from the world's big
10 reasons there should be a maximum age limit to run for president
Why the effects of aging are detrimental to being the U.S. president.
- As there's a minimum age, there should be a maximum one.
- Aging causes decline in numerous cognitive skills as shown in numerous studies.
- Older candidates are less likely to support new ideas, technologies and societal changes.
Look, this is not meant to be ageist. But as we have a minimum age to become president – 35 – there should be a maximum age too. Why 35 anyway? Who determined that 35 is the age you have mature enough ideas and know enough about the world? So a younger person is not able to have good ideas before then?
Of course that age limit comes from the founding fathers who drafted the Constitution. They somewhat arbitrarily calculated that 35 was the age you'd achieve competency in life and be ready to rule a nation.
What should be the top age limit to run for president? For one the retirement age is 66 - maybe that's a good cutoff point after which we shouldn't have to contend with people trying to take on what is likely the hardest and most demanding job in the world.
To look at this further, here are top 10 reasons for why we should have a maximum age to become president –
1. Mental sharpness
As a society, we value age. Older people are supposed to have the knowledge and the experience. But is that enough in a position that requires one to react to thousands of variables in an increasingly-complex world where missteps can lead to global catastrophe?
A 2015 study carried out by MIT's Joshua Hartshorne and Laura Germine from Harvard found the different ages when our brains are their utmost. The majority of mental processing skills like memory, pattern recognition, and reacting quickly peaked from around the late teens into the 20s. Other components of such 'fluid intelligence" peaked as late as 40. Certain life skills like the ability to recall people's emotional states were at their strongest in the 40s and 50s. General knowledge and comprehension peaked by 50. Vocabulary, which is a measure of accumulated intelligence, actually peaked into the late 60s and early 70s.
When does the brain's power start to decline? After reaching their full potential in the 20s, the processing functions like strategic memory that helps recalling names and numbers start to decline during that same decade. Tasks found to be sensitive to aging, getting worse over time, include simple and choice reaction times (RTs), tasks involving working memory, tests of episodic memory as well as spatial and reasoning abilities, mental rotation, and visual-search performance. Some studies show that a third of older people struggle with declarative memory (retrieving facts or events) while about a fifth do as well on cognitive tests as 20-year-olds.
One big cognitive ability that has been proven in various studies to decline with aging is the ability to pay attention to more than one task at once. "Although dual-tasking is already difficult enough for younger adults, it apparently is even more difficult for older adults," states the 2017 paper by psychologists Eric Ruthruff and Mei-Ching Lien. How much more difficult? A 2015 review by psychologist Paul Verhaeghen found an average dual-task "cost" of 215 ms for older adults while just "106 ms" for younger adults (2015). That's more than twice as slow.
It goes without saying (but let's say it anyway) that being a president is perhaps the epitome of a task-heavy job in a very multi-faceted country.
Besides, the various age-related effects on the brain, there are always a plethora of age-specific illnesses. Aging is a key risk factor for most common neurodegenerative diseases, specifically dementias like Alzheimer's disease, cerebrovascular disease, Parkinson's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease.
Older people have a lot of personal and historical baggage to contend with. Donald Trump (73) certainly lived his lifetime's worth, with a portfolio of scandals involving bankruptcies, porn stars, sexism, violence-inciting racism, not to mention with what was it - oh, yes, collusion with a foreign power.
Most candidates with a long life story come with both the good and bad experiences that have shaped them. Some would see in that an accumulation of wisdom. Others – defining characteristics that shape the character and worldview and the relationships that the person has to respond to. Experience is best when it allows you to create something new or easily respond to situations using your gathered knowledge. It's worst when it is a force that makes you beholden to fringe special interests, blackmail, business needs and scandals. In other words - the swamp.
3. Obsolete ideas
Older people make decisions that benefit other older people. They also tend to be more conservative by default and reflect worldviews that may have been prevalent at some point of their lives but often are no longer so.
Case in the point, the recent revelation of a racist exchange between Presidents Reagan and Nixon recorded on tape. In the phone call, the then-California Governor Ronald Reagan dials up President Richard Nixon at the White House to joke about African delegates to the United Nations, who did not vote the way the U.S. wanted.
"Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did," Reagan said. "To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they're still uncomfortable wearing shoes!"
