Positivity has the power to create transformational change in all facets of life. In praise of positivity’s wide-ranging power, we are dedicating this week to publishing a series of articles on the topic.
To kick things off, we bring you a study from Stanford University about the effect of positive thinking on the brain. Scientists and educators have long noted that kids who have a positive attitude towards math do better in the subject, but is that just because acing tests naturally makes you enjoy something, or does the arrow of causation point the other way? Does starting off with the expectation that you’ll enjoy and be good at math help you master numbers?
To start to tease this out a research team out of Stanford recently analyzed the math skills and attitudes of 240 kids aged seven to ten, as well as running 47 of them through an fMRI machine while asking them to do some basic arithmetic. What did they find? As expected, kids who did well in math liked math more, both according to self reports and their parents, and kids who hated the subject did poorly. But the brain scans also turned up something much more fascinating. The images revealed that the hippocampus, a brain area linked with memory and learning, was significantly more active in kids with a positive attitude towards math.
It appears it’s not just that children like subjects they’re good at. It’s also that liking a subject helps students’ brain actually work better. The researchers caution that their study can’t pin down exactly how much achievement is down to prior math success and how much is because of the way positivity pumps up learning in the brain. But whatever the exact weight of various factors turns out to be, it’s already clear that a positive attitude has a bigger impact on performance than the scientists expected.
Scientists have identified four new species of walking shark in the waters off Australia and New Guinea. While that might sound like the stuff of horror films, researchers say that the foot-long fish, which have evolved to use their fins to walk on land or in shallow water, are actually adorable.
According to Mark Erdmann, a coral reef ecologist at the California Academy of Sciences, these sharks look “more like a gecko walking around than a shark.” Erdmann was part of a team of scientists who spent 12 years studying the walking sharks. Their efforts, published in Marine and Freshwater Research Tuesday, nearly doubled the number of known species, raising it from five to nine.
The walking sharks all belong to the genus Hemiscyllium, a group of sharks that evolved to succeed in their unique coral reef environment and hunt during low tides. Curious to see these intriguing sharks for yourself? Look no further.
Since 1953, firefighters have been battling flames by flying planes low to the ground and dropping liquids or foams that can suppress fires. When we say low, we mean at between 100 and 120 ft (30 and 36 m). Such basement floor flying is extremely dangerous, but it’s necessary because if the liquid payload is dropped from a higher altitude, it will turn into an aerosol and float away ineffectively.
The problem is this necessity to fly low can be very dangerous, so much so that dropping liquids can’t be done at night, meaning fires have many hours to burn as they please.
The good news is this might no longer be a problem after an Israel-based company called Elbit Systems demonstrated a new high-altitude, high-precision aerial firefighting system that allows aircraft to drop fire suppressants from much higher altitudes. Called HyDrop, the system successfully dropped biodegradable liquid pellets from two Air Tractor aircraft at altitudes of up to 500 ft (150 m) in a field exercise.
According to the makers, HyDrop can operate with much greater flexibility because it can drop its load from four times higher than the average altitude, which is high enough to legally operate at night. Considering the prominence of wildfires today, this new high-altitude drop system could be huge in helping quell flames before they start spreading too far.
There is only one truly wild frontier remaining on Earth: the ocean floor. Seeing that it’s 2020, you might expect that we know a lot about the ocean. The reality, however, is that we’ve only explored 1 percent of it. That, however, is set to change after a team of geoscientists developed a way to scan the planet and build a 3D model of its interior — using devices called MERMAIDs.
The devices act like underwater drones and withhold the ability to dive to a depth of 3000 meters below the surface of the ocean. The devices carry technology such as seismometers and hydrophones to scan the planet and create a snapshot of Earth’s internal dynamics. For the reconnaissance mission, they will focus on measuring giant plumes of hot rock, 435 miles below the South Pacific Ocean.
Now, you might be asking: what’s the importance of measuring the ocean’s floor? According to the scientists, gaining knowledge about the temperature, density, shape, and composition of the Earth can be crucial for helping scientists understand the inner workings of the Earth’s mantle, the layer between the thin crust and the deep core at the center of the Earth. By learning more about this, scientists can then make more accurate models of Earth’s past and make predictions about the future.
When Tyler Beaty lost his job after nearly a decade, people often told him to “think positive”. He tried but found it did little to change his attitude. It wasn’t until Beaty took some time for deep self-evaluation and realized that many of his habits were feeding negativity into his life that he made the proactive choice to seek out more positivity. In his quest for positivity, Beaty says these 5 habits have allowed him to take back control of his mindset and live a better life. Here are those 5 habits.
Make a daily gratitude list: Each day, either in the morning or before you go to sleep, write down at least one thing that you’re thankful for in your life. When you do this on a consistent basis, you naturally begin to focus and see more of the good things that are happening around you instead of the bad.
Perform acts of kindness: Doing something nice for someone, even the smallest of unexpected gestures, not only makes others happy, it adds positivity to your life as well. Make acts of kindness a frequent habit. You could pay the tab for the person behind you at Starbucks. Bring coffee for the security guard at your office. Or even pay the toll for the car behind you.
Be fully present: While we’re engrossed in our Facebook timelines and playing games, we’re missing all of the positive things that are going on around us, and in some cases sitting directly across from us. Being fully present takes practice, but it pays huge dividends. Ten minutes of meditation each day can increase your awareness and focus on being present.
Reduce negative influences: Think about what you’re watching, reading and listening to throughout the day. When you fill your mind with negativity, it becomes easier to dwell on the negativity in your life. Be careful of who you spend your time, too. Do your best to stay away from other negative people. You become like the people you spend the most time with.
