from the world's big
Big Think Interview With DJ Spooky
DJ Spooky (Paul D. Miller) is a composer, author, producer, and electronic and experimental hip-hop musician. His stage name, "That Subliminal Kid," is borrowed from the character The Subliminal Kid in the William S. Burroughs novel "Nova Express." His homepage is www.djspooky.com, and he can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/djspooky.
DJ Spooky: The name comes from well back in university I was doing a\r\nseries of essays and writing about Sigmund Freud’s idea of the uncanny\r\nand I was really intrigued by this idea of “The Unheimlich”. It’s an\r\nessay that Sigmund Freud wrote about E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story\r\ncalled "The Sandman" where someone mistakes an inanimate object for a\r\nliving, breathing human being. And one of the things that Sigmund Freud\r\nreally felt was that in modern life people assign qualities to objects\r\naround them that may not exist there whatsoever. So he called this "the\r\nuncanny" and he also referred to cities as well, like the idea of\r\nwalking through the city and the way the urban landscape could lead you\r\nto a sense of disorientation and to a kind of, you know, sense of\r\nrepetition. And the way a city can unfold as you walk. So stuff like\r\nthat. It was basically meant to be like when you press play and there\r\nnobody there.
Question: How is DJ Spooky different from Paul Miller?
DJ Spooky: \r\nFirst and foremost one, I was never planning on doing this as a long\r\nterm, so Spooky, I was in college... It was a fun name. I thought it\r\nwas you know just a fun thing. When you say what is the difference\r\nbetween me and my stage name the idea is that as a musician you always\r\nthink of yourself as inhabiting a certain cultural space in the kind of\r\na cultural landscape, so when I say cultural space what I mean to imply\r\nthere is that you exist within certain parameters of how people think\r\nof culture. Downtown New York, I’m within certain styles of music and\r\nI’m also within certain cultural, you know, and literary context. So DJ\r\nSpooky was meant to be a kind of ironic take on that. It was always\r\nmeant to be kind of a criticism and critique of how downtown culture\r\nwould separate genres and styles because it was ambiguous. You\r\ncouldn’t fit it into anything and that was the point. It’s like the\r\niPod playlist has killed the way we think of the normal album, so let’s\r\nthink of this as just saying you go into your record store and all\r\nthose categories and all those different ways of segregating music have\r\nbeen thrown out the window, so the difference between myself in real\r\nlife in that is that I’m the opposite. I usually am very specific\r\nabout how I engage information, how I engage people, what context I’m\r\nengaging and, above all, the research that goes into each of those. So,\r\none, that DJ Spooky is a lot you know this sort of wilder persona and\r\nthen Paul Miller is more of a nuts and bolts kind of person, meaning\r\njust making sure all these things work.
Question: How is DJ'ing an art form?
DJ Spooky: \r\nWell let’s look like back at the history of the idea of the record. In\r\nmy book "Sound Unbound" we traced the guy who actually came up with the\r\nmain concept for the graphic design of the record cover sleeve. His\r\nname is Alex Steinweiss. And one of the things in my book that we really\r\ntried to figure out was the revolution in graphic design that occurred\r\nwhen people put images on album covers. Now if you think about the\r\n20th century and the idea of visual vocabulary the album occupies a\r\nreally important space in the cultural landscape and, above all... Try this\r\nexperiment: one day go in a record store and just try and guess what\r\nthe music sounds like by looking at the album cover. You’ll get this\r\nkind of psychological relationship to the imagery of the music, but\r\nthat idea is translated to iPhone apps. It’s translated to the small,\r\nyou know, kind of icons on your computer. You name it. The idea of a\r\nvisual icon that gives you a sense of information very quickly and that\r\nyou can easily just say "That's what the style is." That is something\r\nthat I think record cover sleeves really led towards, but at the same\r\ntime the album as we know it didn’t come into being until mainly after\r\nthe Second World War because record labels realized they’d