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5 skills to learn while in self-isolation
None of us know where this is heading, but we can still learn from the moment.
- During times of crisis an opportunity for learning exists.
- Given that many of us are stressed, finding ways to alleviate anxiety is important.
- While the skills you can learn from home are endless, this list offers five timely options.
Everyone is processing this moment differently. For the 10 million-plus Americans that have lost their jobs in the past few weeks due to coronavirus-related closures (based on unemployment filings; the number is likely higher), this is a time of great anxiety. I was initially going to write "uncertainty," but that word applies to everyone. Nobody knows how this transforms the world. How we fill this time is important.
For some, not being productive is the right mindset to adopt. How often are adults granted an opportunity to not work all day? When was the last time such a large number of citizens were called to not be productive in order to help society? That is antithetical to the capitalist mindset—a mindset, we're realizing, that we should be questioning. If you're able to relax into the discomfort, complete relaxation might be the best course of action for you.
But what does that even mean? Since self-isolation began, Americans are drinking more and eating horribly, both activities that damage their immune systems. When stressed we seek comfort in default habits. Sugar and alcohol provide a temporary sense of relief to some. In the long-term, they're not good options. Not being productive does not need to imply being unhealthy.
There is plenty of room for middle ground. Below are five activities perfect for this moment. They're educational, fun, and healthy without needing the stigma of "being productive" attached. We all have to fill our hours somehow. Whether we can't wait to get back out into the world or are enjoying these quiet weeks at home, we might as well use this time in a way that ultimately helps us as we navigate this crisis...and beyond.
The Magic Of Bread Making
While toilet paper and hand sanitizer are impossible to find, let's also include flour. I was fortunate enough to score some locally after a few weeks of empty shelves. There is a renaissance in baking, so much so that we're running out of yeast and flour. As Martin Philip, a baker at King Arthur Flour, puts it,
"I think it's a salve for … the stress and worry of the moment. We're going back to the instinct of caregiving, and the instinct to bring community closer to us, and bread is the center of that."
I rekindled my love for baking bread this week. An old passion when I lived in Brooklyn, for some reason I left it on the East Coast. I restarted my love of the process with delicious French country bread, as we had some yeast on hand. I'm also on day five of a sourdough starter. Once that's ready for action, the real fun will begin.
Online fitness classes are booming. Given that group fitness (along with group everything) disappeared right before our eyes, fitness enthusiasts and people that just want to move are turning to Instagram Live, Facebook, and YouTube for an entire industry of new classes. While you can find every format imaginable, my wife has been practicing with her favorite ballet dancers. She even recently took a contortionist class. In the comfort of your own home you don't have to stick with your normal exercise routine. An entire world of opportunity is at your fingertips. Plus, ballet is no joke. I took a six-week beginner's course last year and was happily humbled.
My wife has been taking ballet classes on Instagram with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) soloist Skylar Brandt, L.A. Dance Project's Patricia Zhou, and ABT's principal danger, Isabella Boylston. The fact that so many movement professionals are using this opportunity to reach people is astounding. Most of my colleagues at Equinox are also live-streaming and recording classes. (If you're interested in yoga, I live-stream on Youtube three times per week and archive every class.)
We associate the word "meditation" with sitting down and closing our eyes. For most of history, the word more closely resembled "contemplation" or "introspection" than a physical endeavor with physiological benefits. When you have a problem, you meditate on it—you think through it. What am I doing here? What do I really want to do? Who am I now that a vital component of my identity has been endangered? Millions of people are wondering what the next phase of their career or life will be, how they'll pay their bills, what 2021 or Autumn or May looks like. We're all united in the fact that no one knows the answer.
Moments of tension and confusion are ideal times for self-introspection. Don't miss that opportunity. Ask the hard questions of yourself without getting caught up in an answer. Sometimes the process of asking sets you off on a journey that isn't immediately apparent, but is most always worth it.
Physician Siddhartha Mukherjee speaks onstage during the launch of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, an unprecedented collaboration between the country's leading immunologists and cancer centers on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Parker Media
Jó reggelt kívánok! Alright, while my Magyar is basic, there's never been a better time to learn a new language. As my wife is adding Italian to her repertoire, I'm turning to the language of my ancestors. There's a long-running joke that Magyar was created by aliens. Unlike many surrounding nations, Hungarian is the major Uralic language, a group of languages that originated in North China some 25,000 years ago and spread through Siberia into Northern Europe. A romance language it is not.
While fun and challenging, learning a language is also one of the best ways to stave off diseases of dementia as you age. It improves your memory, helps your overall communication skills, and encourages creativity. Perhaps most importantly, it gives you an appreciation for cultures and mindsets foreign to you. I can't imagine a skillset this world needs more than that right now. Though we can't travel physically, your mind is never restricted by borders.
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed a profound societal ignorance of science. It's been there for decades, in the debate between evolutionary biology and creationism, in the distrust of vaccines and, the controversy du jour, 5G, and in the national discourse anytime intellectual pursuits are championed. If we learn nothing else from this virus, it should be to trust experts—and understand that sometimes experts are wrong. Science is a living, breathing process with a steep learning curve.
