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The Sight of Sound

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After a powerful encounter with a sperm whale, James Nestor embarks on a quest to understand echolocation. He suggests that if we step away from the technologies we've come to rely on, we may discover senses long forgotten.


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How Deep Sleep Can Soothe Your Anxious Brain

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A good night's sleep can help reduce anxiety, a new neuroscience study suggests.

By Yasmin Anwar


When it comes to managing anxiety disorders, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth had it right when he referred to sleep as the “balm of hurt minds.” While a full night of slumber stabilizes emotions, a sleepless night can trigger up to a 30 percent rise in anxiety levels, according to new research from UC Berkeley.

Researchers have found that the type of sleep most apt to calm and reset the anxious brain is deep sleep, also known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) slow-wave sleep, a state in which neural oscillations become highly synchronized, and heart rates and blood pressure drop.

“We have identified a new function of deep sleep, one that decreases anxiety overnight by reorganizing connections in the brain,” said study senior author Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology. “Deep sleep seems to be a natural anxiolytic (anxiety inhibitor), so long as we get it each…

A Tribute to Mary Oliver

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H. Emerson Blake observed of Mary Oliver; "She was, in many ways, the quintessential Orion writer--fully devoted to taking notice of nature, and unflinching in her investigation of the emotional relationship between people and nature." Orion Magazine published this short tribute to Oliver in honor of her birthday this past September. It includes one of her poems titled 'Blueberries.'


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Do We Have an Instinctive Urge to Be Kind?

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When someone needs help, what is your first impulse?

By Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas


Has “ethics [become] a luxury as the speed of our daily lives increases”?

This is one of the implications that John M. Darley and C. Daniel Batson considered in their famous 1973 “Good Samaritan” study. In an ironic turn of events, some theology students on their way to deliver a lecture on the Good Samaritan—about how spiritually important it is to be helpful—did not stop to assist someone slumped over in pain. But other students in the study did stop to help. The difference was how much time they had to get to the lecture hall: Told that they were late, only 10 percent stopped; told that they had time to spare, 63 percent did.

The interpretation? Being in a rush, students’ self-preservation instincts overpowered their capacity to orient toward another person’s needs. The stress of hurrying may have narrowed their attention, so that they failed to even notice the victim, and monopolized their mental resource…

Our Emerging Universe

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What is the significance and fundamental importance for humanity of "emergence?" It may at first seem abstract but something that emerges has unique properties that were not present in the parts creating it. Therefore it is fundamentally a life-giving source of energy. In this talk Daniel Schmachtenberger outlines emergence as essential to understand the nature of the universe we live in and what it means to be human.


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How Compassion Helped One Woman Leave an Extremist Group

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Megan Phelps-Roper left the Westboro Baptist Church—and her story can teach us something about love, hate, and connecting across differences.

By Jeremy Adam Smith


I first became aware of the Westboro Baptist Church when it threatened to picket my son’s preschool, which was at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

I wondered: Why in the world would anyone do that? Some Googling revealed that Westboro was based in Topeka, Kansas, and for a quite a few years had been very active in picketing Jewish organizations and the funerals of people who died of AIDS/HIV or gay-bashings, with signs that famously said things like, “God Hates F**s.” Then I discovered that Westboro didn’t just target ethnic and sexual minorities. Its members also picketed funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, which surprised me. Weren’t conservatives supposed to be patriotic?

In her new book, Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, Megan Phelps-Roper writes about why …

Why Are These Bees Getting Punched By Alfalfa?

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If you love your ice cream or cheese, then your new bestie should be a tiny bee that makes it all possible! These leafcutter bees have to go through a boxing match with a flower that packs quite the punch to put your favorite treats on the table.

How would you like being punched in the face whenever you go to have a meal? These bees don’t mind!

By Sam Burns


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How to Make #My Khartoum Cool

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"Andariya was established by Omnia Shawkat and Salma Amin, Sudanese women in their late twenties who saw the gap in bi-lingual digital cultural content on Sudan and South Sudan. Both Omnia and Salma were members of the Sudanese diaspora when they began planning for Andariya, as an active and engaging platform for Sudanese and South Sudanese inside and outside the Sudans."


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Two Ways to Nudge Your Kids Toward Honesty

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A recent study suggests that kids are influenced by the stories they read and the interactions they witness.

By Maryam Abdullah


Parents can be surprised to discover that preschoolers start to tell lies between two and four years old. When my preschooler accidentally breaks his toys, he has been known to say that a mouse did it.

Do you have a “mouse” in your house who breaks things, too? Like me, you might wonder how to help your children cultivate honesty as they get older.

Researchers recently investigated this with over 200 mostly white children from Montreal, Canada, who were between five and eight years old. They found that while kids can be easily tempted to dishonesty, there are simple ways to help them tell the truth even when it’s hard.

The children played a trivia game that gave them an opportunity for cheating. The researcher told the children that they could earn a prize if they correctly answered four multiple-choice questions, the first three of which had obvious answers—like…

Hilarious Wisdom from Elementary School Chess Champions

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We’re heading off to somewhere unexpected to get some much-needed life advice. It’s a place where some of the wisest people among us gather to play a game of strategy. And the best part? These wise sages aren’t even teenagers yet.

Who gives us the best advice on learning, handling pressure, and facing disappointments with grace? The answer might be surprising. With wisdom far beyond their years, the young chess champions at the Elementary Chess Championship have some secrets to impart!

By Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

How Emotions Change the Shape of Our Hearts

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"A record of our emotional life is written on our hearts," says cardiologist and author Sandeep Jauhar. In a stunning talk, he explores the mysterious ways our emotions impact the health of our hearts -- causing them to change shape in response to grief or fear, to literally break in response to emotional heartbreak -- and calls for a shift in how we care for our most vital organ.


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Four Ways to Calm Your Mind in Stressful Times

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A sense of calm offers us strength and resilience amid the chaos of life.

By Emma Seppala


Life throws chaos at us on a regular basis—whether it’s our finances, our relationships, or our health. In the work world, around 50 percent of people are burned out in industries like health care, banking, and nonprofits, and employers spend $300 billion per year on workplace-related stress.

In response, we just keep on pushing through, surviving on adrenaline. We overschedule ourselves; we drink another coffee; we respond to one more email. If we stay amped up all the time, we think, we’ll eventually be able to get things done.

But all that does is burn us out, drain our productivity, and lead to exhaustion.

There’s another way—a calmer way. Cultivating a more restful, relaxed state of mind doesn’t mean we’ll drown under all our responsibilities. Instead, research suggests it will bring us greater attention, energy, and creativity to tackle them. And science also points to simple ways we can tap in…