be able to\r\nmake a lot more money putting all the singles of an artist onto one\r\nalbum and selling the whole album as a kind of a concept. So by the\r\ntime the 60s rolled in that became a huge art form in its own right\r\nwith bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Hendrix doing\r\ntotal concept albums, same thing with Pink Floyd. Now if you fast\r\nforward to the 70s and Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool\r\nHerc, Grandmaster Caz, all these guys that were essentially, like, the\r\nDNA of what we’re doing now. One of the main things that\r\ndifferentiates them from artists before is that they made albums based\r\non the fact that they didn’t care about the band as a thing\r\nin its own right. They cared about manipulating the recording and that\r\nbecame the album. Usually bands would make a song to record for an\r\nalbum, but what happens with the deejays you say "Well the album is\r\neverything we need. Thanks band. You can go away now." You know you\r\ndon’t really need the band or the singer/songwriter in the same way,\r\nso you look at everything as part of your palette. When you think about\r\na composer you know like Wagner or Pier Boulez or something like that\r\nmost of the issues a composer is working with are about discreet,\r\nnotated music that someone else will play. But if I take that person\r\nand play them as a record I’m becoming not only a conductor and\r\ncomposer of collage, but at the same time I’m looking at a whole layer\r\nof what goes into copyright law, who owns those memories, who owns the\r\nway that that sound gets remixed and transformed and above all how much\r\nfun it is to actually just mess with other people’s stuff. So yeah, I\r\nlike the idea of it as a trickster motif. You know like you’re kind of\r\njust messing around with people’s memories of songs.
Question: How does science fiction influence your work?
DJ Spooky: \r\nI’ve tended to find that myths of the near future give people the\r\nability to really kind of explore the present, so say for example if\r\nlook at William Gibson and his book Neuromancer or if you look at J.G.\r\nBallard or Samuel Delaney those are probably three of my favorite\r\nwriters in that genre. All of them project slightly to the near future\r\nas a way of talking about the current moment and I think science\r\nfiction and sound is a really interesting thing. You might as well\r\nthink of it as sonic fiction. When you’re coming up with different\r\nways of getting old memories to transform—you’re scratching, you’re\r\ndoing all this kind of sampling—what ends up happening is that you’re\r\nbecoming a kind of writer with sound. In fact, if you look at the root\r\nword of phonograph it just means phonetics of graphology, phono-graph,\r\nwriting with sound, so graphology. You know graffiti, same root word. \r\nPhonetics, you know speech, all this kind of stuff, phonograph, simple,\r\nbut when you unpack the meaning it actually kind of expands out and\r\nthat is what I was going for in my book "Sound Unbound" was to try and\r\nget people to figure out how do we unpack some of the meanings that go\r\ninto these kinds of sonically coded landscapes. So yeah, science\r\nfiction or sonic fiction. I kind of like punning on that.
Question: What are the origins of "Terra Nova," your Antarctic symphony?
DJ Spooky: \r\nWhat I wanted to try and figure out was, okay, in contemporary 21st\r\ncentury life the alienation between the self and the land around you or\r\nthe self and even the urban landscape. You name it. Most people walk\r\naround with headphones on. They’re barely encountering or dealing with\r\ntheir fellow person, or if they’re in a car they’re in this kind of\r\ncocoon, stuck in suburban rush hour traffic or something. The\r\nlandscape of their current experience is just really compartmentalized. And what I wanted to do with Antarctica was say let’s hit the\r\nreset button on that and see what happens to your creative process. \r\nLet’s go to the most remote place that you can imagine, set up a studio\r\nand see what music comes out of it. So I took a studio down to several\r\nof the main ice fields, and the basic idea was to give myself four weeks\r\nin these ice fields to create a new work and see what happens. And, you\r\nknow, it was really important to me to kind of think about the urban\r\nlandscape on one hand versus this hyper-abstract ice landscape\r\non the other.
