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Lose Yourself – Becoming the Characters You Read

English: The East Atrium at the William Oxley ...

Is this any surprise to you?

“New research now shows that, in addition to just learning about other people, places, and things, readers actually take on the experiences and beliefs of the characters in books.

In a study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers at Ohio State University report the results of six experiments that tested the degree to which people found themselves feeling the emotions, thoughts, behaviors, goals, and traits of the characters in fictional stories. Overall, the authors report that this phenomenon, called “experience-taking,” can lead to real changes in the lives of the readers, albeit temporary.” (Brain Blogger).

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The Amygdala Made Me Do It

Think Tank
Think Tank

“Why are we thinking so much about thinking these days? Near the top of best-seller lists around the country, you’ll find Jonah Lehrer’s “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” followed by Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” and somewhere in the middle, where it’s held its ground for several months, Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Recently arrived is “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior,” by Leonard Mlodinow.

It’s the invasion of the Can’t-Help-Yourself books. …These books possess a unifying theme: The choices we make in day-to-day life are prompted by impulses lodged deep within the nervous system. Not only are we not masters of our fate; we are captives of biological determinism. Once we enter the portals of the strange neuronal world known as the brain, we discover that — to put the matter plainly — we have no idea what we’re doing.”  (NYTimes)

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Toilet psychology

A toilet with the potentially dangerous arrang...

Nick Haslam: “In 30 years of studying the field I rarely came across any recognition that human beings are creatures who excrete. Much of what we psychologists care about is on the mental side of the mind/body divide, but even when we go corporeal we eliminate elimination. Psychologists have examined the psychobiology of eating, sleeping and sex at great length, and devoted numerous journals and professional associations to them. We have investigated how substances cross from outer to inner but largely ignored traffic in the other direction.” (The Psychologist).

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The history of the paper clip:

It was invented in 1899. It hasn’t been improved upon since. – “…if the paper clip can be a symbol for endless drudgery, it can also be twisted, pulled apart, and used as a tool. And in this capacity, many of the practices to which it is best suited are the opposite of the commercially productive, sanitary, and morally meaningless act of clipping together papers. Paper clips can be used to pick locks, clean under fingernails, and hack into phones. Straightened out, they are used by office workers to distract themselves from the monotony of their intended use. Nearly every reader of Joshua Ferris’ novel of office life, Then We Came to the End, becomes part of his collective narrator as they read the sentence, “If a stray paper clip happened to be lying around we were likely to bend it out of shape,” and every white-collar underling must find familiar David Foster Wallace’s description of office life in The Pale King: “The way hard deskwork really goes is in jagged little fits and starts, brief intervals of concentration alternated with frequent trips to the men’s room, the drinking fountain, the vending machine, constant visits to the pencil sharpener, phone calls you suddenly feel are imperative to make, rapt intervals of seeing what kinds of shapes you can bend a paperclip into, &c.” The paper clip, which possesses inexpensiveness, interchangeability and consistency, has also been used as a symbol for the numerous: a Tennessee school collected 6 million paper clips to symbolize the Jews killed during the Holocaust, a project documented in a 2004 Miramax film. And its affordability can be a symbol of humble beginnings: In 2005, a Canadian named Kyle McDonald took a red paper clip and began a series of online trades that eventually netted him a house (not to mention a blog, a book, and a lot of public speaking gigs). A philosophical conceit called the “paperclip maximizer” is an artificial intelligence that, programmed by humans solely to manufacture as many paper clips as possible, eventually takes over the Earth and increasing portions of space in its quest for material, leaving trillions of paper clips with no one to use them.

120521_Design_Paperclip_image7_clippy_250

Finally, the simplicity of the paper clip has allowed it to become a graphic symbol on the digital desktop. For many a 21st-century office worker, it is more often encountered as the “attachment” icon in an email program than in the physical form of a bent steel wire. As we move further and further toward a paperless society, that loop-the-loop form might become more familiar in two dimensions than in three….” (Slate )

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The secret lives of citrus fruit

Wedges of pink grapefruit, lime, and lemon, an...

‘Okay, I had no idea that lemons and grapefruit are actually hybrid mixes of other fruits. How did I get to age 31 and miss this? Better yet, both citruses were born accidentally, of illicit love affairs not arranged by human hands. Lemons are the love child of citron and orange. Grapefruit the natural daughter of Asian pomelo and Barbados sweet orange.’ (Boing Boing).

I only recently learned this myself after starting to eat pomelos and wanting to research what relationship they have to grapefruit.

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‘Physicists, Stop the Churlishness’, Cautions New York Times

English: , and at the 2001 Strings Conference, ,

‘A kerfuffle has broken out between philosophy and physics. It began earlier this spring when a philosopher (David Albert) gave a sharply negative review in this paper to a book by a physicist (Lawrence Krauss) that purported to solve, by purely scientific means, the mystery of the universe’s existence. The physicist responded to the review by calling the philosopher who wrote it “moronic” and arguing that philosophy, unlike physics, makes no progress and is rather boring, if not totally useless. And then the kerfuffle was joined on both sides.

This is hardly the first occasion on which physicists have made disobliging comments about philosophy. Last year at a Google “Zeitgeist conference” in England, Stephen Hawking declared that philosophy was “dead.” Another great physicist, the Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, has written that he finds philosophy “murky and inconsequential” and of no value to him as a working scientist. And Richard Feynman, in his famous lectures on physics, complained that “philosophers are always with us, struggling in the periphery to try to tell us something, but they never really understand the subtleties and depths of the problem.”

Why do physicists have to be so churlish t’ward philosophy? Philosophers, on the whole, have been much nicer about science….’  — Jim Holt, author of the forthcoming book Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story (NYTimes).

For extra credit: who’s with Hawking in the photo?