If you'd like to learn more about the history of medicine and the human body, here are a few wonderful books to explore. They're elegantly written and highly beneficial. Each one has helped me recognize the efforts needed to understand the world we inhabit. That knowledge is critical right now, at a time when so much disinformation is suffocating the screens in front of us. Keep scrolling for the list.
- This 103-year-old philosopher's to-do list will get you through self ... ›
- Home office ideas: how to stay productive during isolation - Big Think ›
The finding is remarkably similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes how incompetent people tend to overestimate their own competency.
- Recent studies asked participants to rate the attractiveness of themselves and other participants, who were strangers.
- The studies kept yielding the same finding: unattractive people overestimate their attractiveness, while attractive people underrate their looks.
- Why this happens is unclear, but it doesn't seem to be due to a general inability to judge attractiveness.
There's no shortage of disparities between attractive and unattractive people. Studies show that the best-looking among us tend to have an easier time making money, receiving help, avoiding punishment, and being perceived as competent. (Sure, research also suggests beautiful people have shorter relationships, but they also have more sexual partners, and more options for romantic relationships. So call it a wash.)
Now, new research reveals another disparity: Unattractive people seem less able to accurately judge their own attractiveness, and they tend to overestimate their looks. In contrast, beautiful people tend to rate themselves more accurately. If anything, they underestimate their attractiveness.
The research, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, involved six studies that asked participants to rate the attractiveness of themselves and other participants, who were strangers. The studies also asked participants to predict how others might rate them.
In the first study, lead author Tobias Greitemeyer found that the participants who were most likely to overestimate their attractiveness were among the least attractive people in the study, based on average ratings.
Ratings of subjective attractiveness as a function of the participant's objective attractiveness (Study 1)
"Overall, unattractive participants judged themselves to be of about average attractiveness and they showed very little awareness that strangers do not share this view. In contrast, attractive participants had more insights into how attractive they actually are. [...] It thus appears that unattractive people maintain illusory self‐perceptions of their attractiveness, whereas attractive people's self‐views are more grounded in reality."
Why do unattractive people overestimate their attractiveness? Could it be because they want to maintain a positive self-image, so they delude themselves? After all, previous research has shown that people tend to discredit or "forget" negative social feedback, which seems to help protect a sense of self-worth.
To find out, Greitemeyer conducted a study that aimed to put participants in a positive, non-defensive mindset before rating attractiveness. He did that by asking participants questions that affirmed parts of their personality that had nothing to do with physical appearance, such as: "Have you ever been generous and selfless to another person?" Yet, this didn't change how participants rated themselves, suggesting that unattractive people aren't overestimating their looks out of defensiveness.
The studies kept yielding the same finding: unattractive people overestimate their attractiveness. Does that bias sound familiar? If so, you might be thinking of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes how incompetent people tend to overestimate their own competency. Why? Because they lack the metacognitive skills needed to discern their own shortcomings.
Greitemeyer found that unattractive people were worse at differentiating between attractive and unattractive people. But the finding that unattractive people may have different beauty ideals (or, more plainly, weaker ability to judge attractiveness) did "not have an impact on how they perceive themselves."
In short, it remains a mystery exactly why unattractive people overestimate their looks. Greitemeyer concluded that, while most people are decent at judging the attractiveness of others, "it appears that those who are unattractive do not know that they are unattractive."
Unattractive people aren't completely unaware
The results of one study suggested that unattractive people aren't completely in the dark about their looks. In the study, unattractive people were shown a set of photos of highly attractive and unattractive people, and they were asked to select photos of people with comparable attractiveness. Most unattractive people chose to compare themselves with similarly unattractive people.
"The finding that unattractive participants selected unattractive stimulus persons with whom they would compare their attractiveness to suggests that they may have an inkling that they are less attractive than they want it to be," Greitemeyer wrote.
Every star we can see, including our sun, was born in one of these violent clouds.
This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.
An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.
Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.
These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.
The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.
This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.
The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.
"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.
"This just hasn't been possible before."
Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.
New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.
"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."
"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."
Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.
Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.
"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."
Tiny specks of space debris can move faster than bullets and cause way more damage. Cleaning it up is imperative.
- NASA estimates that more than 500,000 pieces of space trash larger than a marble are currently in orbit. Estimates exceed 128 million pieces when factoring in smaller pieces from collisions. At 17,500 MPH, even a paint chip can cause serious damage.
- To prevent this untrackable space debris from taking out satellites and putting astronauts in danger, scientists have been working on ways to retrieve large objects before they collide and create more problems.
- The team at Clearspace, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is on a mission to capture one such object using an autonomous spacecraft with claw-like arms. It's an expensive and very tricky mission, but one that could have a major impact on the future of space exploration.
This is the first episode of Just Might Work, an original series by Freethink, focused on surprising solutions to our biggest problems.
Catch more Just Might Work episodes on their channel: https://www.freethink.com/shows/just-might-work