Why Intelligent People Do Weird Things

Smart people have long had a history of quirky and inexplicable habits: Nietzsche wound up hugging horses, Freud couldn’t kick a drug addiction, Nikola Tesla adored white pigeons and loathed pearls, and the list goes on. The explanation for this extends beyond the somewhat romantic notion of an intrinsic link between genius and insanity: humans have been evolutionarily wired to do certain "natural" things, and it takes a heightened intelligence to stray from the norm and form novel solutions to life’s problems. As today’s guest, Satoshi Kanazawa, explains, there are a number of beliefs and everyday activities that we can associate with an evolutionarily unique intellect, from atheism, political liberalism and homosexuality, to staying up all night.

Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist and professor at the London School of Economics, has mastered the art of confounding conventional wisdom and feel-good advice with the hard facts of life (he writes the Scientific Fundamentalist blog, offering a " A Look at the Hard Truths About Human Nature," for Psychology Today). He explains, for example, why stereotypes and first appearances (despite your second grade teacher’s warnings) are actually reliable, noting that nasty people do, indeed, look nasty. He also explains why women are becoming more attractive than men, the math behind why urbanites have a hard time dating, and why human psychology hasn’t really budged since our hunter-gatherer days.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

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  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
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  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
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Cornell engineers create artificial material with 3 key traits of life

An innovation may lead to lifelike self-reproducing and evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
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After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

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  • The story we read about in the news? Their drain on social services like Social Security and Medicare.
  • But increased longevity is a cause for celebration, says Ashton Applewhite, not doom and gloom.