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In the News 09.17.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 09.17.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@justhelenmarie
In the News 09.17.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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In the News 09.17.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@lucylaucht

Finally, A Cure For Insomnia?

We live in a golden age of sleeplessness. The buzz of the all-night streetlamps, the natter of 24-hour news anchors, the scrolling Niagaras of social media feeds have built a world that is hostile to sleep. Night is no longer clearly delineated from day. The bedroom is no longer a refuge from the office. The physical and psychic walls that once held back the tides of work and social interaction have failed. As the essayist Jonathan Crary put it, sleeplessness is the inevitable symptom of an era in which we are encouraged to be both unceasing consumers and unceasing creators.

To the wakeful, insomnia can feel like the loneliest affliction in the world. But an estimated third of British adults suffer from chronic insomnia, defined as having adequate opportunity but inadequate ability to sleep, for a period of at least six months. Insomniacs dutifully set aside a seven-or-so-hour stretch for rest. They make the bed. They draw the curtains. But when ear kisses pillow, they are suddenly wakeful. Many have sought help. Between 1993 and 2007, the number of people in the UK who visited their doctor complaining of insomnia nearly doubled, while NHS data shows, in the past decade, a tenfold increase in the number of prescriptions written for melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.

The effects of insomnia can be ruinous. In his recent bestseller, Why We Sleep, the neuroscientist Matthew Walker wrote: “The decimation of sleep throughout industrialised nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety, our productivity and the education of our children.” A 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, claims that insomnia increases the risk of heart attack, cancer and obesity. Insomniacs are far more likely than sound sleepers to suffer from chronic depression. Insomnia is related to all major psychiatric conditions, including suicide risk (although there is still a debate as to whether sleeplessness is the cause or the symptom). Each year, as many as 1.2m car crashes in the US can be attributed to tired drivers.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

In the News 09.17.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How Maya Rudolph Became
The Master Of Impressions

In the News 09.17.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Supposing that God is real and possessed of a human corporeal form — mankind being created in his image (reportedly) — we might reasonably conjecture that God’s anthropoid body integrates the totality of physical traits expressed in Earth’s human population: the skin tones blended to a light tan; the hair dark and thick; the height neither too tall nor too short — about 5-foot-7, say; every shade of human iris (the iridescent blue of a morpho butterfly, the pale green of lichen clinging to a tree, lots of brown) combining to create eyes that are … also brown. Considering his propensity for giving life, God would probably be a mother. Considering his appreciation of beauty (e.g., snowflake geometry) and busy schedule (e.g., Genesis), he would probably clothe himself in breezily tasteful garments made from natural fabrics cut for maneuverability, like a long denim jumper dress worn over a shirt of pure white cotton. God would look, in other words, like Maya Rudolph running errands on a Tuesday.

Separate from the irrefutable fact that God looks like Maya Rudolph is the equally remarkable revelation that Maya Rudolph looks like God — that is, she looks at you the same way, you must imagine, that God takes in his creation: happy to see it, while somehow existentially disappointed in it, but forgiving of it and still maintaining affection for it, even though it has absolutely let him down in some indefinable way only he can understand. Her wide eyes, which lend themselves so easily to bald astonishment or mania in her comedy, turn down one fraction of one degree at the outer corners when at rest, lending a suggestion of ruefulness to her neutral gaze. The effect is offset by Rudolph’s cautious, closemouthed smile, which rests on her face as easily as powder on a puff. It’s invigorating to find yourself the subject of a look so wistful, even if the expression is inadvertent. It makes you want to be the better version of yourself Maya Rudolph apparently knows you can be.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

What Happened At The Lake

LAST SUMMER I got an email from a man whose reputation, and voice, preceded him. His name is Eric Nadel, and as the veteran commentator for the Texas Rangers baseball team, he’s a Texas sports icon. He has a lifetime contract announcing games for the franchise and has joked that he hopes to outlive it. He was contacting me about a man who’d written to him nearly 10 years ago, who he’s gotten to know pretty well, a man named Wendell Lindsey, who is serving life in a Texas prison for murdering his daughter in a cockeyed scheme to collect insurance money.

It wasn’t unusual for Nadel to get letters from Texas prisoners — among the few comforts they’re allowed (if they can afford it) is a transistor radio purchased from the prison commissary. As a result, there is a lot of listening to baseball games as the summers drag on in the sweltering confines of the state’s prisons. Nadel told me that he’s gotten a decent number of letters over the years and always writes back. He asks his pen pals what they’re in for and gets detailed responses in return. But the response he got from Lindsey was a first: Lindsey insisted he was innocent. Nadel wanted to talk to me about that.

