The Advantage of High School Sweethearts
Helen E. Fisher, Ph.D. biological anthropologist, is a Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, and a Member of the Center For Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She has written six books on the evolution, biology, and psychology of human sexuality, monogamy, adultery and divorce, gender differences in the brain, the neural chemistry of romantic love and attachment, human biologically-based personality styles, why we fall in love with one person rather than another, hooking up, friends with benefits, living together and other current trends, and the future of relationships — what she calls: slow love.
Question: What is love?
Helen Fisher: Love is a lot of things to a lot of different people, but I do think that we all have inherited these three basic brain systems for mating and reproduction; the sex drive, romantic love, and deep feelings of attachment. But when you take a look around the world at world poetry, I think poetry is a very good litmus test. I think poetry is a very good indication of the emotions. And all over the world you see the same descriptions of romantic love. For example, the first thing that happens when you fall in love is a person takes on what I call “special meaning.” As George Bernard Shaw said, He said, “Love consists of overestimating the differences between one woman and another.” And indeed, we do. And then you focus on this person. That person’s car is different from any other car in the parking lot. The street they live on is different, the music they like is different. Everything about them is special and you focus on it. In fact, before I began putting people into the brain scanner, I would ask them, what do you not like about your sweetheart? And they would list what they didn’t like and then they would sweep that aside and just focus on what they did like.
Another basic characteristic of romantic love is intense energy. You can walk all night and talk til dawn, real mood swings, elation when things are going well, crashing into terrible despair when you don’t get an email, or don’t get a call, real possessiveness, it’s called “mate guarding” among animals. Most people don’t care if they’re casually sleeping with somebody. They don’t care if that person is sleeping with somebody else, but when you’re in love, you really care.
But the three main characteristics of romantic love are: intense craving for emotional union with this person. You like to sleep with them, but real emotional union with them, and intense motivation to win them, what people will do when they’re in love. And last, but no least, obsessive thinking. You can’t stop thinking about this person. Somebody is camping in your head. It’s also quite uncontrollable. Stendahl once said, “Love is like a fever. It comes and goes quite independently of the will.” And indeed it does. It just visits you. The brain system becomes triggered and you’re off to the races.
Question: Does passion diminish after a certain amount of years?
Helen Fisher: I think that most people believe that romantic love dies after a certain number of weeks, months, or years. But my colleagues and I have actually proved that wrong. The first author on our most recent brain scanning study is Bianca Casavedo. And Bianca, and the rest of us, wanted to see what happens in the brain among people who report that they are still in love, not loving, but in love with somebody after an average of 21 years of marriage. And so, in New York, we put 17 people who said they were still in love with their spouse into the brain scanner and we found exactly the same activity in this tiny little factory near the base of the brain that we found among those who had just fallen madly in love in the ventral tegmental area.
So, you can sustain romantic love long-term. But we did find one difference. When you just fallen in love, we find activity in a brain region associated with anxiety, and among those who were in love long-term, that has disappeared, and instead you now feel a sense of calm. And so what I think is going on among people who are in love long-term is they still want that man to come home for dinner and they still want to sit down and talk about the day and they still want to go on that vacation together, and they want to share their lives, they’re not thinking of divorce, they feel that sense of romance and tingling sensation. But if they don’t get a phone call at lunchtime, they don’t crumble in a corner and cry. That anxiety is replaced with calm.
Question: What are the differences in relationships that start in high school versus later in life relationships?
Helen Fisher: I haven’t studied the differences in the brain between those who met in high school and those who met later in life. But I do think that those who met in high school have some wonderful advantages. And that is that they know each other’s parents, they knew the dog that she grew up with and his younger sister, and the fact that he was a high school star and that she was wonderful at the Jitter Bug, at dancing. You know, they have all those memories that are wonderful. This is one of the reasons I think that, there’s a real trend right now of older people divorcing and then finding their first love on the Internet and falling in love with somebody who they really were in love with in high school. And they do have that advantage of this understanding of the house they grew up in, the kind of car that he drove, etc., etc.; the kinds of things that really bring continuity.
As a matter of fact, I’ve interviewed some of these people who had reconnected much later. And one of them was a couple, they were probably both in their 60’s, and I asked him whether she had changed at all. And he said, “Not at all.” And then I saw photographs of the two of them in high school standing in front of a Christmas tree and I could see them clearly now. And they were so dramatic – I mean they both gained 100 pounds, they were so dramatically different. But once you get a vision of who this person is, if you can hold on to this, you will create a happy relationship.
Recorded on January 6, 2010
People who create an early vision of a partner in their mind often hold onto it for a long time.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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