Why We Die, and Why It's Fine

Here’s a nice thought to start the day: the natural world operates through an endless exchange of life and death. The ecosystem, and all of the organisms it houses, squeezes its vital resources from the debris of the dead, recycling the decaying elements from lives once lived to enhance existence on earth (today’s guest, Tyler Volk, even explains how this interplay enhances the capacity for life by a factor of about 200).The professor of biology at N.Y.U. goes on to illuminates a number of death’s other mysteries. Like, how is it that we are formed from atoms with a seemingly infinite lifespan, yet we, living organisms, die? And, since mammals are destined for death, why does each species’ natural timeline remain the same throughout its evolutionary development? 

Volk’s work employs fascinating new research to answer some of western culture’s longest standing questions about life— detailing the complex, but beautiful, webbing of life and death that connects our smallest cells with the grand sweep of human history, shining light on powerful questions raised by everybody from Nietzsche and Thomas Mann to Woody Allen. Finally, after years of exhaustive research on the subject, Volk describes his own outlook on death, explaining the sort of gratitude he has developed toward the process.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

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Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

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Brain study finds circuits that may help you keep your cool

Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP/ Getty Images
Mind & Brain

MIT News

The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.

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34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America

A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
  • The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
  • According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
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How pharmaceutical companies game the patent system

When these companies compete, in the current system, the people lose.

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  • When a company reaches the top of the ladder, they typically kick it away so that others cannot climb up on it. The aim? So that another company can't compete.
  • When this happens in the pharmaceutical world, certain companies stay at the top of the ladder, through broadly-protected patents, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
  • Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation — "tweaks" — the same as product invention.