The Surreptitious Influence of Spiteful Stereotypes

The Surreptitious Influence of Spiteful Stereotypes

As I watched the televised World Cup Final surrounded by people from a variety of countries, the camera focused briefly on young fans, their faces painted in bright colors representing their nations, jumping and cheering. 


From behind me someone criticized: “American teenage contagion of the world.” 

The young people disparaged were Argentina fans. There was no sign of an American flag, nor any indication that America had anything to do with the youths, who were simply having a good time and harming no one.  The remark was a cheap shot.

Every culture has patterns of behavior that can be observed, and considerable benefit derives from knowing how to behave when traveling. 

There’s little to be gained by insisting that we’re all the same.  We’re not.  Yet, different need not mean better or worse.

Aside from the oversimplified images that stereotypes perpetuate, I wonder how much they contribute to the spread of disdain.  It’s an important question in a world where hatreds based on racial, ethnic and cultural differences not only cause local disputes or wars but threaten global conflagration as well.

Stereotypes often take a clandestine growth path that is somewhat similar to cancer, progressing from a seemingly harmless kernel of bias that, if unaddressed, morphs into intractable xenophobia.

Each of us has the capacity to keep our stereotypes in check.  It isn’t always easy – sometimes it can be quite difficult -- but it’s always possible.  Stereotypes are no different than other patterns of thinking that we harbor and feed with questionable data. 

Learning about other cultures, we observe things to admire and perhaps find fault with some aspects.  We can learn about differences and prefer certain ways to others without slipping into lazy and often spiteful generalizations.

Faced with a derogatory stereotype, there’s always the option to ask of its source,  “What’s your data for that?” or to suggest, “That sounds more like a stereotype than a useful cultural observation.” 

Nipping stereotypes in the bud cautions others to keep their minds open while providing us with useful reminders as well.  Otherwise, we’re at risk of simply perpetuating ignorance.

photo: Kasimira Nevenova/www.shutterstock.com

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China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
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This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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