That Is Not How Your Brain Works

Forget these scientific myths to better understand your brain and yourself. BY LISA FELDMAN BARRETT The 21st century is a time of great scientific discovery. Cars are driving themselves. Vaccines against deadly new viruses are created in less than a year. The latest Mars Rover is hunting for signs of alien life. But we’re also surrounded with scientific myths: outdated beliefs that make their way regularly into news stories. Being wrong is a normal and inevitable part of the scientific process. We scientists do our best with the tools we have, until new tools extend our senses and let us … Continue reading That Is Not How Your Brain Works

Reading John Gray in war

As a soldier, I was hard-wired to seek meaning and purpose. Gray’s philosophy helped me unhook from utopia and find peace Andy Owen is the author of All Soldiers Run Away: Alano’s War: The Story of a British Deserter (2017). He is a former soldier who writes on the ethics and philosophy of war. He lives in London. Edited by Nigel Warburton ‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.’Blaise Pascal (1623-62) Ifirst read the English philosopher John Gray while sitting in the silence of the still, mid-afternoon heat of Helmand Province in Afghanistan. In Black Mass: … Continue reading Reading John Gray in war

Most People Don’t Know When to Stop Talking, According to Science

A new study finds folks are pretty bad at guessing whether to wrap up a chat or keep talking By Alex Fox Anew study asks the question: Do conversations end when people want them to? The short answer, it turns out, is no. The study, published this week in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, took a two-pronged approach. The first piece was an online survey completed by 806 people that asked a series of questions about a conversation they recently had with an intimate friend or family member. The questions queried the participant whether there was a … Continue reading Most People Don’t Know When to Stop Talking, According to Science

How to Be in the Body (Without Jumping Out of Your Skin)

We focus on quieting the mind so much that we can forget how meditation is an embodied experience. By Scott Tusa “To stop your mind does not mean to stop the activities of mind.It means your mind pervades your whole body.”—Shunryu Suzuki Meditation happens in the body. I think we can mostly all agree on that. For a wide variety of Buddhist meditation practices, our embodied experience is the object of our meditation—be it the rise and fall of the breath, the sound that hits our ears, or the sensations on our skin. Yet when we sit down to meditate, we … Continue reading How to Be in the Body (Without Jumping Out of Your Skin)

Why “Never Give Up” Is Terrible Advice

by Ozan Varol In fourth grade, I received one of the worst pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. It’s recess and we’re playing soccer. I’m on defense, trying to clear the ball, and it’s just not working. Opposing players are running right past me. With each goal scored against my team, my budding dreams of becoming a star defender are quickly fizzling. After the game ends in a crushing defeat, a teacher who was observing my plight walks up and delivers some well-intentioned advice: Don’t ever give up. This bumper sticker is everywhere. Society prizes grit and perseverance. We should … Continue reading Why “Never Give Up” Is Terrible Advice


by C. Brian Smith  Walk just about anywhere in Bhutan — the small South Asian country wedged between China and India on the edge of the Himalayas — and you’ll likely find large, ejaculating penises with hairy balls. They’re painted on the exterior walls of buildings, perched on the roofs of houses and fixed in front of doors to ward off bad luck.  The phallus is meant to demonstrate the virility of Bhutanese men and keep malicious gossip at bay, explains Sonam Dorji, a tour guide and senior reporter with News of Bhutan. “We believe phalluses dispel evil spirits,” he tells me, explaining Bhutanese people … Continue reading WHY THIS SMALL COUNTRY HAS A PENIS ON EVERY ROOF

What Happens in the Brain When You’re Alone

Your brain responds to stress differently when you’re by yourself by Dana G Smith This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one. This week’s issue is a preview from a series of stories I’m working on called “Your Poor Pandemic Brain” to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. going into lockdown and what it’s done to our mental health. I’ve been immersed in … Continue reading What Happens in the Brain When You’re Alone

New research indicates the whole universe could be a giant neural network

All the universe is a neural network, and all the humans merely nodes by Tristan Greene The core idea is deceptively simple: every observable phenomenon in the entire universe can be modeled by a neural network. And that means, by extension, the universe itself may be a neural network. Vitaly Vanchurin, a professor of physics at the University of Minnesota Duluth, published an incredible paper last August entitled “The World as a Neural Network” on the arXiv pre-print server. It managed to slide past our notice until today when Futurism’s Victor Tangermann published an interview with Vanchurin discussing the paper. The big idea According … Continue reading New research indicates the whole universe could be a giant neural network

The right right thing to do

The ethical life means being good to ourselves, to others, and to the world. But how do you choose if these demands compete? by Irene McMullin is professor of philosophy at the University of Essex in the UK. Edited by Sam Dresser Conventional wisdom depicts moral struggle as an internal conflict between a higher moral self and an untamed dark side. This picture pervades popular imagination: the angel and the devil on either shoulder, the ‘two wolf’ parable, the Ego and the Id, the ‘true self’ and the ‘false self’. It resonates with religious traditions that place us between angels and … Continue reading The right right thing to do

Is it time to decriminalize prostitution? Two New York bills answer yes in unique ways

One bill hopes to repeal the crime of selling sex and expand social services; the other would legalize the entire sex trade. by KEVIN DICKINSON Today in the majority of the United States, it is a crime to sell sex, buy it, or promote its sale.The Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act would decriminalize prostitution in New York state while maintaining punitive measures against buyers and pimps.Opponents suggest this law would only push the illegal sex trade further underground and seek full decriminalization for everyone involved. Although incorrectly labeled the world’s oldest profession, prostitution has been on the minds of … Continue reading Is it time to decriminalize prostitution? Two New York bills answer yes in unique ways