MonthMarch 2011

After Middle Age, People Get Happier As They Get Older

U-Curve

Via the MetaFilter discussion on the happiest man in America:

Ask a bunch of 30-year-olds and another of 70-year-olds as Peter Ubel, of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, did with two colleagues, Heather Lacey and Dylan Smith, in 2006 which group they think is likely to be happier, and both lots point to the 30-year-olds. Ask them to rate their own well-being, and the 70-year-olds are the happier bunch. The academics quoted lyrics written by Pete Townshend of The Who when he was 20: “Things they do look awful cold / Hope I die before I get old”. They pointed out that Mr Townshend, having passed his 60th birthday, was writing a blog that glowed with good humour.

Mr Townshend may have thought of himself as a youthful radical, but this view is ancient and conventional. The “seven ages of man”—the dominant image of the life-course in the 16th and 17th centuries—was almost invariably conceived as a rise in stature and contentedness to middle age, followed by a sharp decline towards the grave. Inverting the rise and fall is a recent idea. “A few of us noticed the U-bend in the early 1990s,” says Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at Warwick Business School. “We ran a conference about it, but nobody came.”

Since then, interest in the U-bend has been growing. Its effect on happiness is significant—about half as much, from the nadir of middle age to the elderly peak, as that of unemployment. It appears all over the world. David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College, and Mr Oswald looked at the figures for 72 countries. The nadir varies among countries—Ukrainians, at the top of the range, are at their most miserable at 62, and Swiss, at the bottom, at 35—but in the great majority of countries people are at their unhappiest in their 40s and early 50s. The global average is 46.

The Economist: Age and happiness: The U-bend of life

The Importance of Solitude

Fortress of Solitude

“There’s so much cultural anxiety about isolation in our country that we often fail to appreciate the benefits of solitude,” said Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University whose book “Alone in America,” in which he argues for a reevaluation of solitude, will be published next year. “There is something very liberating for people about being on their own. They’re able to establish some control over the way they spend their time. They’re able to decompress at the end of a busy day in a city…and experience a feeling of freedom.” […]

With his graduate adviser and a researcher from the Forest Service at his side, Long identified a number of different ways a person might experience solitude and undertook a series of studies to measure how common they were and how much people valued them. A 2003 survey of 320 UMass undergraduates led Long and his coauthors to conclude that people felt good about being alone more often than they felt bad about it, and that psychology’s conventional approach to solitude — an “almost exclusive emphasis on loneliness” — represented an artificially narrow view of what being alone was all about.

“Aloneness doesn’t have to be bad,” Long said by phone recently from Ouachita Baptist University, where he is an assistant professor. “There’s all this research on solitary confinement and sensory deprivation and astronauts and people in Antarctica — and we wanted to say, look, it’s not just about loneliness!”

Boston Globe: The power of lonely

(via Andrew McAfee)

Spoek Mathambo Covers Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” (Video by Pieter Hugo & Michael Cleary)

Spoek Mathambo’s official site.

Pieter Hugo’s official site (He’s best known for his photographs of the hyena handlers in the streets of Abuja)

Michael Cleary’s official site

(via Chris)

Meet the Happiest Man on Earth: Alvin Wong

Alvin Wong and his wife, Trudy Schandler-Wong.

The New York Times asked Gallup to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America, based on the characteristics that most closely correlated with happiness in 2010. Men, for example, tend to be happier than women, older people are happier than middle-aged people, and so on.

Gallup’s answer: he’s a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year. A few phone calls later and …

Meet Alvin Wong.

New York Times: Discovered: The Happiest Man in America

(via Theoretick)

The article ends abruptly.

Spoek Mathambo – “War on Words”

Spoek Mathambo’s official site.

7 Ways to Amplify Your Intelligence

one second of human brain activity

Plot of one second of human brain (EEG) activity, from the Sounds Of Complexity by Enzo Varriale via Flickr

Andrea Kuszewski writes about five ways to amplify your intelligence for Scientific American. I’ve added two additional techniques.

Kuszewski’s list:

1. Seek Novelty – “People who rate high on Openness are constantly seeking new information, new activities to engage in, new things to learn—new experiences in general.”

2. Challenge Yourself – “Individual brain training games don’t make you smarter—they make you more proficient at the brain training games,” Kuszewski writes. “Once you master one of those cognitive activities in the brain-training game, you need to move on to the next challenging activity. Figure out how to play Sudoku? Great! Now move along to the next type of challenging game.” (Previous Technoccult coverage)

3. Think Creatively – “Contrary to popular belief, creative thinking does not equal ‘thinking with the right side of your brain.’ It involves recruitment from both halves of your brain, not just the right.” (Previous coverage)

4. Do Things the Hard Way “There are times when using technology is warranted and necessary. But there are times when it’s better to say no to shortcuts and use your brain, as long as you can afford the luxury of time and energy.”

