Barbara Larson

Barbara Larson

Why are we the way that we are? Is there anything we can do to change the way we think, behave, and react? And even if we come to know how the brain works, are we limited by our underlying circuitry or can we overcome our limitations?

Over the years, TED has put on dozens of amazing presentations that highlight the mysteries of the brain and break them down in ways that we — laymen — can understand. Here are the most fascinating ones we’ve watched and enjoyed.

The Optimism Bias


Most of us have it even if we think we don’t. And even if you’re a pessimist about life, it’s entirely possible that you’re an optimist about yourself — maybe not in the sense that everything will go right, but in the sense that few things will go wrong.

In this TED Talk, Tali Sharot explores this phenomenon called the “optimism bias”, how we’re wired to be more positive than negative about our circumstances — and how this bias can be both beneficial and dangerous.

Body Language Shapes Who You Are


“Fake it ’til you make it.” It’s the kind of empty platitude that no longer has any meaning because people have said it too often — but in the context of behavior and emotions, the statement is still quite truthful.

We often think of body language as an indication of how we feel, but in this TED Talk by Amy Cuddy, what we learn is that how we feel can be influenced by our body language. You can actually change your mental state by sitting differently!

Knowing this, you’ll be able to completely revolutionize your social relationships. Whether you want to be more confident or simply calm down, it’s all in your body language. Fake it ’til you make it.

Our Buggy Moral Code


In this fascinating TED Talk, Dan Ariely presents his findings on the human tendency to cheat and steal. Why do we cheat and steal? More importantly, under what circumstances are we more likely to cheat and steal, or the other way around?As it turns out, there are so many different factors that can influence us towards or away from dishonesty — and in many cases, whether we cheat or not is heavily determined by our environment and external situation.Honestly, this is one of the most interesting TED Talks I’ve ever watched. If you’ve ever wondered about human integrity, you owe it to yourself to play this one.

The Fiction of Memory


You can’t trust your memories. Sure, when you think back on a given event or moment, you can feelconfident that what you’re recalling is really what happened, but as it turns out, our memories are far weaker and less accurate than we think.In this TED Talk, Elizabeth Loftus explains how memories can be changed — not just by ourselves every time we recall something, but our memories can be altered simply by the way someone phrases a question or statement. Scary, but true.

The Puzzle of Motivation


Do you struggle with motivation and productivity? Probably. I think we all do to some degree or another. But that raises another question: how come some people are more motivated than others? And what can you do to boost your own motivation?In this rewarding TED Talk, Daniel Pink delves into the brain science of motivation, what damages true motivation, and what we can do to cultivate real motivation from deep within ourselves. Extrinsic motivators are outdated. We need an intrinsic push instead.

It’s one of the most mind-blowing talks about human behavior ever produced by TED. The video has over 5 million views and an approval rating above 97%. It has helped so many people. Why not you, too?

Less Stuff, More Happiness


The human brain is a funny object. It tricks us into thinking that we’d be happier if we could only have this, that, or whatever else is on our radar. We buy things, even to the point of debt, yet we’re still unhappy. Why is that?This TED Talk is only six minutes long, but that’s as long as it needs to be for Graham Hill to convey what he wants to say. Want to be happier? Edit your life and get rid of all the material excess. Stop chasing “things” and start pursuing “experiences”.It’s one of several great TED Talks on how we should think differently about money. Money is important, but it isn’t everything.

What You Know About Addiction Is Wrong


Addiction is a tough topic. It hurts to go through it and it hurts to see others go through it. And it’s not just about drug addiction anymore — many of us unknowingly suffer from tech addictionporn addiction, and even video game addiction.

Not only that, but as technology continues to advance in unpredictable ways, who knows in what other ways we may become addicts in the future?

That’s why this TED Talk by Johann Hari is so important and insightful. It turns out that addiction has less to do with chemical hooks and more to do with purpose and bonds. If you’re an addict, or know someone who is, then you should definitely watch this.

The Origins of Pleasure


Despite the fact that all humans experience pleasure, we actually don’t know much about it. In this TED Talk, Paul Bloom starts off with a simple question: why do we derive more pleasure from original art pieces than forgeries?

The strange truth is that pleasure is more than just about the actual experience. In fact, certain experiences can be made more or less pleasurable if your beliefs about those experiences can be manipulated.

This insightful talk sheds a lot of light on why we find pleasure in certain things and how we might be able to maximize our pleasure in those experiences.

The Pattern Behind Self-Deception


Why are human beings so likely to believe in strange and irrational things? For example: UFOs, bigfoot, ghosts, global conspiracies, etc. In a lot of ways, belief is the “default state of things” and many of us want to believe in weird things even if those things are unreasonable.

In this TED Talk, Michael Shermer explores why we tend to see things that aren’t truly there and how this is rooted in two of the most basic survival skills in the human brain. Self-deception, you might call it.

Try Something New for 30 Days


It’s often been said that habits can be built or broken in 21 days, but if you really want to get the most out of it, you should aim for 30 days. By trying something new for one month at a time, you can end up chipping away at your mental blocks and building up your confidence.

But remember that small changes are more sustainable, so make sure your challenges are realistic and practical. The key to success is this: the next 30 days are going to pass no matter what, so why not try something new?

If you aren’t sure where to start, consider one of these money-saving 30-day challenges that will surely get your financial life in order.

On Being Wrong


We’ve all been wrong at one point or another, and we’ll all be wrong again sometime soon. Nobody is perfect, yet we try so hard to avoid being wrong. We don’t like being wrong… but why is that? Maybe there’s another way to think about wrongness.

In this TED Talk, Kathryn Schulz talks about how being wrong is different from realizing that we’re wrong, and that we can never know if we’re wrong until that realization strikes.

A lot of times, being wrong feels like being right — and this can be quite dangerous.

Source: This article was published on makeuseof.com

There are enough things in this life to worry about. Like nuclear war, climate change, and whether or not you’re brushing your teeth correctly. The Earth spinning too fast should not be high up on your list, simply because it’s not very likely to happen anytime soon—and if it does, you’ll probably be too dead to worry about it. Nevertheless, we talked to some experts to see how it would all go down.

First, let’s talk about how fast the world is spinning now. That actually depends on where you are, because the planet spins fastest around its waistline. As Earth twirls around its axis, its circumference is widest at the equator. So a spot on the equator has to travel a lot farther in 24 hours to loop around to its starting position than, say, Chicago, which sits on a narrower cross-section of Earth. To make up for the extra distance, the equator spins at 1,037 mph, whereas Chicago takes a more leisurely (approximately 750 mph) pace.

If we could speed up Earth’s rotation by one mile per hour, the sea level around the equator would rise by a few inches as water migrates there from the poles. “It might take a few years to notice it,” says Witold Fraczek, an analyst at ESRI, a company that makes geographic information system (GIS) software.

What might be much more noticeable is that some of our satellites would be off-track. Geostationary satellites orbit our planet at a speed that matches the Earth’s rotation, so that they can stay positioned over the same spot all the time. If the planet speeds up by 1 mph, then the satellites will no longer in their proper positions, meaning satellite communications, television broadcasting, and military and intelligence operations could be interrupted, at least temporarily. Some satellites carry fuel and may be able to adjust their positions and speeds accordingly, but others might have to be replaced, and that’s expensive.

“These could disturb the life and comfort of some people,” says Fraczek, “but should not be catastrophic to anybody.”

Things would get more catastrophic the faster we spin.

Losing weight

Centrifugal force from the Earth’s spin is constantly trying to fling you off the planet, sort of like a kid on the edge of a fast merry-go-round. For now, gravity is stronger and it keeps you grounded. But if Earth were to spin faster, the centrifugal force would get a boost, says NASA astronomer Sten Odenwald.