On the phone, he laid out the basics. Lindsey had taken his two young daughters, ages 9 and 10, to fish at a popular spot near Fort Worth. As they were preparing to head home, Lindsey’s oldest fell face first into the water. Lindsey didn’t know how to swim, but he jumped in to try to rescue her. He was unsuccessful, and his daughter drowned. At first everyone thought it was a tragic accident. But that soon turned into a homicide investigation and then a murder charge. Lindsey was convicted and sentenced to life based largely, it appeared, on a host of dubious claims about the science of drowning.

Lindsey was out of appeals, but thanks to Nadel’s resourcefulness, he had a new and well-regarded Dallas attorney on his side. They were exploring the possibility of filing a junk science writ — a mechanism of Texas law that allows prisoners convicted on the basis of unreliable forensic science, or scientific understanding that has since evolved, to challenge their convictions.

Read the rest of this article at: The Intercept

In the News 09.17.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Yuval Noah Harari: The Myth Of Freedom

Should scholars serve the truth, even at the cost of social harmony? Should you expose a fiction even if that fiction sustains the social order? In writing my latest book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, I had to struggle with this dilemma with regard to liberalism.

On the one hand, I believe that the liberal story is flawed, that it does not tell the truth about humanity, and that in order to survive and flourish in the 21st century we need to go beyond it. On the other hand, at present the liberal story is still fundamental to the functioning of the global order. What’s more, liberalism is now attacked by religious and nationalist fanatics who believe in nostalgic fantasies that are far more dangerous and harmful.

So should I speak my mind openly, risking that my words could be taken out of context and used by demagogues and autocrats to further attack the liberal order? Or should I censor myself? It is a mark of illiberal regimes that they make free speech more difficult even outside their borders. Due to the spread of such regimes, it is becoming increasingly dangerous to think critically about the future of our species.

I eventually chose free discussion over self-censorship, thanks to my belief both in the strength of liberal democracy and in the necessity to revamp it. Liberalism’s great advantage over other ideologies is that it is flexible and undogmatic. It can sustain criticism better than any other social order. Indeed, it is the only social order that allows people to question even its own foundations. Liberalism has already survived three big crises – the first world war, the fascist challenge in the 1930s, and the communist challenge in the 1950s-70s. If you think liberalism is in trouble now, just remember how much worse things were in 1918, 1938 or 1968.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

The Inner Voice

In the News 09.17.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

‘I think, therefore I am,’ the 17th-century philosopher René Descartes proclaimed as a first truth. That truth was rediscovered in 1887 by Helen Keller, a deaf and blind girl, then seven years of age: ‘I did not know that I am. I lived in a world that was a no world … When I learned the meaning of “I” and “me” and found that I was something,’ she later explained, ‘I began to think. Then consciousness first existed for me.’ As both these pioneers knew, a fundamental part of conscious experience is ‘inner speech’ – the experience of verbal thought, expressed in one’s ‘inner voice’. Your inner voice is you.

That voice isn’t the sound of anything. It’s not even physical – we can’t observe it or measure it in any direct way. If it’s not physical, then we can arguably only attempt to study it by contemplation or introspection; students of the inner voice are ‘thinking about thinking’, an act that feels vague. William James, the 19th-century philosopher who is often touted as the originator of American psychology, compared the act to ‘trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks’.

Yet through new methods of experimentation in the last few decades, the nature of inner speech is finally being revealed. In one set of studies, scans are allowing researchers to study the brain regions linked with inner speech. In other studies, researchers are investigating links between internal and external speech – that which we say aloud.

The roots of the new work trace back to the 1920s and the Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who said the human mind was shaped by social activity and culture, beginning in childhood. The self, he hypothesised, was forged in what he called the ‘zone of proximal development’, the cognitive territory just beyond reach and impossible to tackle without some help. Children build learning partnerships with adults to master a skill in the zone, said Vygotsky, then go off on their own, speaking aloud to replace the voice of the adult, now gone from the scene. As mastery increases, this ‘self-talk’ becomes internalised and then increasingly muted until it is mostly silent – still part of the ongoing dialogue with oneself, but more intimate and no longer pronounced to the world. This voice – at first uttered aloud but finally only internal – was, from Vygotsky’s perspective, the engine of development and consciousness itself.

Vygotsky’s theory of childhood development contrasted sharply with those of his Western counterparts. William James had a complete disdain for the study of inner speech, because, to him, it was a ghost: impossible to observe. The French developmental psychologist Jean Piaget insisted that private speech signified simple inability – it was the babble of a child without capacity for social communication with no relation to cognitive functioning at all. Through much of the 20th century, Piaget seized the reigns of child development, insisting that children had to reach a developmental stage before learning could occur. Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Vygotsky said that learning occurred, then the brain developed. Piaget said the brain developed, then learning occurred.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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