Antarctica, one of the things that was so\r\nremarkable about it was that the ice itself is a kind of pure geometry,\r\nso say, for example, if I was facing someone wearing I don’t know, a Joy\r\nDivision t-shirt with the mountains on it or something like that... Seeing that as a computer abstraction versus actually going to these\r\ncontinents and seeing a 40 mile chunk of ice break off that is the size\r\nof mountains the sense of scale was just awe-inspiring. I mean just… \r\nI remember one time it took us several hours to walk out into a major\r\nglacier field off the Weddell Ice Sea Shelf, all right, so this is\r\nAntarctic summer, if you fall in the water you die in about two\r\nminutes, so you’re walking, the ice is creaking, the landscape is like\r\nsubtly you know shifting and if anyone out there has ever been in an\r\nearthquake this is like kind of a slow motion earthquake, but the land\r\nis shifting and groaning and creaking and you know if you ever walked\r\non ice and you’re like whoa, you could fall through. It really you\r\nknow puts you in that for lack of better word, very cautious\r\nmentality. So the physicality of that and the just the sheer lack of\r\nurban noise and machinery—just the wind, the water and your breath,\r\nyou know that kind of thing—it was pure poetry and you know I\r\ntreasure that. It was just… I can only wonder what astronauts must\r\nfeel like or something like that when you’re really in the space of\r\nsilence and you are feeling and breathing in a way that you’re really\r\naware of your muscle and bone and the breath and the body and the\r\nmovement and all of those things that just you take for granted in the\r\nurban landscape.
I felt like on one\r\nhand the clarity of thought was amazing, but on the other we went\r\nduring Antarctic summer, so the sun didn’t set the whole time we were\r\nthere. It was permanent afternoon. And when I say permanent afternoon,\r\nyou know, I’m talking like crystal clear, crispy blue sky. All the\r\nsudden you didn’t need to sleep as much because it just was difficult. And how that translated into my creative process I still am not quite\r\nsure, but it made my relationship to sleep a kind of abstract you know\r\nbizarre… I can't put my finger on it, but I ended up\r\ndreaming very intense dreams because I only needed about four hours of\r\nsleep. Meanwhile, we’d take you know four to eight hours hikes way out\r\ninto these you know kind of glaciers and so on you know all day and you\r\ncome back and you’d be tired and you still couldn’t sleep because the\r\nsun was up and it felt like you know it’s like two in the afternoon or\r\nsomething, even if it was midnight. So, yeah, quirky. Sleep is crucial\r\nand I tend to find when the sun is shining I find it much more\r\ndifficult to get that sense of sleep.
Question: Is the piece classical?
DJ Spooky: \r\nWhat I’m going for with the string arrangements for my Antarctic\r\nsymphony is a pun here. On one hand you have a string quartet, which\r\nis not a symphony. On the other hand is you have me sampling them and\r\nmaking it sound like there is many more people playing, so the whole\r\nnotion of, kind of, sampling applied to classical music is very\r\nintriguing to me because composers throughout history have borrowed\r\nmotifs and quotes from one another. So Bach, Beethoven, Duke Ellington,\r\nThelonius Monk, these are all people who would sort of rearrange or\r\ntake riffs from people. Same thing with rock, if you look at the\r\nRolling Stones doing a cover of Otis Redding or you know if you look at\r\nliterature James Joyce is pulling fragments of text from other people. So the Antarctic symphony has a geometric relationship to the\r\nlandscape. It’s saying that this landscape and the minimal kind of, you\r\nknow I’m talking like seeing ice, is visually kind of eerily minimal. But there is a complexity and layering that goes on with this kind of\r\nthing, so the music is slightly repetitive and when I say repetitive\r\nit’s in the same tradition as people like Steve Reich or Erik Satie or\r\neven WC. So what I wanted to do is kind of invoke that and then dive\r\ninto that kind of repetition as a DJ thing because DJing you\r\nhear beats, like "boom, boom, boom, bap, bap." You know hip hop, house,\r\ntechno. So how do you translate between those electronic motifs and\r\nthe motifs of the landscape itself? That is what I wanted to go for.
Question: What do you want people to get out of it?