Currently, if you weigh about 150 pounds in the Arctic Circle, you might weigh 149 pounds at the equator. That’s because of the extra centrifugal force that’s generated as the equator spins faster combats gravity. Press fast-forward on that, and your weight would drop even further.

Odenwald calculates that eventually, if the equator revved up to 17,641 mph, the centrifugal force would be great enough that you would be essentially weightless. (That is, if you’re still alive. More on that later.)

Constant jet lag

The faster the Earth spins, the shorter our days would become. With a 1 mph speed increase, the day would only get about a minute and a half shorter and our internal body clocks, which stick to a pretty strict 24-hour schedule, probably wouldn’t notice.

But if we were rotating 100 mph faster than usual, a day would be about 22 hours long. For our bodies, that would be like Daylight Savings on crack. Instead of setting the clocks back by an hour, you’d be setting them back by two hours every single day, without a chance for your body to adjust. And the changing day length would probably mess up plants and animals too.

For our bodies, it would be like Daylight Savings on crack.

But all this is only if Earth speeds up all of a sudden. “If it gradually speeds up over millions of years, we would adapt to deal with that,” says Odenwald.

Stronger hurricanes

If Earth’s rotation picked up slowly, it would carry the atmosphere with it—and we wouldn’t necessarily notice a big difference in the day-to-day winds and weather patterns. “Temperature difference is still going to be the main driver of winds,” says Odenwald. However, extreme weather could become more destructive. “Hurricanes will spin faster,” he says, “and there will be more energy in them.”

The reason why goes back to that weird phenomenon we mentioned earlier: the Earth spins faster around the equator.

If the Earth wasn’t spinning at all, winds from the north pole would blow in a straight line to the equator, and vice versa. But because we are spinning, the pathway of the winds gets deflected eastward. This curvature of the winds is called the Coriolis effect, and it’s what gives a hurricane its spin. And if the Earth spun faster, the winds would be deflected further eastward. “That effectively makes the rotation more severe,” says Odenwald.

Water world

Extra speed at the equator means the water in the oceans would start to amass there. At 1 mph faster, the water around the equator would get a few inches deeper within just a few days.

At 100 mph faster, the equator would start to drown. “I think the Amazon Basin, Northern Australia, and not to mention the islands in the equatorial region, they would all go under water,” says Fraczek. “How deep underwater, I’m not sure, but I’d estimate about 30 to 65 feet.”

If we double the speed at the equator, so that Earth spins 1000 miles faster, “it would clearly be a disaster,” says Fraczek. The centrifugal force would pull hundreds of feet of water toward the Earth’s waistline. “Except for the highest mountains, such as Kilimanjaro or the highest summits of the Andes, I think everything in the equatorial region would be covered with water.” That extra water would be pulled out of the polar regions, where centrifugal force is lower, so the Arctic Ocean would be a lot shallower.

“Except for the highest mountains, everything in the equatorial region would be covered with water.”

Meanwhile, the added centrifugal force from spinning 1000 mph faster means water at the equator would have an easier time combating gravity. The air would be heavy with moisture in these regions, Fraczek predicts. Shrouded in a dense fog and heavy clouds, these regions might experience constant rain—as if they’d need any more water.

Finally, at about 17,000 miles per hour, the centrifugal force at the equator would match the force of gravity. After that, “we might experience reverse rain,” Fraczek speculates. “Droplets of water could start moving up in the atmosphere.” At that point, the Earth would be spinning more than 17 times faster that it is now, and there probably wouldn’t be many humans left in the equatorial region to marvel at the phenomenon.

“If those few miserable humans would still be alive after most of Earth’s water had been transferred to the atmosphere and beyond, they would clearly want to run out of the equator area as soon as possible,” says Fraczek, “meaning that they should already be at the Polar regions, or at least middle latitudes.”


At very fast speeds—like, about 24,000 mph—and over thousands of years, eventually the Earth’s crust would shift too, flattening out at the poles and bulging around the equator.

“We would have enormous earthquakes,” says Fraczek. “The tectonic plates would move quickly and that would be disastrous to life on the globe.”

Slow your roll

Believe it or not, Earth’s speed is constantly fluctuating, says Odenwald. Earthquakes, tsunamis, large air masses, and melting ice sheets can all change the spin rate at the millisecond level. If an earthquake swallows a bit of the ground, reducing the planet’s circumference ever so slightly, it effectively speeds up how quickly Earth completes its rotation. A large air mass can have the opposite effect, slowing our spins a smidgen like an ice skater who leaves her arms out instead of drawing them in.

The Earth’s rotation speed changes over time, too. About 4.4 billion years ago, the moon formed after something huge crashed into Earth. At that time, Odenwald calculates our planet was probably shaped like a flattened football and spinning so rapidly that each day might have been only about four hours long.

“This event dramatically distorted Earth's shape and almost fragmented Earth completely,” says Odenwald. “Will this ever happen again? We had better hope not!”

Since the formation of the moon, Earth’s spin has been slowing down by about 3.8 mph every 10 million years, mostly due to the moon’s gravitational pull on our planet. So it’s a lot more likely that Earth’s spin will continue to slow down in the future, not speed up.

“There’s no conceivable way that the Earth could spin up so dramatically,” says Odenwald. “To spin faster it would have to be hit just right by the right object, and that would liquify the crust so we’d be dead anyway.”

Source: This article was published msn.com By Sarah Fecht

It’s pretty clear that smartphones will soon be getting even smarter. In the mid 2000s, mobile phones could only do a tiny fraction of the things that their modern counterparts are capable of. Now, thanks to a number of recent technological advancements, it looks as though there will be no shortage of new smartphone features in the future to keep us evermore attached to our little digital devices. Here are 12 you should watch out for.

12. Photonic Crystal Displays

While most current smartphone screens are capable of displaying a wide range of incredibly saturated colors, most of them don’t adapt too well to varying light conditions. Research and development is now pointing to photonic crystals as the answer to this limitation.

Instead of giving off bright light like LCD or OLED displays, a photonic crystal display features nanostructures that adapt and modify themselves according to the amount of ambient light in a given environment. Although the photonic screen requires an external light source in order to be visible, this could easily be integrated into the body of the phone just like it is in e-readers like the Kindle Paperwhite.

To give you an idea of how close this technology is to market, Apple and Google have been making some pretty big investments in photonics, and, back in 2013, Samsung had already demonstrated the concept of a flexible phone that utilized a photonic crystal display. Chances are we’ll start seeing these displays put into smartphones within the next few years.

https://www.ece.illinois.edu/newsroom/article/11780 Source: Ece.illinois.edu

11. Nano-Tech Batteries

In 2015, at the Mobile World Congress event, Israeli tech company StoreDot revealed a customized Samsung Galaxy S5 with a nano technology-utilizing battery that could charge from 0 to 100 percent in less than a minute.

The technology evolved out of research being conducted in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Through their study, scientists learned that peptide molecules, which are responsible for the disease, have an incredibly high capacitance—making them excellent little electrical storage units. The only catch is that, in its current state of development, the StoreDot battery only lasts about two-thirds of the time of a conventional lithium-ion smartphone battery. However, it shouldn’t take too long for the company to improve the technology. StoreDot has already received substantial investments from Samsung, and is in discussions with manufacturers about integrating its battery into future smartphones.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/smartphone-battery-improvements/ Source: Digitaltrends.com

10. Liquid Buttons

Years ago it was the norm that most phones had physical keyboards and any mobile device without one seemed “out of touch.” But currently the opposite is true, and most people think that tactile keyboards look old-fashioned. Well, that’s all set to change again thanks to Tactus Technology and their development of a keyboard that looks like it came from some sort of advanced alien civilization.

