Advice from medieval monks about how to reduce digital distractions

Medieval monks had a terrible time concentrating. And concentration was their lifelong work! Their tech was obviously different from ours. But their anxiety about distraction was not. They complained about being overloaded with information, and about how, even once you finally settled on something to read, it was easy to get bored and turn to something else. They were frustrated by their desire to stare out of the window, or to constantly check on the time (in their case, with the Sun as their clock), or to think about food or sex when they were supposed to be thinking about God. They even worried about getting distracted in their dreams. Sometimes they accused demons of making their minds wander. Sometimes they blamed the body's base instincts. But the mind was the root problem: it is an inherently jumpy thing. John...

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The fox owns the henhouse – When public safety is governed by private profit

"There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches." - Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a radio interview where the topic was safety and government oversight. I had tuned in at the exact moment when the interviewee said the following: Well, my experience of 30 years in Washington, D.C. is the same Ronald Reagan had - you know, trust but verify. And when bad things happen, you need to verify if what he is saying is correct. I certainly question that there's not a cozy relationship. All anyone has to do is look at the revolving door in Washington, D.C., and this agency and the industry to realize that there is a cozy relationship. Now the question is,...

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India slams US report on counterfeit medicine, says it’s an attack on affordable generic drugs

India has outrightly rejected allegations in a US report about the country being a chief source of counterfeit medicines to the world and said it is an attack on low cost generic drugs - crucial to make healthcare affordable. The 'Special 301 Report' by United States Trade Representative (USTR) slammed India and China as leading sources of counterfeit medicines distributed globally with 20% of all pharmaceutical products sold in the Indian market estimated to be counterfeits. "We strongly disagree with the observations made by USTR. We do not know the genesis and methodology of their findings. Instead, we view this as opposition to low cost generics and the thriving Indian drug manufacturing industry which is the 'Pharmacy of the world'," health secretary Preeti Sudan told TOI. ...

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At what age is our sense of optimism at its highest?

Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. But what about optimism? New research published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science offers an in-depth look at how our sense of optimism evolves as we age. To study this question, researchers at the University of California Davis analyzed data from a large sample of Mexican-Americans between the ages of 26 and 71. At four time points across a seven-year period, participants were asked to complete the Life Orientation Test, a widely used and validated measure of optimism. The Life Orientation Test consists of six questions, listed below: In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.If something can go wrong for me, it will.I'm always optimistic about my future.I hardly ever expect things to go my way.I rarely count on good things happening to me.Overall, I expect more good things...

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Eating at the right time may reduce adverse effects of shift work and jet lag

Knowing the right time of day to eat can help improve the health of people working on a shift or those suffering from jet lag. In a study featured in the journal Cell, researchers from the Medical Research Council and The University of Manchester have identified how insulin signals the proper timing of meals in line with the body's circadian rhythm. By understanding how the hormone works, scientists may be able to develop new ways to mitigate the effects of body clock disruptions on people's health. Some of these include eating at the right time or taking medicines designed to trigger insulin production. "We already know that modern society poses many challenges to our health and wellbeing - things that are viewed as commonplace, such as shift-work, sleep deprivation, and jet lag, disrupt our body clock," said Dr. David Bechtold,...

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No, secular humanism is not another religion

These days you can dismiss anything you don't like by calling it "a religion." Science, for instance, has been deemed essentially religious, despite the huge difference between a method of finding truth based on empirical verification and one based on unevidenced faith, revelation, authority, and scripture. Atheism, the direct opposite of religion, has also been characterized in this way, though believers who criticize secular worldviews as religious seem unaware of the irony of implying, "See - you're just as bad as we are!" Even environmentalism has been described as a religion. The latest false analogy between religious and nonreligious belief systems is John Staddon's essay "Is Secular Humanism a Religion?" for Quillette. Staddon's answer is "Yes," but his reasoning is bizarre. One would think that it should be "Clearly not" for, after all, "secular" means "not religious," and secular humanism...

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Meaning in our lives matters

Everyone seems to be talking about meaning at the moment. Many appreciate that our lives need some kind of existential structure-cultural worldviews, social roles, and goals that give us purpose. Some speculate that we are suffering a crisis of meaning in the modern Western world for a variety of reasons including increased social alienation, automation, and the decline of religion. Others believe that meaning comes from within the individual, that we can abandon traditional beliefs, duties, and attachments and fashion our own existential framework. Some argue that meaning isn't really that important at all and that we should instead focus solely on practical concerns such as physical health, economics, education, and the environment. As a behavioral scientist who has spent nearly two decades conducting research in existential psychology, I have some thoughts on why we should care about meaning and...

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Measles outbreak: Quarantines issued at UCLA, Cal State LA; hundreds of students, faculty under orders

Health officials issued quarantines at UCLA and Cal State, Los Angeles to prevent the spread of measles, with more than 100 students and faculty members at each university under quarantine orders. UCLA said 117 students and faculty are being held while they await medical records to determine whether they're immune to the illness. More than 500 students, faculty and staff who may have come into contact with a student who contracted measles were screened. The student with measles attended classes at Franz Hall and Boelter Hall on April 2, 4 and 9 while contagious, according to UCLA. "We expect that those notified will be quarantined for approximately 24-48 hours until their proof of immunity is established. A few may need to remain in quarantine for up to seven days. We have arranged for those who live on campus to be...

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New study offers peek inside the brain during psychedelic hallucinations

A new study by University of Oregon researchers offers clues to what happens in the brain when mice are given an LSD-like drug experience. The research, done in the lab of Cris Niell, a professor in the Department of Biology and researcher in the Institute of Neuroscience, was part of a larger, ongoing effort to explore, at a basic scientific level, the mystery of vision and how people perceive the world around them. Instead of flooding the brain with stimuli, the drug appeared to reduce neuron activity, suggesting that hallucinations stem from too little stimulation rather than too much. In the National Institutes of Health-funded study, Niell's team focused on the effects of the hallucinogen because it acts on a specific receptor, serotonin-2A, that is tied to altered perceptions in both psychedelic drug use and in schizophrenia. "Our results do...

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Japan leads the way: No vaccine mandates and no MMR vaccine = Healthier children

In the United States, many legislators and public health officials are busy trying to make vaccines de facto compulsory - either by removing parental/personal choice given by existing vaccine exemptions or by imposing undue quarantines and fines on those who do not comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) vaccine edicts. Officials in California are seeking to override medical opinion about fitness for vaccination, while those in New York are mandating the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for 6-12-month-old infants for whom its safety and effectiveness "have not been established." American children would be better served if these officials - before imposing questionable and draconian measures - studied child health outcomes in Japan. With a population of 127 million, Japan has the healthiest children and the very highest "healthy life expectancy" in the world - and the least vaccinated...

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