DJ Spooky: \r\nAntarctica is one of the most remote and beautiful places on earth. I\r\ndon’t think that everyone should go there. I also think that we need\r\nto respect it as a kind of a national park for the planet. It\r\nshould be you know put in parentheses. You know, in the sentence of\r\nhumanity this place needs to be a parentheses. And when I say\r\nparentheses I mean I’m talking like you go around it. Leave it alone. Let it exist. And what I want people to see with this\r\nfilm is not only a respect for this place from the bottom of my heart. \r\nI’m talking like just the beauty, but at the same time to get people to\r\nrealize that we should treasure it. Maybe visualize it, but leave it\r\nalone. And it’s… there is a sense of awe with these huge landscapes and\r\nopen spaces. Maybe someone living out in the American deep Midwest\r\ndesert can imagine the same thing, or somebody living in Namibia or the\r\nArctic is very different... but yeah, just awe of the landscape. I know\r\nthat sounds like nerdy and corny and stuff like that, but you know let\r\nit be nerdy and corny. It’s a beautiful place. I could just sit on an\r\nice glacier and just watch the land for like days, months, years.
Question: Is there a basic philosophy behind your work as a \r\nsound artist?
DJ Spooky: \r\nI’d say most of my work is just trying to make sense of the\r\ndisorienting and overloaded world that we inhabit. We’re bombarded\r\nwith sound at every level. Sound... if you look at bats you know that\r\nnavigate with sonar, they’re like you know they’re very precise. They\r\ncan even see a bat head towards a building and swerve away, but you’ll\r\nsee a bird that doesn’t… you know smash right into a glass window. \r\nIt’s very funny. I mean I don’t… Anybody out there that has probably\r\nseen that is like oh, it’s terrible. Like if you’re ever in a\r\nskyscraper and you see a bird just flies right into the side of\r\nwindow. Whales, for example, also navigate with sound, but they’re now\r\nbeginning to be beached because the ocean is getting too noisy. Weird\r\nthings like that. I mean this is very real. Like, if you look at the\r\nsatellites in the sky at night you know it’s an eerie sense of we’re… \r\nYou know we’re in a planet surrounded by certain kinds of frequencies\r\nand noise. The earth’s magnetic sphere makes weird sounds. The sun\r\nyou know the heart of our solar system makes noise. Even interstellar\r\nphenomena like black holes. You know people have studied them and a\r\nblack hole can emit sound in like the range of 20,000 octaves below B\r\nflat. You know I mean that’s a lot… That’s a very low tone. So yeah,\r\nhow do I think of my environment and what happens with sound art? I\r\nlove to play with the idea of elusive and intangible things. That\r\ncould be psychological. It could be perceptual. It could be just the\r\nway your ears help you just navigate around. Try this experiment,\r\nclosing your eyes and navigating with your ears. It’s eerie because\r\nwalls, you can actually hear your footstep maybe bounce off of or you\r\ncan feel the vibration of your voice and help that… use that to\r\nnavigate. So sound art I’m always intrigued with how little we use of\r\nother senses and we just prioritize the eye and you just want to see\r\neverything and navigate. You know the art world is similar. Like I\r\nwish people would use their ears a lot more.
Question: What inspired your film Rebirth of a Nation?
DJ Spooky: \r\nMy film "Rebirth of a Nation," amusingly enough, was a component of a show\r\nI had at Paula Cooper Gallery and one of the things that really goes\r\ninto my mind when I think about contemporary art and music is how\r\nweirdly divided they are. The art world likes music sort of, but when\r\nthey do they usually go for sort of I call white bread art rock. They\r\ndon’t get… You’ll never see hip hop in normal Whitney Biennial or\r\nwhatever. I mean they don’t… The art world has problems with rhythm. \r\nNow at the same time you have really interesting electronic music and\r\nmulticultural, specifically multicultural, takes on contemporary art. \r\nMy film "Rebirth of a Nation" was a critique of the way Bush had gotten\r\ninto office playing off of racial politics and the fears that whites\r\nhave of being… becoming a minority. And I think the code words for the\r\nBush Administration and people like Karl Rove was that State’s rights\r\nand devolution of federal powers would make these kind of white… Now\r\nall the sudden you notice with the Obama Administration they’re having\r\na rise of all these white militias and stuff like that. Yeah, I mean\r\nwhite Americans feel anxiety about some of the issues and I think that\r\nthat needs to be addressed.
