they lose it they won't feel they're human any more -- to be proved wrong..."
Everyone should have such a chance. It's not debilitating; it's liberating.
(Images: 1. Figure of the heavenly bodies by Bartolomeu Velho via Wikimedia Commons 2.Comet Passes Earth via Shutterstock)
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
How can we promote the creation of new neurons - and why is it so important?
- Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
- After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
- Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
Two parts of the brain can continue growing through neurogenesis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTAwODc1MH0.4GDLlZmkwuD0-pJ0s0UWcUoYXMy95a-AM61a_QAlAeA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e77e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4e23499fdf3b2185533979083fd02db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="brain made of twigs and plants concept of neurogenesis" />
Neurogenesis is still possible well into adulthood in two very important parts of the human brain.
Image by EtiAmmos on Shutterstock<p>Although most people are aware that aging or bad habits such as heavy alcohol use can contribute to the deterioration of our brains, not many of us give thought to how we can generate new brain cells.</p><p>Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth. </p><p><strong>After birth, however, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain:</strong></p><ul><li>The olfactory bulb, which is a structure of the forebrain that's responsible for our sense of smell. </li><li>The hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain located within the temporal lobe (just above your ears) - this area is important for learning, memory, regulation, of emotions and spatial navigation. </li></ul><p>Of course, when this information first came to light <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13860748" target="_blank">back in the 1960s</a>, the next natural question was: How do we promote neurogenesis in those areas where it's still possible? </p><p>Researchers today believe there are activities you can do (some of them may be things you already do on a daily basis) that can promote neurogenesis in your brain. </p><p><strong>Why is it important to promote the growth of new neurons in adulthood?</strong></p><p>We produce an estimated 700 million neurons per day in the hippocampus - this means by the time we reach the age of 50, we will have exchanged the neurons we were born within that area of the brain with new (adult-generated) neurons. </p><p>If we don't promote this exchange with the growth of new neurons, we may block certain abilities these new neurons help us with (such as keeping our memory sharp, for example). </p>
4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE3NjczNH0.qyzh_AIUPKfaQIa1QEq4yTNCAAK9nYkH3HFV9vWXwww/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C104&height=700" id="64a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee1307fe2dd61ae425552da56db3c5ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child playing trumpet concept of learning a new instrument neurogenesis" />
Learning a new instrument helps promote neurogenesis.
Photo by DenisProduction.com on Shutterstock<p><strong>Intermittent fasting</strong></p><p><a href="https://law.stanford.edu/2015/01/09/lawandbiosciences-2015-01-09-intermittent-fasting-try-this-at-home-for-brain-health/" target="_blank">A 2015 Stanford study</a> examined the link between <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section1" target="_blank">intermittent fasting</a> and neurogenesis. Calorie restriction and fasting can not only increase synaptic plasticity and promote neuron growth but it can also decrease your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases and boost cognitive function. </p><p><u>Two of the most common ways you can intermittently fast are: </u></p><ul><li>16 hours per day every day - this is a method where you are able to eat for an 8 hour period of the day and fast for 16 hours of the day. Many people begin their "fast" after dinner, pushing their morning meal far enough towards lunch that most of their "off" eating time happens while they are asleep anyways. </li></ul><ul><li>24 hours every week - this is a method where once a week you fast for an entire day. Some people prefer this method because the rest of the week can resume as normal - but for many, this is a difficult way to fast. </li></ul><p><strong>Traveling to new places</strong></p><p>While traveling is something many of us enjoy — scenic routes and new fun experiences — these things also promote neurogenesis while we're on vacation. <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-xpm-2014-01-28-sc-trav-0128-travel-mechanic-20140128-story.html" target="_blank">Paul Nussbaum</a>, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explains that the mental benefits of traveling are very clear.<br></p><p><em>"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites (dangling extensions) which grow the brain's capacity." </em></p><p><strong>Learning a new instrument</strong></p><p>The mental health benefits of music have long been studied, but did you know that learning a new instrument can promote new neuron growth? </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996135/" target="_blank">this 2010 study</a>, learning to play a new musical instrument is an intense, multisensory motor experience that requires that acquisition and maintenance of skills over your entire lifetime - which of course, promotes the new formation of new neural networks. </p><p>When is the best time to begin learning a new instrument? Childhood, of course. </p><p><em>"Learning to play a new musical instrument in childhood can result in long-lasting changes in brain organization," </em>according to the study mentioned above. </p><p>While learning an instrument in adulthood will also promote neurogenesis, children who began training with a musical instrument before the age of 7 have shown that they have a significantly larger corpus callosum (the area of the brain the allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain) than many adults. </p><p><strong>Reading novels</strong></p><p>A study from <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html" target="_blank">Emory University</a> showed there was an increase in ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading the same (fiction) novel. </p><p>In this study, enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that control physical sensations and movement. Reading a novel, according to lead researcher Gregory Berns, can transport you into the body of the protagonist. </p><p>This ability to shift into another mental state is a vital skill that promotes healthy neurogenesis in those areas of the brain. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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