The keyboard uses special microfluidics technology which drives small amounts of liquid into invisible pockets that rest over the typing pad on a smartphone. When the user brings up the touchscreen keyboard, the pockets instantly fill with liquid which has the effect of physically raising the buttons. The technology has already been incorporated into a new Phorm case for the iPad Mini, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see it directly built in to future smartphones and tablets.

http://www.gizmag.com/tactus-technology-tactile-touchscreen/22852/ Source: Gizmag.com

9. Headphone Surround Sound

Surround sound on headphones has been met with some pretty harsh assessments in the past, but now audio developer DTS is looking to silence the critics with a 7.1 mobile audio solution for smartphones that promises to faithfully recreate the sound of specific listening environments using even the simplest pair of headphones. Though there’s a little ways to go before the system works with all source material, the higher processing power of new smartphones should be able to support the advancement in audio technology.

http://android.wonderhowto.com/how-to/get-dolby-atmos-surround-sound-any-android-0162010/ Source: Android.wonderhowto.com

8. Biometric Authentication

Though the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S6 both use capacitive technology to read the ridges of your finger tips, this technology could be considered lacking from a security perspective because it doesn’t use enough data points, which makes it more susceptible to being hacked. Improving on the concept, telecommunications company Qualcomm has developed a new type of ultrasonic fingerprint scanner using a piezoelectric layer that creates ultrasound. In addition to mapping your finger, the scanner features greatly increased resolution, which is also an enhanced security benefit.

https://www.recordedfuture.com/biometric-authentication/ Source: Recordedfuture.com

7. Virtual Reality

With soon-to-be-released headsets like Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and HTC Vive stealing all the virtual reality-related headlines, not much attention has been given to the VR technology on smartphones. Nonetheless, the new 4K displays that will be rolling out on new smartphones in 2016 are ideal for VR applications.

Once inserted into a head-mounted device, the phone itself will act as the VR headset’s display and 4K resolution will be instrumental in providing an immersive, non-pixellated experience. Of course, this may or may not be a good thing considering a lot of us already bury our faces in our phones and ignore what’s going on in the world around us.

http://www.myvreality.com/diy/connecting-a-smartphone-to-your-vr-headset-how-and-why/ Source: Myvreality.com

6. Graphene

Since its development for practical application in 2004, graphene has been praised as “wonder material” by nearly everyone in the electronics industry. It’s thin, lightweight, flexible, transparent and over 200 times stronger than steel. It’s also one of the best materials for conducting electricity, which makes it ideal for use in electronic devices.

Incorporating graphene into smartphones could allow for designs to be ultra-thin, transparent, flexible and virtually indestructible. Recently, there have been a few breakthroughs by phone manufacturers who have been playing around with graphene. Most notably, Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) produced graphene in a way that allowed it to retain its outstanding electrical qualities—a problem that had proved to be a serious challenge up to that point. This development should make flexible, transparent smartphone displays commercially viable within the next couple of years.

http://www.brit.co/graphene/ Source: Brit.co

5. No SIM Cards

Although manufacturers have made efforts to reduce the size of SIM cards, they still feel very much like a leftover relic of the ’90s. Thankfully, Apple and Samsung are making strides to rid the world of the physical presence of SIM cards by replacing them with an electronic version.

By having a programmable SIM integrated into your phone, you’ll essentially be able to switch between network providers at the drop of a hat without having to request a new SIM card. Which should come in quite handy for anyone travelling or living abroad who wants to get set up with a local number. It’s said that the technology could be available in new smartphones as early as next year.

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=22823 Source: Publicdomainpictures.net

4. Pressure-Sensitive Screens

The Force Touch on the Apple Watch has demonstrated that companies already have the ability to manufacture screens that are capable of sensing pressure. Controls that can distinguish between a light tap from a firm press will give users even more ways to manipulate their phones and has obvious benefits for the gaming community.

In addition to Apple, Samsung has filed a patent for something called “Touch Display Apparatus Sensing Force,” which clearly uses the same technology, and in July 2015, Chinese manufacturer ZTE revealed the ZTE Axon Mini which also features a pressure-sensitive touch screen.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/samsung-vs-apple-galaxy-s7-could-feature-pressure-sensitive-touchscreen-emulate-3d-touch-like-1524474 Source: Ibtimes.co.uk

3. Flawless Voice Interaction

Voice interaction has been around for a while now and incremental improvements over the years have led to the development of virtual personal assistants and knowledge navigators like Apple’s Siri. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The algorithms used in voice-assisted applications are moving ahead at break-neck speed. With the technology improving so quickly, it won’t be long before the A.I. becomes so intuitive that it will start giving you advice that seems to pre-empt your very thoughts. Let’s just hope that the developers remember to program Asimov’s three laws of robotics into them so we don’t wind up subservient to our smartphones in the future.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-12-30/usaa-to-geico-test-voice-apps-seeking-12-billion-savings Source: Bloomberg.com

2. Innovative Medical Apps

Recently, scientists developed an app called Athelas which makes use of a lens attachment to track malaria and cancerous cells as they move through a patient’s blood. This innovation has prompted scientists to look for other ways that smartphones could be used to track highly infectious diseases, such as Ebola, to gain a better understanding of how they move and spread.

Using an inexpensive phone add-on called PCR that’s able to tag and track pathogens in the blood, diseases should be able to be diagnosed within hours or even minutes. The data gathered would then be automatically uploaded from the phone to an online database where other scientists can analyze it.

When you combine this emerging technology with other existing applications that are able to track things like blood-pressure and heart rate, it’s easy to see how smartphones could soon bring about a revolution in medical care.

http://ghettoradio.co.ke/blood-diagnosis-app-can-detect-diseases/ Source: Ghettoradio.co.ke

1. Smart Cameras

In 2015, Qualcomm demoed a camera that showed it was capable of identify the objects it was looking at. The system works by comparing real world objects to a huge reference database stored on the device. Best of all, it’s possible to train the software to understand ever more things. Sort of like a little baby A.I.

This technology could have enormous potential and enable cameras to do all sorts of clever and useful things relating to the real world environment. Google has also been developing a similar type of deep search identification software with Google Photos. As camera hardware continues to shrink and improve, it seems inevitable that this sort of feature will become standard on phones.

http://dailycapital.pk/smartphone-cameras-can-tell-what-an-object-is-made-of/ Source: Dailycapital.pk
Friday, 19 May 2017 10:18

The Internet Troll In Me (Us)

Is there a troll’s voice inside all of us at one time or another?

In today’s online climate, we are witnessing friends unfollowing or actually unfriending each other, while people are boldly insulting each other with their offensive opinions, thoughts and comments.

Research from Stanford and Cornell University suggests that under the right circumstances, we all have a troll lingering in us.

Lindsey Blackwell, a researcher of online harassment at the University of Michigan, concurs. She points out that technology has the ability to amplify our behavior, not only our best shines through online but also our worst.

Attorney Mitch Jackson, a social media leader and influencer, has experienced his share of trolls. He places them in two categories:

· Recreational trolls - Ones that are simply annoying and will eventually go away after you block them and ignore them.

· Criminal trolls - The ones you need to take more seriously, ones that are out to seriously harm you/and/or your business.

When I wrote Google Bomb with the late John Dozier, a leading internet attorney, he described trolls in ten scofflaw persona’s:

1. Pick-pocket

This is the guy who used to wait on street corners for elderly ladies to pass. He enjoys attacking defenseless people and stealing covertly using deception.

2. Wacko

We usually identify a wacko situation quickly. There are distinctive characteristics of his communications. The wacko is usually a “follower,” someone looking to gain attention and recognition, but escalates what may have started as fair criticism into more and more outrageous claims.