Hearing this, Nixon laughs raucously.
You can listen to the conversation yourself here.
At some point in history, that kind of talk would not have offended many, while now it's certainly viewed as completely unacceptable. At least publicly. An older candidate is more likely to represent attitudes or ideas that are no longer in step with the majority of the country.
Add to this the researched fact that while remote memory remains relatively stable in older people, formation of recent memories declines as a faculty. That means it's easier to recall how it was in the "good old days" versus being able to incorporate contemporary information and experiences.
But what about Bernie Sanders (77)? Certainly, one can't accuse the Senator from Vermont for going the easy and expected route as he advocates for new programs that have never been instituted in America, like Medicare for All.
On the flip side, it's hard not to see championing of socialism, a societal approach that most people associate with failed 20th century policies as a somewhat quixotic throwback – even if Sanders always tries to differentiate his socialism as something more modern (or Scandinavian).
4. Inability to accept change
Much of Trump's presidency seems like a throwback to ideas that were socially relevant at least six or seven decades ago if not all the way back to 1800s. Change, especially change in society, is not the domain you want to explore more with age. But change is also paramount for the health of a democracy.
"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched," wrote Thomas Jefferson. "But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.
5. Being out of step with technology
Technology changes happen too quickly nowadays for older people to keep up. Yet tech is a defining feature of our life, influencing all aspects. How can a grandfather president who doesn't know and understand new technologies have anything meaningful to say about them?
This is not just about the latest smartphones. What about our country's security? As the current president showed, who was elected in part courtesy of Internet-related fraud, an older leader may not understand or even care to understand how to keep our country safe in the cyber world.
A great illustration of the tech knowledge gap exhibited by the political leaders came during the infamous exchange between Senator Orrin Hatch and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Hatch seemed to have little idea how Facebook worked.
6. Being out of step with culture
While a rapping grandma makes for funny scenes in Adam Sandler movies, you don't look to senior citizens for what's hot on the street. It would be hard to to top the cultural connection President Obama, elected when he was 47, had with the nation. You may think it's unnecessary to know how and why the country expresses itself through its arts and culture. That's how we get documents like the 2019 Trump budget, which seeks to eliminate funding for the arts, public television and libraries.
7. Reverse age discrimination
Older people tend to stick with other older people and look down upon those who are younger as lacking experience or (their) common sense. Case in point, Trump's attacks on AOC and other members of the "Squad". He not only doesn't like their ideas and uses their likes to excite his conflict-hungry base, Trump represents the "Squad" as being silly and impractical and not knowing how the world works.
8. The president won’t survive the term
In a country where the average life expectancy is stuck at 78 (dropping for the third year in a row), the chances are high enough that a president who is elected while already being 70 is not going to survive the term. Why knowingly put the country through such drama?
9. Nostalgia results in stagnation
Older candidates tend to invoke nostalgia, an emotion we enjoy but also should be wary of.
"Make America great again," proclaimed Trump's main slogan, harkening back to some mythical time when America was supposedly "great". It's again as much as saying "I remember, back in my day" while wagging your finger at the whippersnappers on the lawn.
Of course, no such time really existed. And if your standard of progress is some fictional time in the past, it's likely you'll end up with a country tearing itself apart at the seems. It naturally lurches forward, moved by its youth, resourcefulness and the indomitable American spirit. And it shakes and rattles back, like a wounded Godzilla, restrained by the champions of yesteryear.
10. It’s unfair
Older people tend to have an unfair societal advantage. We generally respect the elders. We want to hear their stories, to learn from them. We just don't have to be ruled by them.
While representing just 14.9% of the general population, presidents who are seniors cannot possibly be responsive to everyone's interests. In fact, chances are they care more about the interests of their own segment of the country. It's not rocket science to understand why a person of retirement age would support policies that are aimed at maintaining the status quo and against people and ideas they don't feel comfortable with.
And if you're still afraid that any kind of limit is making ageist assumptions, do away with one altogether. Of course, none of these points matter at the moment, as the Congress full of much older people isn't going to change its laws to allow younger ones more influence. It's notable that the current Congress is one of the oldest Congresses ever, with an average age of 59 (and most leaders in the 70s and 80s).