5. Network “By networking with other people—either through social media such as Facebook or Twitter, or in face-to-face interactions—you are exposing yourself to the kinds of situations that are going to make objectives 1-4 much easier to achieve.” (Previous coverage)

Scientific American: You can increase your intelligence: 5 ways to maximize your cognitive potential

Here are my bonus tips:

Get more sleep.

Meditate.

Warning: Future

Warning: Cognitive Hazard

A collection of future warning signs by Anders of Anders Transhuman Page. These are from October, 2006 – predating the similar signs that appear in Doktor Sleepless.

Andart: Warning Signs for Tomorrow

(via Justin P)

Mormon Transhumanist Association

Mormon Transhumanist Association

From the About page of the Mormon Transhumanist Association:

What is the Mormon Transhumanist Association?

The Mormon Transhumanist Association is an international nonprofit organization that promotes practical faith in human exaltation through charitable use of science and technology, as outlined in the Transhumanist Declaration and the Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation. We support discussion and public awareness of emerging technologies, defend the right of individuals in free and democratic societies to adopt technologies that expand human capacities, and anticipate and propose solutions for the potential consequences of emerging technologies. Although we are neither a religious organization nor affiliated with any religious organization, we support our members in their personal religious affiliations, and encourage them to adapt Transhumanism to their unique situations.

What is the relation between Mormonism and Transhumanism?

Increasingly, persons are recognizing parallels and complements between Mormon and Transhumanist views. On the one hand, Mormonism is a religious ideology of the Judeo-Christian tradition that advocates faith in God leading to salvation. On the other hand, Transhumanism is a mostly secular ideology that advocates ethical use of technology to extend human capabilities. However, Mormonism and Transhumanism advocate remarkably similar views of human nature and its future: material beings organized according to law, rapidly advancing knowledge and power, imminent fundamental changes to anatomy and environment, and eventual transcendence of present limitations. Resources available through this site provide details on the relation between Mormon and Transhumanist views.

Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation:

  1. We seek the spiritual and physical exaltation of individuals and their anatomies, as well as communities and their environments, according to their wills, desires and laws, to the extent they are not oppressive.
  2. We believe that scientific knowledge and technological power are among the means ordained of God to enable such exaltation, including realization of diverse prophetic visions of transfiguration, immortality, resurrection, renewal of this world, and the discovery and creation of worlds without end.
  3. We feel a duty to use science and technology according to wisdom and inspiration, to identify and prepare for risks and responsibilities associated with future advances, and to persuade others to do likewise.

(via Justin P)

Did Scientists Discover Bacteria in Meteorites?

Doesn’t look like it. P.Z. Meyers writes:

Fox News broke the story, which ought to make one immediately suspicious — it’s not an organization noted for scientific acumen. But even worse, the paper claiming the discovery of bacteria fossils in carbonaceous chondrites was published in … the Journal of Cosmology. I’ve mentioned Cosmology before — it isn’t a real science journal at all, but is the ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics obsessed with the idea of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that life originated in outer space and simply rained down on Earth. It doesn’t exist in print, consists entirely of a crude and ugly website that looks like it was sucked through a wormhole from the 1990s, and publishes lots of empty noise with no substantial editorial restraint. For a while, it seemed to be entirely the domain of a crackpot named Rhawn Joseph who called himself the emeritus professor of something mysteriously called the Brain Research Laboratory, based in the general neighborhood of Northern California (seriously, that was the address: “Northern California”), and self-published all of his pseudo-scientific “publications” on this web site. […]

We’ve actually got to look at the claims and not dismiss them because of their location. […]

Reading the text, my impression is one of excessive padding. It’s a dump of miscellaneous facts about carbonaceous chondrites, not well-honed arguments edited to promote concision or cogency. The figures are annoying; when you skim through them, several will jump out at you as very provocative and looking an awful lot like real bacteria, but then without exception they all turn out to be photos of terrestrial organisms thrown in for reference. The extraterrestrial ‘bacteria’ all look like random mineral squiggles and bumps on a field full of random squiggles and bumps, and apparently, the authors thought some particular squiggle looked sort of like some photo of a bug. This isn’t science, it’s pareidolia. They might as well be analyzing Martian satellite photos for pictures that sorta kinda look like artifacts.

Pharyngula: Did scientists discover bacteria in meteorites?

You can find the paper here if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

Previous coverage of astrobiology can be found here.

Astronomers Discover Giant Cave on the Moon

The Moon

New Delhi: Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization have discovered a giant underground chamber on the moon, which they feel could be used as a base by astronauts on future manned missions to moon.

An analysis by an instrument on Chandrayaan-1 revealed a 1.7-km long and 120-metre wide cave near the moon’s equator that is in the Oceanus Procellarum area of the moon that could be a suitable ‘base station’ for future human missions.

Silicon India: Cave in moon: Base station for astronauts?

(Thanks Bill!)

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