3. Druggie

Or, maybe “liquid courage” would be more appropriate. This guy is exactly what comes to mind. During the day this blogger is a normal guy, but at night he returns to the sanctity of his home, gets drunk or high, and goes out on the web looking for “hook-ups” and blogging on his “hang-ups.”

4. Alien

No, not from another world. But from overseas. In a far, far away place, without any treaty with the US, in a country without an effective legal system and no notion of business or personal property ownership rights.

5. Nerd

This is the guy who is scared to talk with a girl, but behind the keyboard, all alone, morphs into a Casanova. This empowerment of anonymity creates an omnipotent persona, and for the first time the nerd feels the effect of power and control, gets an adrenaline buzz when he exercises it, and he exercises it often, usually creating or perpetuating a volatile situation in which he feels he can outsmart the “opposition.”

6. Rookie

Enjoy debating a thirteen year old? They are out on the net acting like adults, posting statements and play-acting like a grown-up.

7. Sadist


This person attacks others, causes pain, and revels in the results in ways not worthy of mention. He loves to create, direct, control, and unleash a firestorm of criticism about you or your company just to create pain and damage.

8. Bankrupt

No, not morally bankrupt. Actually bankrupt…no money, no assets, no prospects for work, and nothing to lose.

9. Criminal

Career criminals, no less. Like the convicted felon running a sophisticated extortion scheme against a very prominent business.

10. Mis-Leader

This person is in no manner a leader. This blogger has a hidden agenda, but he just makes it sound like he is a totally objective commentator.

Invasion of Trolls

Over the past years we have watched platforms such as Huffington Post put an end to anonymous comments and NPR , Popular Science and Motherboard shut them down completely due to online commenters harassing each other and abusing the privilege of leaving comments.

These were not children polluting their sites. People leaving comments on these platforms were likely adults, yet they were acting like toddlers with a keypad — poking, teasing and harassing their playmates on a playground with no concern that they are humans too.

Where has civility gone that when you piss off a fellow parent in a carpool line you end up being trashed and trolled on social media? Want to break-up with your partner, but fear you’ll end up as a victim of e-venge? Could it be that when people are pushed to their limit they are recognizing the power of the keyboard?


Justin Cheng, a researcher at Stanford University and lead author of the study above, wanted to better understand why trolling is so prevalent today.

“While the common knowledge is that trolls are particularly sociopathic individuals that occasionally appear in conversations, is it really just these people who are trolling others?” 

We may think we know the descriptions of trolls and even ideas of who these people are, which is usually the cesspool of the web, however the research uncovers that you or I could easily be pushed to a point of digital warfare. In a bad mood, wake-up on the wrong side of the bed, passionate about a heated trending topic and your fingers may go flying. When you see a thread that has sparked a fire of negative comments, some think it’s a green-light to pile on the insults — why not add my two-cents, everyone else is.

This gang-like trolling behavior is a “spiral of negativity”, explains Jure Leskovec, senior author of the above study.

“Just one person waking up cranky can create a spark and, because of discussion context and voting, these sparks can spiral out into cascades of bad behavior. Bad conversations lead to bad conversations. People who get down-voted come back more, comment more and comment even worse.”

There is an art to commenting when you don’t agree with posters. We should learn to be constructive, not combative in our responses.

It goes back to the old cliché many of us were taught by our grandparents and parents: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” We need to take this advice online.

Takeaway tips:

  • When in doubt, click out.
  • Pause before posting.
  • Recognize we are all a click away from being a troll.

Source: This article was published huffingtonpost.com By Sue Scheff

Scientists believe they have moved a step closer to proving the existence of a parallel universe with the discovery of a mysterious ‘cold spot’.

This cool patch of space, that was first spotted by the NASA WMAP satellite in 2004, is part of the radiation that was thought to have been produced during the formation of the universe some 13 billion years ago.

However, research conducted by Professor Tom Shanks from Durham University has uncovered a new theory – that the Cold Spot was formed when universes COLLIDED.

The cold spot could be evidence of a larger multiverse (Flickr)
The cold spot could be evidence of a larger multiverse (Flickr)

Professor Shanks theorises that this is ‘the first evidence for the multiverse – and billions of other universes may exist like our own”.

He explained: “We can’t entirely rule out that the spot is caused by an unlikely fluctuation explained by the standard [theory of the Big Bang].

“But if that isn’t the answer, then there are more exotic explanations.

“Perhaps the most exciting of these is that the Cold Spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe.”

He added: “If further, more detailed, analysis… proves this to be the case then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse.”

Source: This article was published Yahoo News UK By Andy wells

The U.S. Congress recently made it legal for your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to track and sell information about what you do online. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep secure your email and maintain your web browsing privacy.

Keep in mind it’s not just ISPs who track and sell information about your online activities. There are a number of advertising networks that use ads to track what web sites you visit and build a profile of your likes and dislikes. Fortunately, blocking ISP tracking will inhibit this invasion of privacy, as well.

The good news for iPhone and iPad users is that these iOS devices are easy to secure using the steps below. But it’s still up to you to control just how much of what you do online gets tracked.

Change Your DNS

This first technique might come across as a little technical but it’s actually quite easy to implement. And changing the DNS (Domain Name Server) will go a long way toward protecting your privacy by preventing your ISP from tracking you.

A DNS server changes the ordinary names we humans use for websites–like NotebookReview.com–into the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses that our computers use–like When you’re connected to your ISP, by default you are using their DNS server, so tracking every website you visit is a snap.

Fortunately, changing to a different DNS server is simple. Go to Settings >  Wi-Fi and notice which wireless access point your iPhone or iPad is connected to. It’s easy: there’s a blue check mark beside the one you want. Now, tap on the blue i with a circle around it that appears just to the right of that access point. This will bring up a settings, most of which we’ll ignore. Change the one labeled DNS to with no spaces around it.

And that’s all it takes to switch from your internet service provider’s DNS server–which could be tracking you–to one provided by OpenDNS, which promises “We take our users’ privacy is very seriously. No information will be shared with outside parties.”

Search Privately

Google stores the terms you search for to build a database of your interests. Fortunately, there’s DuckDuckGo, a search engine that promises “What you search for is your own business. We don’t collect any personal information and therefore have none to share.” 

Apple makes it a breeze to make this your default search engine. Just go to Settings > Safari > Search Engine, and select DuckDuckGo. For more standard use, just bookmark DuckDuckGo.com.

Secure Your Email

Google, Yahoo!, and similar free services scan every email sent or received through them, and use that information for the profiles it builds on its users. There’s simply no way to use these services and maintain your privacy.

But there are a number of companies that do offer secure messaging. The best known of these is Hushmail, which encrypts the contents of your emails and provides secure connections to their servers. Accounts are accessible through an iOS email application, through the standard email apps, or through the Web.

Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc. aren’t really free, as your information is being sold to advertisers to cover the costs of the service.  Hushmail and similar services aren’t ad supported, so you have to pay for them in the traditional. A personal Hushmail account is $49.98 a year, for example.

Install a VPN

The most serious way to keep your ISP or advertisers from tracking you is with a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This blocks Comcast, Verizon, etc. from knowing what you are doing, and also prevents Google’s ad network from building a profile on you.

But there are trade-offs. The most obvious is that the company that runs the VPN can potentially also track you. Still, using one means that you can start with the ISP that provides the best service and/or price, and then choose a VPN company that adds the best privacy.

Another trade-off from using a VPN is that Internet access is often just a bit slower, as all traffic is being routed through remote servers, sometimes located in another country.  Also, keep in mind that using a VPN can interfere with some of Apple services, including Siri and AirDrop.

