Summary of “What Are Dreams? Here Are the Predominant Theories.”

For all the commonalities dreams exhibit, they vary across time-people who grew up watching black-and-white TV are more likely to dream in black and white -and culture.
A 1958 study determined that compared with Japanese people, Americans dreamed more about being locked up, losing a loved one, finding money, being inappropriately dressed or nude, or encountering an insane person.
Japanese people were more likely to dream about school, trying repeatedly to do something, being paralyzed with fear, or “Wild, violent beasts.”
If human dreams sound bleak, bear in mind that even negative ones can have positive effects.
In a study of students taking a French medical-school entrance exam, 60 percent of the dreams they had beforehand involved a problem with the exam, such as being late or leaving an answer blank.
Those who reported dreams about the exam, even bad ones, did better on it than those who didn’t.
So the next time you dream about an education-related sexual experience in which you are both falling and being chased, don’t worry: It’s probably totally meaningless.
This article appears in the April 2019 print edition with the headline “Study of Studies: Bad Dreams Are Good.”.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Dark chocolate is now a health food. Here’s how that happened.”

Cadbury Jr.’s newest confection loaded just about every buzzy health trend into a fresh green-and-white package: vegan, ethically sourced, organic dark chocolate and creamy, superfood avocado.
So how in the world could a chocolate bar be convincingly sold as a health food? You can thank a decades-long effort by the chocolate industry.
Here at Vox, we examined 100 Mars-funded health studies, and found they overwhelmingly drew glowing conclusions about cocoa and chocolate – promoting everything from chocolate’s heart health benefits to cocoa’s ability to fight disease.
Big Chocolate’s investment in health science was a marketing masterstroke, catapulting dark chocolate into the superfood realm along with red wine, blueberries, and avocados – and helping to sell more candy.
To find out what kind of conclusions Mars-sponsored studies come to, Vox searched the health literature and identified 100 original cocoa health studies funded or supported by the chocolate maker over the past two decades.
Among the findings in the Mars-sponsored health studies: Regularly eating cocoa flavanols could boost mood and cognitive performance, dark chocolate improves blood flow, cocoa might be useful for treating immune disorders, and both cocoa powder and dark chocolate can have a “Favorable effect” on cardiovascular disease risk.
“Premium chocolate,” like the vegan dark chocolate avocado bar, is helping drive growth in the chocolate market, Euromonitor found in an analysis of the US chocolate industry.
“The idea that dark chocolate is healthy has worked its way into the mainstream psyche,” said NYU food historian Amy Bentley, adding that even the very restrictive Paleo dieters sanction dark chocolate because of its “Numerous health benefits.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Secrets of the Creative Brain”

Although many people continue to equate intelligence with genius, a crucial conclusion from Terman’s study is that having a high IQ is not equivalent to being highly creative.
If high IQ does not indicate creative genius, then what does? And how can one identify creative people for a study?
Drawing on creativity studies done by the psychiatric epidemiologist Thomas McNeil, I evaluated creativity in family members by assigning those who had had very successful creative careers an A++ rating and those who had pursued creative interests or hobbies an A+. My final challenge was selecting a control group.
Today’s neuroimaging tools show brain structure with a precision approximating that of the examination of post-mortem tissue; this allows researchers to study all sorts of connections between brain measurements and personal characteristics.
I spent many years thinking about how to design an imaging study that could identify the unique features of the creative brain.
Based on my interviews with the creative subjects in my workshop study, and from additional conversations with artists, I knew that such unconscious processes are an important component of creativity.
Many creative people are polymaths, people with broad interests in many fields-a common trait among my study subjects.
Which has examined 13 creative geniuses and 13 controls-has borne out a link between mental illness and creativity similar to the one I found in my Writers’ Workshop study.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Lab Discovering DNA in Old Books”

That’s why he was studying DNA from the bones of livestock-and why his lab is now at the forefront of studying DNA from objects such as parchment, birch-bark tar, and beeswax.
For the most part, the fossils were too old and the proteins no longer intact enough to study.
He applied the techniques of protein analysis to pottery shards, in which he found milk proteins that hinted at the diet of the people who used those pots.
Collagen, a protein abundant in bone, also turns out to be especially useful.
Scientists recently used ZooMS to identify a human bone sliver found in a Siberian cave; further DNA analysis revealed it to be the bone of a half-Neanderthal girl.
Collins quickly realized that DNA held even more potential than ancient proteins, which can be “a blunt tool compared to DNA.” The DNA of any single animal is, after all, a library coding for all the proteins their cells can make.
“DNA is a phenomenally powerful tool,” he said.
It did; the team found a way to extract DNA and proteins from eraser crumbs, a compromise that satisfied everyone.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The lifespans of ancient civilisations”

One way to look at the rise and fall of past civilisations is to compare their longevity.
This can be difficult, because there is no strict definition of civilisation, nor an overarching database of their births and deaths.
In the graphic below, I have compared the lifespan of various civilisations, which I define as a society with agriculture, multiple cities, military dominance in its geographical region and a continuous political structure.
Given this definition, all empires are civilisations, but not all civilisations are empires.
The data is drawn from two studies on the growth and decline of empires, and an informal, crowd-sourced survey of ancient civilisations.
Luke Kemp is a researcher based at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge.
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The orginal article.