You might debate whether the U.S., is a true democracy, ruled by elites or secret interests, but it's certainly a gerontocracy. You can ask a person over 60 what that means.
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT tomorrow.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
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>
A study looks at the performance benefits delivered by asthma drugs when they're taken by athletes who don't have asthma.
- One on hand, the most common health condition among Olympic athletes is asthma. On the other, asthmatic athletes regularly outperform their non-asthmatic counterparts.
- A new study assesses the performance-enhancement effects of asthma medication for non-asthmatics.
- The analysis looks at the effects of both allowed and banned asthma medications.
WADA uncertainty<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDc4NjUwN30.fFTvRR0yJDLtFhaYiixh5Fa7NK1t1T4CzUM0Yh6KYiA/img.jpg?width=980" id="01b1b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2fd91a47d91e4d5083449b258a2fd63f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="urine sample for drug test" />
Image source: joel bubble ben/Shutterstock<p>When inhaled β-agonists first came out just before the 1972 Olympics, they were immediately banned altogether by the WADA as possible doping substances. Over the years, the WADA has reexamined their use and refined the organization's stance, evidence of the thorniness of finding an equitable position regarding their use. As of January 2020, only three β-agonists are allowed — salbutamol, formoterol, and salmeterol —and only in inhaled form. Oral consumption appears to have a greater effect on performance.</p>
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTIzMDQyMX0.Gk4v-7PCA7NohvJjw12L15p7SumPCY0tLdsSlMrLlGs/img.jpg?width=980" id="d3141" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ebe7b30a315aeffcb4fe739095cf0767" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="runner at starting position on track" />
Image source: MinDof/Shutterstock<p>Of primary interest to the authors of the study is confirming and measuring the performance improvement to be gained from β-agonists when they're ingested by athletes who don't have asthma.</p><p>The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 34 existing studies documenting 44 randomized trials reporting on 472 participants. The pool of individuals included was broad, encompassing both untrained and elite athletes. In addition, lab tests, as opposed to actual competitions, tracked performance. The authors of the study therefore recommend taking its conclusions with just a grain of salt.</p><p>The effects of both WADA-banned and approved β-agonists were assessed.</p>
Approved β-agonists and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzkxODk0M30.3RssFwk_tWkHRkEl_tIee02rdq2tLuAePifnngqcIr8/img.jpg?width=980" id="39a99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b1fe4a580c6d4f8a0fd021d7d6570e2a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="vaulter clearing pole" />
Image source: Andrey Yurlov/Shutterstock<p>What the meta-analysis showed is that the currently approved β-agonists didn't significantly improve athletic performance among those without asthma — what very slight benefit they <em>may</em> produce is just enough to prompt the study's authors to write that "it is still uncertain whether approved doses improve anaerobic performance." They note that the tiny effect did increase slightly over multiple weeks of β-agonist intake.</p>
Banned β-agonist and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjI3ODU5Mn0.vyoxSE5EYjPGc2ZEbBN8d5F79nSEIiC6TUzTt0ycVqc/img.jpg?width=980" id="de095" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="02fdd42dfda8e3665a7b547bb88007ef" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="swimmer mid stroke" />
Image source: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock<p>The study found that for athletes without asthma, however, the use of currently banned β-agonists did indeed result in enhanced performance. The authors write, "Our meta-analysis shows that β2-agonists improve anaerobic performance by 5%, an improvement that would change the outcome of most athletic competitions."</p><p>That 5 percent is an average: 70-meter sprint performance was improved by 3 percent, while strength performance, MVC (maximal voluntary contraction), was improved by 6 percent.</p><p>The analysis also revealed that different results were produced by different methods of ingestion. The percentages cited above were seen when a β-agonist was ingested orally. The effect was less pronounced when the banned substances were inhaled.</p><p>Given the difference between the results for allowed and banned β-agonists, the study's conclusions suggest that the WADA has it about right, at least in terms of selection of allowable β-agonists, as well as the allowable dosage method.</p>
Takeaway<p>The study, say its authors, "should be of interest to WADA and anyone who is interested in equal opportunities in competitive sports." Its results clearly support vigilance, with the report concluding: "The use of β2-agonists in athletes should be regulated and limited to those with an asthma diagnosis documented with objective tests."</p>
Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.
- A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
- The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
- Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.