The absolute easiest option is Opera VPN, which just requires a quick installation from the Apple App Store, followed by an extremely simple setup. The VPN service is provided by SurfEasy, an Opera subsidiary,  which promises that it doesn’t  store users originating IP addresses, nor does it retain information about the applications, services, or websites users consume while connected.

Those who want to choose an alternative VPN should do research to confirm that the company that provides it has a strong commitment to privacy. And people should also be aware that most reputable VPNs charge for the service.

Also, be aware that these won’t be apps like Opera’s offering, but rather a set of instructions on how to configure Safari to use the VPN. The process won’t be too complicated, though.

In hopes of saving people some time, many budget/free VPNs use the PPTP protocol (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol). This method is obsolete and so insecure that iOS doesn’t support it any longer. 

Block Ad Tracking

Those who don’t like the drawbacks of a VPN have simpler alternatives, but these aren’t as effective.

The Safari browser has a Do Not Track option, available at Settings > Safari > Privacy & Security. This is something of an honor system, though, as it simply sends advertisers a request to not follow you. Unethical companies can choose to ignore this.

Blocking “cookies” is another option offered by Safari. Completely barring them will cause many websites to malfunction though.  This browser offers an interim setting, in which cookies are only accepted from websites you actually visit. This will prevent some advertisers from tracking you.

The nuclear option is an ad blocker. These interfere with the social contract between websites and users though, and aren’t really necessary, as the iPhone and iPad offer many other options to keep corporations from peering over your shoulder.

Go Private

Apple’s Safari web browser has a Private Mode, in which Safari doesn’t remember the pages you visit or your AutoFill information. The browser won’t store your search terms, but Google will. In addition, Do Not Track is also turned on.

In this mode, Safari accepts cookies because, as previously mentioned, many web sites require them for normal functioning. However, a return to regular browsing will cause any new cookies to be deleted. Safari in Private Mode can access cookies previously created during regular browsing, but won’t save changes made to these during a private session. Still, these cookies can be used by unethical advertising networks to track you during the session.

To enable this more secure mode, tap the multitab button at the top of the Safari screen, which brings up thumbnails of all open webpages. A button labeled “Private” will appear at the upper right; tapping on that clears the screen of non-private tabs, turns the background black, and sets the application so that any web pages that are opened are kept private.

Final Thoughts

It’s unfortunate that we have reached the point where we have to actively prevent corporations from spying on us. Even people who accept that the websites they love are free only because the costs of running them are defrayed by ads should feel uncomfortable about having an advertising network track everything they do on the Web. 

The Internet has become a trade-off between privacy and convenience. Preventing companies from tracking you requires a bit of hassle, and the more hoops you are willing to jump through, the more you can protect your privacy. But even just a little bit of effort can make the job harder for the companies that want to invade your privacy for their financial gain.

Source: This article was published on notebookreview.com by a ttle="Visit Ed Hardy’s website" " ">"d Hardy

Where does the energy, the drive or perhaps the motivation come from?

“Just don’t look at the comments” - a phrase too familiar to everyone who is online with an opinion. We say that to save our friends from the internet's dark side- the one that reeks of venomously upbrought entitlements we refer to as ‘trolls’.

Hindustan Times sparked this much-needed discussion through their campaign, #LetsTalkAboutTrolls, with women including Barkha Dutt, Gurmehar Kaur and Rana Ayyub fiercely lime-lighting the anatomy of trolling, and encouraging more women to speak up. Harinder Bajwa even managed to personally interview an anti-secular troll with thousands of followers including the Prime Minister Modi. Sonam Kapoor recently joined the campaign after a huge gang of trolls paraded onto her twitter timeline. A petition by Chennai-based singer Chinmayi Sripada, asking Twitter for a large scale shutdown of accounts has also garnered close to 2 lac signatures.

As instances are rapid enough to develop laws around them, one would wonder why trolls do so in the first place? Where does the energy, the drive or perhaps the motivation come from?

To explore that, we first need to understand ‘Machiavellianism’. It was coined after the notorious Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, one of whose quotes say, “If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”

Termed as a personality trait marked by excessive focus on one’s own interests, a machiavellian would go beyond humane level to create misery. Found more in men than women, it is merely one of the many facets that mold a troll’s mind.

Trolling is bullying in making

In 2014, three Canadian researchers ran online personality assessments on 1200 people through a survey to examine their internet commenting styles. It was found that trolling strongly associates with seeking pleasure from an act of cruelty. We call it sadism, but here we’d call it ‘everyday sadism’, giving it a casual tone. Adding to that were found traits of machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy which together makes it a set called, Dark Tetrad.

The mental damage from bullying, whether online or in person, is almost similar, albeit received in a different setting of horror. While traditional bullying leaves the victim shattered, physically at times; cyberbullying establishes itself deeply into the victims leaving them decapitated of their individuality. Research has shown increasing symptoms of depression in cyberbullying compared to traditional bullying. Sure, the former’s mildness cannot be compared to the latter’s severity, but trolling is indeed a pre-manifestation of bullying and should be considered so by the authorities, as trolls characteristically relate themselves to bullies. But there is more to their behaviour and the reason they are emerging at this pace.

Anonymity is bliss

It gives an unusual strength. People post comments as anonymous as it allows them to be carefree of retaliation. The perks aren’t limited to such freedom. Having an electronic screen between the person making the post and the world outside demolishes identity, and at the same time lets the mind of the troll move freely to the extent of cursing and death threats. Psychologist, John Suler termed this as ‘online disinhibition effect’ which allows people to be more open behind a computer, but he also distinguished it from toxic disinhibition which doesn’t need an explanation.

Trolls are creative. Another reason why along with single twitteratis, there are equally numerous “humour” pages that engage in trolling to boom their retweets. You can spot them easily under Sonam’s tweet.

In an experiment by the Western Illinois University, 2 groups of students (with and without masks) were paid to walk around the campus with a board that says ‘masturbation is fun’, the group with bared-faces demanded more money than its masked counterparts. This also typically states why trolls are often nasty when they are concealed in a transformed identity and the crowd. Remember, when in group people are less likely to worry about the consequences of what they say.

Trolls aren’t worried about accountability.

Anonymity isn’t always an acting ingredient that defines a troll. When Virender Sehwag and Randeep Hooda joined forces against Gurmehar Kaur, they weren’t hiding behind a cloak. Sometimes, even death and rape threats aren’t sent anonymously. Logical thinking takes a back seat in this feature.

study by 3 US-based researchers (psychologists and political scientists) explains why people’s approach to issues and dissents isn’t thorough and rational when they know they aren’t going to be held accountable for their views.

Why does it apply to trolls? Because trolls often take simplistic ways to “call out” a complex opinion- ways that are articulated with cheap humor, threatening language and vicious ad-hominems- all of which is well received by the audience. This is why even self-proclaimed liberals were seen sharing these trolling tweets as “funny stuff”.

External motivation and a kick from masculinity.

When online, the ability to take risks, flourishes. Trolls aren’t a group of people alienated from society. Irresponsibility and false popularity are only two of the many extrinsic motivating factors. It is a misnomer that trolls target only celebrities, multiple surveys have found that women who express their opinions online via authorship or simply on Twitter/Facebook recieve more trolling comments and that too in extreme forms based solely on gender.

A threatened masculinity generates unthought and violent trolling when it comes to men, and the most horrid of expressions come from rape threats. However, it receives its motivation from a collective ignorance.

In 2014, Jezebel, a leading feminist media website publicly cornered Gawker media, their parent platform, for doing nothing about the continuous rape GIFs appearing in their comment sections. Trolls on Facebook have even taken on disability and casteist “jokes” in disguise of meme-making pages but community standards remain shockingly unviolated. There is little to no understanding of what constitutes as offensive and explicitly harmful in a said country or a culture. Trolls on the other hand learn the art irrespective of demographics.