"Birth of a Nation," the film by\r\nD.W. Griffith is one of the most important films in American History. \r\nIt set the tone for how America views racial politics in cinema. So I\r\ngot the rights to the film. We remixed it... when I say we I guess, well,\r\nme. And the whole idea was to apply deejay technique to film in a way\r\nthat kind of self implodes the film and get people to think about as a\r\nyou know maybe something that needs to be looked at a lot more closely,\r\nso with Bush you have to remember: they played games with the black\r\nvote, they disenfranchised a large amount of people by playing those\r\ngames, and again it was a lot of it happened in the old south that were\r\nin places like Ohio. So Birth of a Nation was the first film to show a\r\nflawed election and in 1915, I mean, you know, a lot of games were being\r\nplayed with the black vote. So disenfranchisement, black face, you\r\nknow if you fast forward and update it you could easily see the same\r\nresonance with "Avatar" where most of the main characters were in blue\r\nface, those were black actors for example. Or Jar Jar Binks this\r\nannoying creature that is like a minstrel on the "Star Wars" thing. The\r\nracial politics is still very much prevalent in American film. \r\n"Terminator" or you know, what is the "Transformers" where they have the\r\nkind of minstrel robots who had this annoying black sort of almost-gay\r\nvoice or something. When I say gay I’m not… no disrespect. I’m just\r\nsaying it’s a minstrel kind of emasculated male voice where they always\r\nmake a black character like a Jar Jar Binks an annoying, “What’s up you\r\nall?” You know those kind of very annoying creature or something like\r\nthat that has a high pitched and like yeah, really annoying like you\r\nknow.
So anyway, "Birth of a Nation," what makes this Antarctic\r\nproject different than that is they’re both critiques of the nation-state's relationship to the individual. Antarctica is the only place on\r\nearth with no government. It’s the only place that really says: "You are\r\nyou." The subjectivity that goes into that I mean once you step off a\r\nboat and you’re on an ice field in the middle of nowhere you are\r\nwithout the idea of the nation-state anymore. And I think "Birth of a\r\nNation"... obviously "nation," you know, nationalism, nation, state, the\r\nenvironmental politics that go into how nations play with carbon\r\ntrading, how nations play with the idea of pollution and all these\r\nkinds of things you could say that the divisions now are even more\r\nencoded because of the North/South divide. Like the industrialized\r\nnations of the north versus the more multicultural countries of like\r\nChina, India, Russia. Well Russia is still considered European, but\r\nif you go slightly outside of... you know there is plenty of Russians that\r\nlook very Asian. So the racial politics that go into environmental\r\nissues is something that hangs like a specter over a lot of the\r\nprocess right now. So I had a big gallery show at Robert Miller\r\nGallery called "North/South." It was a pun about my "Birth of a Nation"\r\nversus Antarctica. Sense of humor in the title, but nonetheless, I’m\r\nvery concerned about the way environmental politics shapes out with\r\nindustrialized versus non-industrialized nations. It’s something that\r\nreally we have to think about.
Question: Is the proliferation of digital media threatening individuality?
DJ Spooky: \r\nYeah, I mean I think we’re really the crisis of 21st century culture is\r\nstandardization. On one hand that’s a crisis precisely because it\r\nreally flatlines and just deadens a lot of amazing stuff. But on the\r\nother hand as the next couple of years kick in you’re going to be\r\nseeing what I like to call mass customization, where everyone can have\r\nyou know their phone or their iPad or whatever—but they’re going to\r\npull it into their own orbit in their own way. And they’re pulling\r\nmaterial that is out there in the world as their own vocabulary. I\r\ndidn’t make this phone, you know, but I’ve customized and transformed\r\nit. So I’m always intrigued with saying that nothing stays the same in\r\nthis era. In the 20th century, you know, someone like, you know, Ford\r\nwould say you know what, you can have any color car you want as long as\r\nit’s black, you know. And they had the whole sense of humor about the\r\nproduction line all making the Model T Ford car there was the exact\r\nsame machine rolling off the line. Now that was amazing because it was\r\nhigh-tech at that time, but for the 21st century where we can just\r\nretrofit and reboot anything, why stick to one thing? I mean just\r\nalways transform and change everything. That’s the DJ model as\r\nwell. So by customizing and transforming it adds new life to I think\r\nthe way we function right now. When I say the way we function I’m\r\ntalking about going down the street, walking around... everyone\r\nhas a little computer, which is essentially is a cell phone. Most\r\npeople, I’m sorry. There is a class division here, but even in\r\neconomically, you know, low income and so on most people have some kind\r\nof communications device. And I think it’s transformed the way the world\r\nworks right now and this is just the beginning. So within the next five\r\nto seven years you’ll be seeing probably a massive revolution in\r\ngetting rid of sameness and just having this wildly creative and\r\ninventive era.
