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Nature Video

Fire Opal

Fire Opal is a variety of opal that has a bright yellow, bright orange or bright red background color. The stones in the first photo on this page are fire opal. … Precious Opal is a name given to any opal that exhibits “play-of-color”, a flashing display of spectral colors when theopal is “played” under a light source.

Geology.com
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Books Culture Science

Why we prefer Friday to Sunday

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It‘s a curious fact, because Friday is a day of work and Sunday is a day for pleasure, so you would expect people to enjoy Sunday more, right? But we don’t. It’s not because we really like being in the office and can’t stand strolling in the park and having a lazy brunch. We prefer Friday to Sunday because Friday brings with it the thrill of anticipating the weekend ahead. In contrast, on Sunday the only thing to look forward to is work on Monday.”

The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain by Tali Sharot

Ironically, the day of rest also comes with the “Sunday Blues” while Friday, a day we should feel work-averse, fires up the brain in anticipation of the school bell.

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Books Science

The Population Bomb

In 1968, Doctor Paul Ehrlich warned the world of its excessive population with his book entitled The Population Bomb (Amazon).

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” he wrote, “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.”

His trip to an overcrowded Delhi in 1966 seemed to convince him that there wasn’t enough food to go around to support humanity.

Thankfully, Dr. Ehrlich’s warnings never panned out. Instead, his book sparked a debate about “the potential consequences of overpopulation: famine, pollution, social and ecological collapse.” Out came some viable solutions.

While population has more than doubled since The Population Bomb came out, agricultural innovation has been able to sustain the boom. Today, one in ten people are starving as opposed to one in four.

However, Ehrlich and other researchers predict that the environmental damage from overproduction remains to be seen. Undermining the ecosystem could still wipe us all out. Other researchers are more optimistic, believing that human ingenuity will come to the rescue.

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Poetry Science world

We shape Earth. It shapes us.

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We shape the Earth, and it shapes us.

For all the pieces interact, transforming into a cohesive thought.

The trees grow in cities, the oceans meet at the cape.

All the pieces interact, enveloped by the space inside.

The weather is fickle, cyclical, everything too much for a remix, itching for evolution.

To get closer to the texture of stimuli, gentle in our convictions, cushioned from other things.

In nature’s ludicrous rhythm, we trust.

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Life & Philosophy Psychology Science

Upgrade your human operating system

There is no doubt that the mind changes as it ages. You’ll be a different person in your 20s, 30s, and so on.

For some, brain deterioration is genetic. While you can’t medicate mental problems away, you can upgrade your internal software by widening your perception and controlling your emotions to so-called triggers.

The human brain is plastic

Strengthening the operating system protects against the destructive forces of sensory stimulants that try to undermine chemical synchronicity. Knowing that you can gauge your reactions to uncertainty while strengthening the bonds between neurons and synaptic connections helps alleviate anxiety’s thinking problem.

Babies are born platform agnostic; it’s mostly the environment that shapes their internal compass as they grow into adults. Health, philosophy, and social behaviors produce an entire ecosystem of choices where balancing the right springs and gears to maintain the human clock is the key, per say.

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Life & Philosophy Psychology

The chemicals between us

We all want to experience pleasure all the time. But it’s utility is temporary, the dopamine hit comes and goes. Addiction is the attempt to make it last forever. Spinning the social media wheel, again and again, is a prime example of its superficiality.

Happiness, on the other hand, “is long-term, additive and generous.” It’s a state of mind built over time through sustained effort toward true connection and generosity. It’s a deeper emotional investment with zero emphases on cash-value.

We have two choices: the taking of short-term dopamine or the giving of long-term serotonin. We become what we choose.

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Creativity Productivity & Work

Open spaces, closed doors

Everything is design. 

While cubicles emerged as the “action office,” they created an environment antithesis to work. Says Dilbert creator Scott Adams, ‘cubicles are like prisons.’ Cubicles are anti-work; they impede collaboration.

If companies want to create more office conversation, they have to make the conditions for more office collisions. Thus, the open space design became the standard model for companies looking to encourage idea-sharing. 

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Open spaces increase the chances of overhearing something important, clarifying a miscommunication, and leading to the next great business opportunity. Multiple bump-in discussions have replaced those at the water cooler, keeping potential email threads from getting out of hand.

Human interaction is still vital to the workplace. One gets more from speaking with a co-worker for a few minutes than they do via structured meetings and email recaps containing a list of myriad “next steps.”

Serendipity is the name of the game.

In theory, overcommunication should save employees from having to attend extra meetings and send superfluous emails. But open spaces do come with invasiveness that can “can cause workers to do a turtle.” No wonder coders and copy-writers throw on noise-canceling headphones to cancel out the extra noise. 