Renowned websites are shutting down comments section in order to keep away from trolls. The decision does protect them but also halts discussions and debates that are significant parts of dissent. A screenshot is what it takes to tell a tale and trolls aren't to be mistaken for college-dropouts living alone in shady houses. They are mature, socially extroverted and educated on paper. Understanding is remedying. With more campaigns like #LetsTalkAboutTrolls, we not only drag them out in the open but also bring this type of malevolent behaviour to serious scrutiny.

Note: The views of the author are his own.

Source: This article was published on thenewsminute.com

Tuesday, 16 May 2017 11:45

Silicon Valley's Secret

Dinner at Meredith Ackley’s house is like stepping into a dream. The walls are painted pink and purple. There’s a heated patio and arching branches over the backyard. The sun beams through the windows, music plays and three beautiful girls dance with their mother in the kitchen.

The missing piece of the fairytale is Ackley’s husband, Eric Salvatierra. It’s been four years since he called to say his last “I love you.”

In 2012, Salvatierra stepped in front of a Caltrain, abruptly ending his life. He was 39 years old.

Salvatierra was an executive who helped build eBay from the ground up. He was the former CFO of Skype, a VP at PayPal, and always one of the smartest in the room, according to his colleagues.

“They would say he could write an Excel spreadsheet like a symphony,” Ackley said. “He was one of those people who could go all the way up and go all the way down into the details.” 

Salvatierra would stay up all night coding and occasionally writing his wife love poems. The moments of brilliance when he did his best work -- and channeled extraordinary passion -- turned out to be manic episodes. They were symptoms of Salvatierra’s ultimate struggle: a crippling battle with bipolar disorder and depression.

According to the CDC, one in four people suffer from mental health issues. Scratch the surface in Silicon Valley, and the seemingly open-minded mecca is not necessarily welcoming to them.

In 2016, a study by psychiatrist Dr. Michael Freeman identified the relationship between entrepreneurship and depression. It found that many of the personality traits found in entrepreneurs -- creativity, extroversion, open mindedness and a propensity for risk -- are also traits associated with ADHD, bipolar spectrum conditions, depression and substance abuse.

When Salvatierra was on he was unstoppable.

Ackley’s husband had some of these traits. When Salvatierra was “on,” he was unstoppable, she said.

“I think Eric's managers saw that his brain operated differently than other people and they could use that to their advantage to help the company,” Ackley recalled. “And I just kind of accepted that as part of his work culture, not part of him.”

It wasn’t until her husband was hospitalized and diagnosed as bipolar in 2011 that the reality sunk in. He was battling mental illness.

His bipolar disorder gave him extreme highs manifested in wild bouts of creativity, and incredibly low lows -- he would be paralyzed by feeling like he’d made a mistake and couldn’t forgive himself.

“He would ruminate on these for months,” Ackley said.

While Salvatierra was hospitalized, the couple went to a psychiatrist who advised them to keep it secret.

“I thought I was going to throw up. I thought Eric was going to just disintegrate,” Ackley remembers. “It was instant shame on both of us ... She was like, ‘You don’t want to show weakness; you don’t want to show that your brain is anything but 100%.’”

In Silicon Valley, where your biggest asset is your brain, the stigma is magnified, according to Penelope Draganic, whose husband Zarko also struggled from depression and ended his life. Like Salvatierra, Zarko was lauded for his all-night coding sessions, which were a byproduct of his battle with depression. He was a Silicon Valley success story: Along with other tech titans, he worked at mobile device company General Magic in the early '90s and later founded a startup he sold for millions.

“He slept in a bed in his office, would roll off the bed and write code throughout the night," Draganic says. "They loved his perseverance and his resilience. He was able to perform superhuman tasks because he was biochemically off-kilter, and he wasn't even aware of it because he managed it so well.”

The pressure made it difficult to talk openly about his mental health issues.

People viewed Zarko’s confidence and work ethic as a sign of his brilliance, Draganic recalled. But she said the pressure made it difficult to talk openly about his mental health issues.

“It's particularly relevant in the Valley because hypo-manic productivity is a sign of strength and opportunity, and even in your weakest moments you're not supposed to present anything other than your game face,” Draganic said. “It's not the culture that creates the illness, but it's a culture that actually makes this illness even harder to grapple with.”

The fine line between creative genius and mental health can be hard to decipher. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who worked closely with Salvatierra, was blindsided when he died. Whitman personally recruited Salvatierra, who opted not to attend Stanford Business School so he could take a chance on eBay.

“Silicon Valley is a cradle of creative geniuses. And so Eric was not, in some ways, out of the ordinary,” Whitman said. “People had zones of genius, and I just thought, 'OK, this is a really smart, really gifted young guy.'”

Whitman, whose sister struggles with bipolar disorder, says the myth of mental illness is that people are unable to do their jobs.

“Eric was highly functioning. My sister is highly functioning,” she said. “People think, ‘Well, maybe you can’t do the job.’ Actually, it’s often quite the opposite.”

Whitman says tech companies have a responsibility to ensure health plans cover mental health and employees have an open forum to talk about these issues. Now the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Whitman has opened an onsite medical facility for employees.

She’s one of few high-profile CEOs to speak openly about mental health, but a movement is beginning to happen in the Bay Area.

A group of entrepreneurs and investors gathered at a members-only club in San Francisco to talk about mental health.

One night in late January, a group of entrepreneurs and investors gathered at a members-only club in San Francisco to talk about mental health.

Robin Williams’ son Zak spoke openly about his father’s struggle with bipolar disorder and the demons he faced. For Zak, speaking about his father’s death will never be easy. But battling his own depression has given him the courage to speak up.

Neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley talked about creating a video game to treat depression that’s on the pathway for FDA approval. Dave Morin, an early Facebook employee who also worked at Apple, asked what would happen if you treated depression like a startup, spending millions of dollars and brainpower to solve it. He recently started an organization called Project Sunrise with the goal of finding a cure for depression.

An impromptu branding session happened later in the evening. The effort to destigmatize mental health should start with a better name, someone joked.

To talk so openly about mental health in the Bay Area is a rarity. The event, organized by Bring Change 2 Mind, a nonprofit focused on destigmatizing mental health, was an effort to start the conversation.

The irony is that in this mecca of creativity, all-night coding sessions and promises to change the world, it’s harder than ever to talk about the dark side of that success.

“It’s almost like a badge of honor to show how busy you are,” says entrepreneur Rand Fishkin. “Sleep is not cool, pregnancy, not cool. All these things that normal human beings do and need -- people need families, they need to go to sleep at night, but somehow that is excluded from the acceptable portion of the culture.”

Fishkin, a successful entrepreneur who documented his struggle with depression, says it’s commonplace. He co-hosted a CEO retreat with investor Brad Feld, who has been open about his battle with depression. Founders were asked if they struggled with severe anxiety or clinical depression while running a startup.

Every single hand in the room went up except two.

“Every single hand in the room went up except two,” Fishkin recalled.

During his struggles, Fishkin visited “CEO coach” Jerry Colonna, who helped him understand that he wasn’t just having a bad day -- he was clinically depressed. Colonna, a former investor who has also struggled with depression, has gained notoriety in the tech community for his ability to cut through a culture that focuses on “crushing it.”

“There’s this dirty little secret in our industry, which is we don’t take care of those people,” says Colonna. “And we’re taking advantage of them, and not treating them.”

He described the startup environment as a perfect storm for people who may struggle with mental health issues.

“Imagine having that personality type, that propensity to drive yourself, and then having investors say, 'You better be hungry, otherwise I’m not going to fund you,’” he says. “You take away sleep, and you’ve got a prescription for depression.”