Spend time at the start of each day to improve YOU: Stop snoozing your alarm and get up 30 – 60 minutes earlier and create a morning routine that consists of mindfulness, visualization, reading, exercise, and journaling. Speaking from experience, Beaty says you will be amazed at the impact this has on your life.
Whatever you think of them, you can’t say the new promises from Paris’s Mayor Anne Hidalgo lack ambition.
Seeking re-election at the municipal polls in March, Hidalgo unveiled proposals this week that include a referendum on the role of Airbnb, a plan to make the city center “100 percent bicycle,” a new 5,000-strong municipal police force in which at least half the staff are women, and a vow to spend 20 billion euros on converting office buildings into affordable housing.
By international standards, these are bold proposals. Other European cities may already be on the road to going further in similar policy areas: Madrid has already banned cars from its inner-city, Barcelona has hit Airbnb with a fine of €600,000 for breaking local home-share rule infractions, and Berlin has approved a citywide five-year rent freeze.
No other city is as yet going quite as hard as Paris, however, in trying to tackle pollution, congestion, and housing access and affordability simultaneously. But what’s particularly striking about Paris’ current politics, however, is not that these measures are being proposed, but that many of Hidalgo’s main political opponents are proposing something similar.
Hidalgo’s progressive politics have made sustainability the standard, which speaks volumes to the power of standing up and pushing for more ambitious climate targets.
Do you have a favorite hiking trail you always walk or a recipe you will never get bored of cooking? If you love to do something over and over again, don’t worry, you’re not boring, it’s part of human nature.
New research by Ed O’Brien of the University of Chicago looked into why some activities defy the principle of “hedonic adaptation,” otherwise known as the concept that humans only derive entertainment or pleasure from novel experiences. O’Brien showed people new books and movies and then asked them how much they would enjoy repeating the experience. People were surprised to find that they would enjoy repeating the experience more than they expected. This is because even when we have done something before, we discover new details and emotions towards it with repeated practices.
Given that our brains can only process an estimated 0.0003 percent of the information we encounter at any given time, it is no wonder we find new nuances when we repeat experiences.
So if you love going to the same yoga class each morning, walking to your go-to corner store, or reading that book for the 10th time, you’re not boring; you’re simply finding new and engaging components of the activity each time you do it.
As major cities continue to grow, improved public transportation infrastructure will be critical to meeting the needs of residents on the move. A couple of months ago we shared a story about how Amsterdam is pushing to improve public transit and minimize personal vehicle traffic, now New York City is achieving public transportation goals as well with their successful bus lane initiative.
In mid-October of last year, NYC opened its 14th Street Busway, a bus-only lane on a major east-west street in the lower half of Manhattan. Residents feared the system would create gridlock, but the program was successful in speeding up bus routes by an average of 9.7 minutes for the entire route. Additionally, surrounding streets saw an average slow down of only 3.5 minutes.
This initiative was created in an attempt to boost public transportation ridership and benefit all commuters. Effective bus systems reduce road congestion and pollution while offering an affordable and effective transportation system.
Public transportation use has fallen by 11 percent since 2007 in the U.S, but NYC’s Busway has boosted bus ridership 24 percent on weekdays and 30 percent on weekends. It also facilitated a 17 percent jump in bike ridership in the area where fewer cars mean commuters feel safer biking to work. And New York isn’t alone. Bus use rates increased 20 percent in Los Angeles after a bus-only lane on Flower Street was introduced last year.
Public transportation improvements are critically needed infrastructure changes to prevent gridlock and pollution. Bus-only lanes might be just the solution more cities need to improve ridership and efficiency.
In an effort to become more sustainable, Bank of America has achieved its goal of carbon neutrality. Even better: it did so a year ahead of schedule. The carbon-neutral status is still pending third party approval, but the company achieved its carbon footprint reduction by reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions from its facilities, purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity and buying carbon offsets for its remaining unavoidable emissions.
The company has reduced emissions by more than 50 percent in its facilities since 2010 and used solar and wind power to achieve its 100 percent renewable electricity benchmark.
This story was shared with us by our partner, Just Capital, which aims to bring attention to companies in terms of social goals such as sustainability, equality, and worker satisfaction. The banking industry certainly has a long way to go in terms of becoming environmentally friendly, but this achievement by Bank of America is a significant first step and achieving carbon neutrality ahead of schedule sends a positive message to the rest of the industry about the value of prioritizing sustainability.
Located in the far north of the Brazilian Amazon, Yanomami is Brazil’s biggest indigenous reserve, spread over 9.6 million hectares (23.7m acres). But its wild, mountainous forests are overrun by an estimated 20,000 wildcat gold miners, called garimpeiros.
For the people of the Yanomami, this has been a gigantic disaster, leading to the deforestation and pollution of big swaths of the Amazon forest. Beyond that, the garimpeiros have been known to get violent against those who oppose their destructive practices.
To help the Yanomami recover the gold rush, a project has been set up to create a sustainable alternative to profits from illegal gold mining. In the last two years, thousands of Theobroma cacao trees have been planted in the remote region with the hope that within a few years, rich, organic chocolate will be produced from the golden cacao fruit these trees bear. As it turns out, the area is perfect for cacao trees because there is ample shade, which they need to grow successfully.
The project – run by the reserve’s indigenous associations Wanasseduume and Hutukara with Brazilian non-profit group Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) – is ambitious, but experts say it is based on a potential commercial reality. Recently, The Guardian did take a dive into the Yanomami to see first-hand how the project is offering a new future to Amazon tribes. It’s a fascinating story, one that you can find right here.