Question: Who are you trying to reach with your music?
DJ Spooky: \r\nI’d say my audience is pretty much anyone who thinks, which is a big\r\naudience, and luckily and happily people have been very supportive of\r\nthe idea of a writer, artist and musician making conceptual music. I’m\r\nnot art rock. I mean art rock dominates in the art world. I’m a kind\r\nof insurgency, like an electronic music insurgency because I’m trying\r\nto push a lot of boundaries simultaneously. Racial politics, economic\r\npolitics and above all the psychology about how people assign criteria\r\nand value and what people say is cool or good. I love the idea that\r\nyou know your cell phone is disrupting the entire sort of consumer\r\npattern of people or I love the idea that you know what, a curator or a\r\nmuseum director or some art dealer the value isn’t for them create. \r\nIt’s the value that we, each of us, brings to something. So it’s\r\ndisruptive of all these kind of top-down hierarchies of how power forms\r\nin you know the normal corporate model of saying this artist or this\r\nbook or... so my book is turning the world of Martha Stewart\r\nand Oprah Winfrey upside down and saying you know you are the mix.
I enjoy writing and it’s one… another weird thing, a\r\nbeef I have with normal critics is that they’re like, “Why don’t you\r\njust do the music?” You know I’m like: "Look, I’m an artist. I like to\r\nwrite. I also do music, so they’re not separate." To me music is\r\nwriting. Writing is art. Art is music. Simple.
Question: How do you consume music?
DJ Spooky: \r\nIn massive volumes. Again, as a DJ you have to be current and keep\r\naware of what is going on and that means you know just massive amounts\r\nof information, so a DJ is kind of obsessive about information. I\r\ntend to think that if you look at Michael Jackson he is called the King\r\nof Pop precisely because he had millions and millions of people listening\r\nto the same record, or same songs. If you play “Billie Jean” for example\r\neverybody knows that. Even in India or Nepal or the most remote parts\r\nof Timbuktu you know people know that song, so millions of people\r\nlisten to that. I’m the opposite, where it is like instead of millions\r\nof people listening to the same song it’s millions of songs being\r\nscratched and spliced and diced and you have to keep track of it all. So it’s like an information ocean or data cloud. You\r\nknow there is… I think iTunes now has passed its several billionth\r\ndownload you know, so think of all those people. It’s the biggest\r\nrecord store in the world, and, amusingly enough to me, again as a deejay\r\nand artist the top selling album of all time right now is the blank CD\r\nyou know so, you know, it’s number one on every chart.
Question: Should digital content be free?
DJ Spooky: \r\nI’m a big pro-open source, pro-creative commons kind of artist. I\r\nthink that it’s important to realize that copyright law as it is\r\nwritten relates mainly to the 18th century’s relationship to physical\r\ngoods. And as things move more and more to a digital media, hyper-connected world we need to transform the models of how we think of\r\nownership. Copyright law is something I respect, but the way the law\r\nis written versus the way we live in this rip, mix, burn kind of\r\nscenario, you know... It’s all about I think thinking of digital music as\r\nthe kind of new folk culture where everyone should share, and by sharing\r\nthey create a more rich and robust, you know, narrative.
Question: Even if they’re downloading your music?
DJ Spooky: \r\nYeah, sure, but I get value out of that. I get a different kind of\r\nvalue. You get branding. You get advertising. You get word-of-mouth\r\nviral marketing. Hey, you know you couldn’t pay for that.
