Don’t blame tech for your distracted brain. Take control.

These three tactics will help you focus on the task at hand.

NIR EYAL: I took the advice of every other expert and book out there about managing distraction and focus and I got rid of all my technology. I did a digital detox. I got myself a flip phone and I bought myself a word processor off eBay from the 1990s. And I thought getting rid of all the technology would solve the problem. But, of course, it didn't. I'd sit down at my desk and I'd start working away on that word processor and realize oh, you know, there's that book I've been meaning to read or let me just tidy up my desk real quick. Or the trash should be taken out right now. And I kept getting distracted because I hadn't learned tactics and techniques to cope with my internal triggers in a healthier manner.

So what we can do to deal with these internal triggers is to learn strategies to cope with discomfort. And there are three main strategies for coping with these internal triggers and dealing with them in a more healthful manner.

The first is to reimagine the trigger itself. If we can change our perception of that uncomfortable emotional state and explore that sensation with curiosity rather than contempt that has been shown to be a much healthier way to move us toward traction as opposed to distraction.

The second technique is to reimagine the task itself. It turns out that people find ways to enjoy all sorts of tasks that other people find horribly boring and unfun. Well, it turns out that researchers tell us that we can actually learn to "play anything." That if we change how we imagine the task itself we can actually find that there can be fun in the task. Now this isn't in the Mary Poppins way of putting a spoonful of sugar. It turns out that that actually doesn't work. In fact, what we want to do instead is to focus more intently on the task while looking for the variability within it.

Finally, the last thing we can do is to reimagine our temperament. One of the most prevalent bits of folk psychology is this idea that willpower is depletable. That you run out of it like gas in a gas tank. And there actually was some research a few years ago that found that this did occur. But when other researchers wanted to replicate these studies they found that for the vast majority of people they did not experience what's called ego depletion, this idea that willpower runs out. Except for one group of people. According to Carol Dweck at Stanford University, ego depletion was found only in people who believed in the phenomenon. So if you are the kind of person who believed that your willpower runs out, that you're spent at the end of the day – and if you are anything like I used to be I'd sit down on the couch and I'd say ah, how can I possibly resist any more temptations and I'd watch Netflix and have a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream to reward myself because I had spent all my willpower.

Well it turns out that was a self-limiting belief that I had told myself about my temperament. So what we need to do is to reimagine our temperament, particularly this pernicious belief that technology is addicting all of us, that it's hijacking our brains. That is scientific rubbish. It is not true. And, in fact, when we tell people this myth that it's addicting everyone, it's hijacking our brains that there's nothing we can do about it, guess what? It becomes true. This is called learned helplessness. When people believe there's nothing they can do about the big bad algorithms and the corporations taking over their brains they stop trying. And so, of course, it becomes the case that when they feel they can't do something about it they don't do anything about it.

So what I wanted to do with Indistractable was to show people that we are far more powerful than we know. That there are some simple things that we can do like mastering our internal triggers to control our attention and choose our life.

  • Technology and devices aren't inherently distracting, says behavioral design expert Nir Eyal. Distraction comes from internal triggers of discomfort.
  • So, the answer to avoiding distraction isn't a total digital detox, but instead developing healthy ways of identifying and coping with these internal triggers.
  • Eyal points to three main strategies: reimagining the trigger as a sensation of curiosity, reimagining the task itself, and avoiding self-limiting beliefs regarding your temperament.

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

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.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

  • How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
  • One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
  • Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
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There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

Sex & Relationships
  • A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
  • The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
  • The new report does not rule out that sperm counts are going down, only that this could be quite normal.
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