Colonna says the issue isn't unique to Silicon Valley.

“It would be a mistake to think, ‘Oh, these poor little rich kids,’” he says. “It’s that the tech industry -- and the startup community specifically -- brings to the surface forces that are at play in every aspect of our society.”

Meanwhile, five years after her husband’s death, Ackley breaks down when discussing the worst day of her life.

“All of a sudden, my body went cold and I just knew, I knew in every inch of my body that something had gone absolutely wrong,” she says, choking up. “[Eventually], police officers sat next to me and held me down and said, ‘We have some news to tell you.’ And they told me that Eric had died.”

For years after that day, Ackley would walk into her husband’s closet, where his clothes still hung. She would hug them because they smelled like him. Now she holds a quilt made from her husband’s Silicon Valley uniform -- the pastel shirts and khaki pants fashioned into a patchwork of little squares.

Over dinner, Salvatierra’s daughters remember their father’s sense of humor and his corny jokes (“Can you do me a quick flavor?”). They describe him as camera-in-hand, always ready to record the special moments. There were many of those.

Through Bring Change 2 Mind, the girls have created stigma-free clubs at school where they talk about their father’s struggles.

Through Bring Change 2 Mind, the girls have created stigma-free clubs at school where they talk about their father’s struggles.

They speak with youthful openness about the secret that cost their father his life.

“I know why I want to end the stigma,” Lia says. “It’s just this big taboo.”

“It’s not a character defect,” Eva says. “It’s just a disease, like cancer is.”

For Ackley, the hardest part is watching her daughters grow up without their father. It's why she's determined to change the narrative, starting in Silicon Valley.

"He just was in awe of what we created together," Ackley says. "I just miss his heart more than anything. And I really wanted to raise these girls together."

Produced by Erica Fink, Laurie Segall, Jason Farkas, Justine Quart, Roxy Hunt, Tony Castle, AK Hottman, Benjamin Garst, Haldane McFall, Gabriel Gomez, BFD Productions, Jack Regan, Cullen Daly.

Article edited by Aimee Rawlins.

Web design & development - Stephany Cardet & Vanessa Meza, CNN Digital Labs.

Source: This article was published money.cnn.com

Sunday, 14 May 2017 01:58

The 8 Coolest TED Talks on Psychology

Daniel Kahneman. CREDIT: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Humans, we all know, are strange, irrational, beautiful creatures who often act in weird and wonderful ways. That makes us hard to deal with sometimes, but it also makes us totally fascinating.

All our quirks are fuel for psychologists, who spend their professional lives trying to dig into our heads, uncovering the processes that drive us to be so maddeningly unpredictable and amazingly complex. Understanding a little of what these explorations have uncovered isn't just a great way to feed your brain; it can also help you succeed in business (or relationships). These great TED Talks from some of the field's leading lights make learning about psychology easy and entertaining.

1. How we read each other's minds, Rebecca Saxe

According to Saxe, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, you don't need tarot cards or ESP to read people's minds. A functioning right temporo-parietal junction will do just fine. In her talk, Saxe explains how this brain region allows humans to be uncannily good at sensing other people's feelings, thoughts, and motivations.

"If you love science jargon and scientific analysis, this one's for you," writes MakeUseOf's Joel Lee, recommending this talk in a round-up of his favorite psych-related TED Talks. PsyBlog calls Saxe a "superstar of psychology."


2. The riddle of experience vs. memory, Daniel Kahneman

If you're looking for highly credentialed TED speakers, Kahneman's résumé won't fail to impress. A Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and bestselling author, Kahneman uses his 20 minutes on the TED stage to explain that there are actually two flavors of happiness: the kind we experience in the moment and the kind we experience in our memories. Maximizing your own well being in life means keeping both in mind.


3. The paradox of choice, Barry Schwartz

More choice is always better, right? Not according to Schwartz, a psychologist who argues that having to decide which of approximately 6,000 brands of similar toothpaste to buy "has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied."

His entry is included on a great list of must-see psychology-related TED Talks from software engineer and psychology enthusiast Tristan Muntsinger on Quora, earns inclusion on Lee's list, and gets the "superstar" nod from PsyBlog. In short, everyone recommends this talk.


4. Are we in control of our own decisions?, Dan Ariely

Look at best-of lists of TED Talks (in general or psychology specifically) and you'll pretty much always see the name of behavioral economist Dan Ariely. The funny thing is each list includes a different talk. A man of apparently boundless energy, Ariely has appeared on the TED stage no fewer than five times, and seems to have wowed on every occasion.

This is the one picked by Muntsinger. According to the TED blurb, the talk "uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we're not as rational as we think when we make decisions."


5. What makes us feel good about our work?, Dan Ariely (again)

Business Insider's Chris Weller prefers this one by Ariely. When he rounded up his favorite TED Talks related to psychology, he included this talk on what really motivates us at work. In it Ariely recounts "an experiment in which people stopped working far earlier when the researchers destroyed their work before assigning a new task. The takeaway: People are motivated when they feel appreciated," Waller explains.


6. Flow, the secret to happiness, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

In this talk, legendary psychologist Csikszentmihalyi (he's another PsyBlog "superstar") dares to ask one of life's biggest questions: What makes us happy? The answer isn't fame or money, he insists, but flow -- that lost-in-time feeling you get when you focus intensely on work you're good at.


7. The power of vulnerability, Brené Brown

One of the top-five-most-popular TED Talks of all time, this moving account of Brown's own struggles with shame and control weaves together sometimes hilarious personal anecdotes with hard research to convince viewers that forging real connections requires the bravery to be vulnerable. Brain Pickings Maria Popova calls it her "favorite TEDx gem."


8. The psychology of evil, Philip Zimbardo

Psychology isn't all happiness and flourishing, of course. The discipline also delves into the darker sides of human nature and what drives us toward unethical or even downright evil behavior. That's the topic of this talk by "superstar" Zimbardo (it's also recommended by Muntzinger) in which "he shares insights and graphic unseen photos from the Abu Ghraib trials."

But don't worry, it's not all gloom and doom. He also "talks about the flip side: how easy it is to be a hero, and how we can rise to the challenge," according to the talk's official blurb.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


Source: This article was published on inc.com 

By Jessica Stillman
Contributor, Inc.com

A total solar eclipse as viewed from Svalbard, Norway, on March 20, 2015. It is optimized for a higher contrast than visual range to bring out overlapping coronal streamers. (Ron Dantowitz and Jay Pasachoff)

This summer, darkness will fall across the face of America.

Birds will stop singing.

Temperatures will drop.

Stars will become visible in the daytime sky.

In about 100 days, a total solar eclipse will sweep across the continental United States for the first time since 1918. Astronomers are calling it the Great American Eclipse.

For the amateur sky-watcher, a total eclipse presents a rare opportunity to witness a cosmic hiccup in our day-night cycle.

For solar astronomers, however, the eclipse offers something else: three minutes (give or take) to collect as much data as possible about the sun’s usually hidden outer atmosphere.

Researchers have been anticipating the event for years.

A solar eclipse is coming in August. Here’s what it will look like where you are »

Williams College astronomer Jay Pasachoff prepares for a solar eclipse in Argentine Patagonia in February. He plans to observe this summer's total eclipse from western Oregon.Williams College astronomer Jay Pasachoff prepares for a solar eclipse in Argentine Patagonia in February. He plans to observe this summer's total eclipse from western Oregon. (Photo courtesy of Jay Pasachoff)

Some will take measurements from the sky; others have engaged vast networks of citizen scientists to track the eclipse as its shadow moves across the ground. Ultimately, they hope their findings will tell them more about the sun’s magnetic field, the temperature of its outer atmosphere and how energy moves through the star and out into space.