Recorded on April 8, 2010
A conversation with the sound artist.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Be fruitful and multiply<p>Scientists in the United Kingdom collected data on more than 13,000 mothers and their children. Most of them were religious, but 12 percent were not. The data included information on their church habits, social networks, number of children, and the scores those children achieved on a standardized test.</p><p>In line with previous findings that religious women have more children than secular women in industrialized countries, a connection between at least monthly church attendance and fertility was confirmed. However, religious parents showed they could avoid the pitfalls that having more children can bring. </p><p>Typically, more children in a family leads to reduced cognitive ability and height in each <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/37/6/1408/729795" target="_blank">child</a>. Some studies find that children do less well in school for each <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13524-016-0471-0" target="_blank">additional sibling they have</a>. This makes a kind of intuitive sense, as parents with more children would have to divide their time, energy, and resources among more people as families expand. One would expect that the larger families would also lead to things like lower test scores. </p><p>Despite the expectation, the children of religious parents didn't have lower scores on standardized tests. There were small positive relationships between the size of the mother's social network, the number of co-religionists helping out, and the children's test scores. However, this association was small, didn't show up in all of the testings, and was unrelated to other variables. </p> These effects might be explained by the size and helpfulness of the social networks around the more religious. Women who went to church at least once a month had more extensive social networks than those who never go or who attend yearly. These social networks of co-religious people mean that there are more people to turn to for help with child-rearing, a point also demonstrated in the data. The amount of aid women got from their fellow churchgoers was also associated with a higher fertility rate. <br> <br> Conversely, an extensive social network was associated with fewer children for secular women. This finding is in line with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1207/s15327957pspr0904_5" target="_blank">previous studies</a> and suggests that the social networks comprised of co-religious individuals differ from those found elsewhere.
So, how quickly should I join a local religious group?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="6RrmYM8M" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9eb4740a7d1e10108a75fd2ed627a90f"> <div id="botr_6RrmYM8M_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/6RrmYM8M-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The study is not without its faults, and more investigations into the relationship between fertility, childcare, ritual, and social networks are needed.</p><p>These findings all show correlation, not causation. Though it might be said the results point towards causation, various alternative interpretations of the data are apparent. The authors note that most religions are explicitly pro-natal. It is possible that religious women have internalized these values and simply choose to have more children than secular women do.</p><p>This idea is similar to a potential interpretation of why large social networks have the opposite effect for secular women. The authors suggest that, in some cases, these more extensive social networks are associated with work and exert an anti-natal influence. Again, the people who build such networks may be people unlikely to have large families under any circumstances.</p><p>However, the researchers' hypothesis endured. The help religious women get from their church-based social networks allows them to have larger families than those who lack these support systems. In some instances, these support systems also prevent the adverse effects of larger families. </p>
The community religion offers<p>As we've mentioned <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/what-is-secular-humanism" target="_blank">before</a>, religion offers a community, and a community provides social capital. As religion continues to decline in the West, the social bonds of faith communities that used to tie social communities together begin to decay. However, as has been noted by a variety of observers for the last few decades, fewer and fewer new organizations appear ready to replace religion as a source of community in our lives.</p><p>While many different organizations might offer social support that religion once provided the whole of western society, this study shows that different social circles can differently affect the people in them. This finding must be considered by those trying to find new communities to join or the authors of future research. </p><p>The community offered by religious groups provides real benefits to those who join them. As this study shows, having the support network religious community offers allows some parents to avoid pitfalls that bedevil those lacking similar support. It suggests that previous studies demonstrating that group ritual offers benefits like increased amounts of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797612472910" target="_blank">group trust</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1069397103037002003" target="_blank">cooperation</a> are onto something and that those benefits have a variety of applications. </p><p>While this study is not without its blind spots, it offers a strong starting point for further investigations into the nature of ritual in our modern lives and how local support networks remain vital in our increasingly globalized world. </p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
A neuroscientist argues that da Vinci shared a disorder with Picasso and Rembrandt.
- A neuroscientist at the City University of London proposes that Leonardo da Vinci may have had exotropia, allowing him to see the world with impaired depth perception.
- If true, it means that Da Vinci would have been able to see the images he wanted to paint as they would have appeared on a flat surface.
- The finding reminds us that sometimes looking at the world in a different way can have fantastic results.
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3Mjc2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA4MDg2NH0.T-98YvLjS9mUCQkgqHyV43Q7h_JIiubrev-Fp_0j4Pg/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C38%2C0%2C579&height=700" id="58346" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="674799ba34e115a2e9a3e94c366bfc26" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Virtuvian Man. Christopher Tyler suggests that Da Vinci used his own image as a template for the face in the drawing.
Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci created c. 1480–1490<p><a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/christopher-tyler" target="_blank">Professor Christopher Tyler</a> of the City University of London's optometry division analyzed six pieces of Renaissance art by or held to be images of Da Vinci, including the famous <em>Vitruvian Man. </em>By looking at the paintings, drawings, and statues and applying the same techniques optometrists use on patients, Tyler was able to conclude that the eyes of the men depicted were misaligned.</p><p> He concluded that, if the images he analyzed were truly reflective of how Da Vinci looked, that the great artist had a mild case of exotropia. </p>
How would this have helped him paint?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b221010aa7688734d4d6a41f0df5933f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/j6F-sHhmfrY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://shileyeye.ucsd.edu/faculty/shira-robbins" target="_blank">Shira Robbins</a>, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved with the project, explained to <em><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/19/leonardo-da-vincis-genius-may-be-rooted-in-a-common-eye-disorder-new-study-says/?utm_term=.d3f44ed91c16" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a> </em>how individuals with exotropia often turn to additional information to help understand the world around them:</p><blockquote>"What happens in some people is when they're only using one eye . . . they develop other cues besides traditional depth perception to understand where things are in space, looking at color and shadow in a way that most of us who use both eyes at a time don't really appreciate." </blockquote><p>Dr. Robbins agrees that, if the artworks analyzed accurately depict Da Vinci, then he probably had exotropia.</p><p>If Da Vinci did have a mild form of the condition, which would allow him to focus with both eyes when concentrating and with one when relaxed, Tyler asserts that the famed artist could have viewed the world in two or three dimensions at will, showing him the world exactly as he would need to recreate it on a flat surface. Quite the superpower for an artist.</p>
Does this mean Da Vinci would have been a hack if he had normal eyesight?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3MjY5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjYwOTgxOH0.eSu3YBpCuaDj59-4lzSeZ1WgwtV2ETGiWHqczzW3how/img.png?width=980" id="9c323" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="edd4e9e9d9c1156a53242df6288d7cc0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing the difference in where each eye is focused for each painting, drawing, and statue used in the study. The larger the difference, the more pronounced the exotropia is in the image.<p>Not at all. What Dr. Tyler is suggesting is that the tendency of people who have exotropia to rely on using one eye to see the world and thereby lose some depth perception allowed Da Vinci to understand better how the three-dimensional objects in the world could be translated into a two-dimensional image on a canvas. This could account for some of Da Vinci's skill in depicting shadow and subtle changes in color, since he would have relied on these details to understand the world. <br><br>His polymathic brilliance extended far beyond art, and nobody is claiming that his ideas for flying machines, tanks, or <a href="http://www.da-vinci-inventions.com/davinci-inventions.aspx" target="_blank">other inventions </a>were at all influenced by a vision problem.</p>
How can we know this? He has been dead for five hundred years.<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c26fc51b0aebbcd6905593015fec79e5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LRAptNtN9-A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There are reasons to be cautious anytime we make claims about people who are long dead. In this case, we have the bonus problem that we aren't 100 percent sure that the images used are supposed to look like Da Vinci. </p><p> That is the major caveat of the idea; all of the images used as evidence of his condition are assumed to look like him. While some of the images, like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Verrocchio)" target="_blank"><em>David</em> by Andrea del Verrocchio</a>, are generally agreed to be based on Leonardo the other pictures are claimed to be reflective of him based only on his statement that "[The soul] guides the painter's arm and makes him reproduce himself, since it appears to the soul that this is the best way to represent a human being." </p><p>Tyler also argues that the portraits he claims are based on Da Vinci share similarities with the images generally accepted to be portraits of him; including similar hair and facial features. This lends weight to the idea that the artist incorporated his own traits into his artwork, including his vision problem. </p><p>Leonardo da Vinci was undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses of all time. If he had exotropia, then it was merely a minor addition to his artistic skills. It does, however, give us a literal example of how people who look at the world differently can use that vantage point to their advantage to create things we all can appreciate. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.