Open offices have come to resemble a chaotic classroom. External conversations crimp the thinking voice inside a person’s head. Perhaps that’s why working from home is still the most productive space of them all

Working from home allows workers to build a space they can call their own. While the internet and email are always on, the door can be closed at any time for silence so that one can do deep work. 

The cubicle and the open office beg for distractions. Isn’t the point of work to get stuff done and ship?

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Tech

Make it new

“Reality is an activity of the most august imagination,” wrote poet Wallace Stevens.

What we call reality emerged from human ingenuity. So if we can take today’s tools and use them for good, we’ll naturally have a better future.

Instead, we are building technology that paints a future dystopia. Hackers hijacked Facebook, Google, and Twitter and filled them with fake news during the 2016 election. What did we think was going to happen with free-flowing information?

“The art of debugging a computer program is to figure out what you really told the computer to do instead of what you thought you told it to do,” quipped Andrew Singer, director of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois. Meanwhile, Amazon is replacing its workers with bots.

While we can expect software manipulation to continue, there are still reasons to be hopeful. As Tim O’Reilly points out, we should be looking at ways to work with artificial intelligence to fuel productivity and innovation.

We have to make it new. That’s a wonderful line from Ezra Pound that’s always stuck in my brain: “Make it new.” It’s not just true in literature and in art, it’s in our social conscience, in our politics. We have look at the world as it is and the challenges that are facing us, and we have to throw away the old stuck policies where this idea over here is somehow inescapably attached to this other idea. Just break it all apart and put it together in new ways, with fresh ideas and fresh approaches.

We have a choice: we can deny optimism and permit darkness, or we can build a brighter future. For every time Google chooses to be evil, or Facebook invades our privacy in an attempt to make stockholders happy, there’s another rocket Elon Musk is building that takes us from New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes.

There’s a lot to be hopeful for, as experiments should continue to be encouraged. The real question is how we can create a society for rapid technological advancement and reflexive sociopolitical change. How do ‘we make it new’ without throwing out the stuff that made it right in the first place?

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Life & Philosophy

Anxiety is a thinking problem

Anxiety is a thinking problem. It is a presence in flux, stuck in gear between looking backward and looking forward simultaneously.

To better cope with the onslaught of worry, you need stronger cognitive tools or algorithms to live by. You need some cognitive presets and habits to inculcate them.

For example, a basic tenet of Stoic philosophy is that ‘What’s outside my control is indifferent to me.’ Another way to step back, is to realize that imagination is always worse than reality.

If you’re looking for more tactical strategies for coping with anxiety, particularly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), please consider reading my book Rule OCD: 20 Tips to Overcoming OCD where I outline 20 tips for dealing with the doubting disease. 

Habits will change your life

If you want to get unnecessary doubts under your control, consider practicing some positive daily habits like meditation, fear-setting, or journaling. I recommend writing by hand in a daily journal like The Five Minute Gratitude Journal or if you’re an artist, the ever-popular Morning Pages JournalIt’s these kinds of diurnal practices that reinforce affirmative beliefs like bicep curls for the brain. 

People worry as a preventative. But it’s not worth worrying before it’s time, inching closer to the giant sucking sound of a depressing gif loop.

“I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.”  

Mark Twain

Try to avoid looking forward to a future you can’t control. The sooner you embrace uncertainty and greet your anxiety instead, the more present and happier you’ll be.

Pro tip: One of the ways I also encourage people to get unstuck is to blog out their anxieties (btw, you can start a free blog on WordPress right here). When it comes to blogging effectively, you have to be a little vulnerable. Don’t tell all but don’t hide everything either, especially if your advice will benefit the lives of other people. 

Categories
Arts Books Poetry Productivity & Work Writing

The value of making up stuff

Art is what we do with our extra time. It is more leisure than life. “Art is everything you don’t have to do,” as Brian Eno put it.

The starving artist is compelled to have a day job. We can’t make art without the backbone of cash.

However, the cashless value of writing a poem, painting a picture, or photographing the trees could save your life.

It is in making up stuff we find meaning. The canvass enhances our lives and inspires us to express ourselves. That freedom can be liberating.

Writes Louis Menand in his latest New Yorker piece entitled Can Poetry Change Your Life?

“But I got the same painful pleasure out of writing prose that I did out of writing poetry—the pleasure of trying to put the right words in the right order. And I took away from my experience with poetry something else. I understood that the reason people write poems is the reason people write. They have something to say.”

Art translates life. It takes us places. We need stories and memes in order to keep the everyday exciting.