Doing science during a total eclipse may be exciting, but it can also put you on edge. No matter how carefully you plan, nature may conspire against you with something as trivial as a cloud momentarily passing through the wrong patch of sky.

“I’ve had those experiences and it’s heartbreaking,” said Shadia Habbal, who studies the solar wind at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy.

Not just any eclipse

If you remember donning those paper eclipse glasses to watch as the moon appears to take a bite out of the sun, you may think you have seen a total eclipse. But you haven’t.

What you witnessed was a partial eclipse, a phenomenon as different from a total eclipse as day is from night. Literally.

The sun is so bright that even when 99% of it is covered by the moon, the remaining 1% is still bright enough to make the sky blue, said Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College in Massachusetts who has seen 33 total eclipses and 32 partial eclipses. During a total solar eclipse, the moon completely obscures the face of the sun, causing the daytime sky to darken by a factor of 1 million.

A composite image of the annular solar eclipse as seen from Argentine Patagonia on Feb. 26. (Jay Pasachoff and Muzhou Lu)

This moment of totality lasts only a few minutes. Those who have seen it say it’s unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.

“It’s a really unique feeling, standing in the shadow of the moon,” said Matt Penn, an astronomer at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson who has witnessed two total eclipses. “Crickets start to chirp. Birds start to roost. Chickens do weird things. And it’s all in reaction to the strange light.”

A total solar eclipse occurs somewhere on Earth about once every 18 months, and it can happen absolutely anywhere. That means most eclipse-chasers have to travel far from home to see one for themselves.

On Aug. 21, however, what’s known as the path of totality will cut a 60-mile-wide arc across the United States, beginning in Oregon at 10:15 a.m. local time and ending in South Carolina about an hour and a half later.

Experts estimate that 11 million people won’t have to travel at all to observe the total eclipse, and an estimated 76 million more will be within a 200-mile drive of it.

Because of this unusual accessibility, it will probably be the most-viewed eclipse of all time.

Scientists expect it will be the most-studied eclipse of all time as well.

Solar science

Most researchers plan to study the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona. This is a vast region of superheated gas held in place by the sun’s magnetic field.

Under normal circumstances, we can’t see the corona from the ground because it is overwhelmed by the brightness of the photosphere, the sun’s main disk. But with the photosphere blocked, the corona will become the main event in the sky — a pale, spiky halo of streamers that appears to radiate from the blacked-out solar surface.

A total solar eclipse as viewed from Easter Island in 2010.
A total solar eclipse as viewed from Easter Island in 2010. (Jay Pasachoff, Muzhou Lu, Craig Malamut, Hana Druckmullerova)

Composite images and measurements made during other eclipses reveal that the corona is composed of a complex swirl of gases much hotter than what you’d find on the surface of the sun. The surface is a toasty 6,000 degrees Kelvin (more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit), but the temperature of the corona averages 1 million degrees Kelvin (1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit).

“The fundamental question we are asking is, what is causing the atmosphere to heat up like that?” said Habbal. “This is one of the scientific mysteries regarding the sun that remains unanswered.”

But not for lack of trying. Habbal has led 14 eclipse expeditions since 1995, traveling as far as the Arctic.

This year, she and her colleagues will make the most of the Great American Eclipse by viewing it from five distinct sites from Oregon to Nebraska.

Each group will wield custom-made cameras with long focal lenses that can capture images of the corona in the spectrum of visible light. The teams will also take spectra measurements to see which elements are in the corona and how hot they are.

Any answers Habbal comes up with would shed light on the processes that shape not only the solar atmosphere, but the atmosphere of other stars that are similar to the sun, she said.

Observing from the air

On the other side of the country, researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are planning to study the corona from a plane flying at 49,000 feet.

The group, led by solar physicist Ed DeLuca, is building an instrument that will allow them to examine the solar atmosphere in infrared wavelengths. Their ultimate goal is to better understand the magnetic fields in this outer region of the sun — in part because this is where coronal mass ejections originate.

“Measuring these magnetic fields is really useful for understanding how energy is stored in the corona and when we expect it to be released,” DeLuca said. “Once we understand that, we can make better space weather predictions.”

A coronal mass ejection sends millions of tons of the sun’s material hurtling through space. If a well-aimed one hits Earth, it can mess with the planet’s magnetosphere and inflict damage on satellites, astronauts and even the power grid.

Water in Earth’s atmosphere can interfere with infrared measurements, but the higher up in the atmosphere you go, the less water you’ll find. At an altitude of nearly 50,000 feet, the researchers say, their instruments will be able to measure 100 times more infrared light coming from the corona than if they were at sea level.

DeLuca is hoping the weather won’t be a problem. The flight is happening over Tennessee, where thunderstorms have been known to go quite high, but they usually don’t develop until later in the afternoon.

“The flight’s at noon, so we should be OK,” he said.

This isn’t just any plane. The modified Gulfstream GV jet is owned by the National Science Foundation and has been turned into a flying laboratory.

On the day of the eclipse, the researchers will have to make sure the light from the solar atmosphere comes through a 6-by-9-inch window on the right side of the plane. Then it will hit a telescope that feeds a spectrograph enclosed in a cryogenic vacuum chamber positioned on the floor of the cabin.

The plane will fly along with the shadow of the moon, giving the scientists an additional minute of observing time. That may not sound impressive, but every minute counts when you have less than five minutes to collect data.

Greeting the eclipse with an array of instruments

Pasachoff, who is recognized among eclipse chasers as the person who has seen more eclipses than anyone else on the planet, started planning his Great American Eclipse observations more than four years ago.

After traveling to Ternate in Indonesia, Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic archipelago and Gabon in West Africa to observe these cosmic events, he said it’s going to be quite a change to see an eclipse here in the U.S.

Pasachoff holds a mirror that shows the moon's shadow falling across the sun during the 2010 total eclipse on Easter Island.Pasachoff holds a mirror that shows the moon's shadow falling across the sun during the 2010 total eclipse on Easter Island. (Jay Pasachoff)

His team of a dozen astronomers will be stationed near Salem, Ore., a site they selected because the region has an excellent chance of clear skies in August. (Knock on wood.)

Pasachoff and his collaborators plan to use two spectrometers and several telescopes with high-resolution imaging capabilities to measure the different gases in the solar atmosphere, study the dynamics of the corona, determine how hot it is, and compare its overall shape to scientists’ predictions.

There are other observing plans afoot as well. Penn, of the National Solar Observatory, is leading an ambitious effort to watch how the corona changes over the full 90 minutes that the eclipse will be visible somewhere in the U.S. He calls it the Citizen CATE Experiment (short for Continental America Telescopic Eclipse).

On the big day, 70 volunteers will use specially designed telescopes to film the corona for the roughly 2 minutes of totality in their area. Those images will be stitched together into a movie.

Fred Isberner, left, and Chris Midden collect test images of the sun on a laptop during a Citizen CATE Experiment training workshop in Illinois.Fred Isberner, left, and Chris Midden collect test images of the sun on a laptop during a Citizen CATE Experiment training workshop in Illinois. (SIUC/NASA/NSO/AURA/NSF)

Penn said his team’s primary focus will be to measure the velocity of the solar wind, the outflow of particles coming from the sun.

“These particles are accelerated at high speeds, but we don’t know how that acceleration works,” he said.

Another group from UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory has partnered with Google to collect images from more than 1,000 citizen scientists. By combining them into a “megamovie,” they hope to see how the corona changes over time.

Amidst all this activity, the scientists are budgeting a little time to marvel at the rare intersection of our daily lives and the mechanics of our solar system.

“It’s a cosmic event we are witnessing and a reminder of how puny we are,” Penn said.

Source: This article was published on latimes.com

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