Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?

"We don't really want what we think we want," says philosopher Slavoj Žižek. It's a strange, almost exotic thought at a time when many of us are inundated daily with the prospect of infinite choice.


You can no longer buy a product, it seems, without expressing your opinion. (Do you want whiter teeth or a toothpaste that acknowledges the sensitivity of your gums? Dish soap that smites bacteria, or one that's free of environmental toxins?) For better or worse, customization has infiltrated our daily lives to an unprecedented degree and the message is clear: Live your best life. Find happiness here and now. 

But what if happiness isn't actually all that fulfilling? Watch the video:

In this second video from our interview with Žižek, the author of Big Think's most recent Book of the Month argues that happiness is a conformist category. And moreover, none of us really want it. Which is a good thing, since the pursuit of happiness is an Enlightenment value that gets at only one aspect of what it means to live a good life.

"Let’s be serious: when you are in a creative endeavor, in that wonderful fever--'My God, I’m onto something!' and so on--happiness doesn't enter it," he says. "You are ready to suffer. Sometimes scientists, I read in a history of quantum physics... were even ready to take into account the possibility that they [would] die because of radiation. Happiness is, for me, an unethical category." It's also boring.

You can be happy without being moral. You can be happy without being interesting or engaged in the world around you. You can be happy without having a single creative idea or interest or passion. You can get everything you desire, and still not be happy. So why even focus on finding bliss? 

Tell us: Would you rather be happy or inspired?

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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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