Summary of “Why We Think Cats Are Psychopaths”

A common charge against cats is that they do not care about their owners as anything more than a source of wet food.
Cats can’t seem to care less about the human there.
Cats are territorial, and they might only leave the house to go to the vet, so what looks like indifference to their owners might just be overwhelming anxiety about a new, strange environment.
Plus, the Ainsworth Strange Situation was developed by Mary Ainsworth to study parents and infants-another example of us judging cats on human rather than cat terms.
There are terrifying cats, but there are also cats who just want to snuggle all day.
She’d like to eventually study cats in their natural habitat-their house-so as not to rely on the word of their owners.
The ultimate goal of the research is to devise a test for shelters so they can better match cats with owners.
Whether it’s fair to call a cat a psychopath, we naturally do it, and it affects how well new owners and their cats will get along.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Case for Professors of Stupidity”

In 1933, dismayed at the Nazification of Germany, the philosopher wrote “The Triumph of Stupidity,” attributing the rise of Adolf Hitler to the organized fervor of stupid and brutal people-two qualities, he noted, that “Usually go together.” He went on to make one of his most famous observations, that the “Fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Stupidity is not simply the opposite of intelligence.
They obtained similar results, they write, “In a parallel study with representative samples from the United States, France and Germany, and in a study testing attitudes about a medical application of genetic engineering technology.”
What exactly is stupidity? David Krakauer, the President of the Santa Fe Institute, told interviewer Steve Paulson, for Nautilus, stupidity is not simply the opposite of intelligence.
“Stupidity is using a rule where adding more data doesn’t improve your chances of getting [a problem] right,” Krakauer said.
“In fact, it makes it more likely you’ll get it wrong.” Intelligence, on the other hand, is using a rule that allows you to solve complex problems with simple, elegant solutions.
“Stupidity is a very interesting class of phenomena in human history, and it has to do with rule systems that have made it harder for us to arrive at the truth,” he said.
“It’s an interesting fact that, whilst there are numerous individuals who study intelligence-there are whole departments that are interested in it-if you were to ask yourself what’s the greatest problem facing the world today, I would say it would be stupidity. So we should have professors of stupidity-it would just be embarrassing to be called the stupid professor.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Ocean Cleanup Project Could Destroy the Neuston”

The neuston is home to more than blue buttons and bright snails.
The neuston is a nursery for multiple species of larval fish and a hunting ground for paper nautilus octopuses.
When I learned about the Ocean Cleanup project’s 600-meter-long barrier with a three-meter-deep net, a wall being placed in the open ocean, ostensibly to collect plastic passively as the currents push water through the net, I thought immediately of the neuston.
Though the neuston isn’t known to many people, it is certainly known to marine biologists.
Evidence that the Ocean Cleanup knows about the neuston is clear from a table reporting animals in the vicinity of the Ocean Cleanup deployment area, where both blue buttons and by-the-wind sailors are listed.
By omitting the neuston from its assessment, the project is overlooking the habitat it could be impacting most, and there is no sense of what the damage might be.
There are few contemporary reviews of whole-ocean neuston ecosystems.
Savilov spent his career studying the neuston by conducting extensive surveys all across the Pacific and synthesizing this work into a map of the open-ocean surface ecosystems.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Want to ‘Train Your Brain’? Forget Apps, Learn a Musical Instrument”

While brain training games and apps may not live up to their hype, it is well established that certain other activities and lifestyle choices can have neurological benefits that promote overall brain health and may help to keep the mind sharp as we get older.
Playing a musical instrument is a rich and complex experience that involves integrating information from the senses of vision, hearing, and touch, as well as fine movements, and learning to do so can induce long-lasting changes in the brain.
Together, these studies show that learning to play a musical instrument not only increases grey matter volume in various brain regions, but can also strengthen the long-range connections between them.
Importantly, the brain scanning studies show that the extent of anatomical change in musicians’ brains is closely related to the age at which musical training began, and the intensity of training.
What’s more, the benefits of musical training seem to persist for many years, or even decades, and the picture that emerges from this all evidence is that learning to play a musical instrument in childhood protects the brain against the development of cognitive impairment and dementia.
Unlike commercial brain training products, which only improve performance on the skills involved, musical training has what psychologists refer to as transfer effects – in other words, learning to play a musical instrument seems to have a far broader effect on the brain and mental function, and improves other abilities that are seemingly unrelated.
Learning to play a musical instrument seems to be one of the most effective forms of brain training there is.
Musical training can induce various structural and functional changes in the brain, depending on which instrument is being learned, and the intensity of the training regime.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Therapy wars: The Revenge of Freud”

Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, is a down-to-earth technique focused not on the past but the present; not on mysterious inner drives, but on adjusting the unhelpful thought patterns that cause negative emotions.
CBT has always had its critics, primarily on the left, because its cheapness – and its focus on getting people quickly back to productive work – makes it suspiciously attractive to cost-cutting politicians.
Seek a therapy referral on the NHS today, and you’re much more likely to end up, not in anything resembling psychoanalysis, but in a short series of highly structured meetings with a CBT practitioner, or perhaps learning methods to interrupt your “Catastrophising” thinking via a PowerPoint presentation, or online.
The analysts’ arguments fell on deaf ears so long as experiment after experiment seemed to confirm the superiority of CBT – which helps explain the shocked response to a study, published last May, that seemed to show CBT getting less and less effective, as a treatment for depression, over time.
“I went to the early seminars on cognitive therapy to satisfy myself that it was another approach that wouldn’t work,” David Burns, who went on to popularise CBT in his worldwide bestseller Feeling Good, told me in 2010.
A few years ago, after CBT had started to dominate taxpayer-funded therapy in Britain, a woman I’ll call Rachel, from Oxfordshire, sought therapy on the NHS for depression, following the birth of her first child.
Some studies have sometimes seemed to unfairly stack the deck, as when CBT has been compared with “Psychodynamic therapy” delivered by graduate students who’d received only a few days’ cursory training in it, from other students.
“People who say CBT is superficial have just missed the point,” said Trudie Chalder, professor of cognitive behavioural psychotherapy at the King’s College Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience in London, who argues that no single therapy is best for all maladies.

The orginal article.