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What’s the big idea?
There is no shortage of online tools to help us research restaurants, track up-to-the-minute news and even plan out our zombie escape routes, yet there are very few tools that can help us research, track and plan our own happiness. One of the few that does exist is Happstr, an online service that launched earlier this year, which lets users map out their happy places and discover where others have felt happy.
The service itself is pretty straightforward. Simply log onto Happstr’s website from your smartphone, let it track your current location and then select the “feeling happy” tab. From there, you’ll be prompted to enter in a reason why you’re feeling so good at that moment. Once you’ve done that, a pin decorated with a smiley face will appear on the map in your location, which can then be seen by other users when browsing through the map on the service.
In theory, you could either use a service like Happstr to geotag your best moments for reference later, or to unearth the happiest spots in any part of the world. Both uses have great potential for understanding and increasing your own happiness from day to day. The first use effectively lets you keep a real-time log of where and why you were happy so you can make more informed decisions later. You might think you’re happier in San Francisco than New York, but maybe you’ll notice you’ve had many more happy experiences in New York after all. The second use is particularly exciting if you believe that happiness is contagious. Certain areas may be more conducive to happy moments than others, or at the very least, these areas may be more attractive to happy people. Either way, you could use the map to pinpoint areas with happiness hot spots where you could feed off the good vibes.
Before you dive into the service, keep in mind that Happstr is still far from a finished product. In fact, as the story goes, Happstr was built in a rush by a group of entrepreneurs heading down to the South by Southwest tech conference in March. Just imagine what these and other developers could do for happiness if they committed more than a passing afternoon to it.
What’s the significance?
While Happstr may have been a rush job initially, the goal of the developers behind it is one that deserves much more time and attention. Right after the service launched, Happstr’s co-creator told Mashable that people should be able to track their happiness in the same way that they can track their fitness. Think about the many websites and apps that exist to help you pick out the right gym, plan your workout routine and diet, track your progress and share updates with friends and family. This is the power technology has to help us fulfill goals, so why wouldn’t we apply it to the ultimate goal of achieving happiness?
Happstr isn’t the first application to work towards this goal. In 2009, one Harvard researcher released an iPhone app called Track Your Happiness that asks users to rate how happy they are, what they are doing and thinking about at that moment, among other questions. After repeating this survey enough times, the app provides users with their very own “happiness report” breaking down how happy they are and what factors contribute to it. The app effectively served as a glorified research project and indeed the man behind it did put out a report based on the surveys. His conclusion: people are happiest when they stop their mind from wandering.
The bottom line is that happiness isn’t just a feeling that you experience if you’re lucky, and it shouldn’t be left entirely to chance. There are specific factors that influence each person’s happiness, which can be easily tracked with the right tools. Apps like Happstr and Track Your Happiness represent a promising start, but the happiness market is still in its infancy. Hopefully other entrepreneurs will jump into this market soon. After all, what business could ever be more fulfilling than one that works towards improving our happiness?
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Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
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In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
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