Sunday, March 30, 2014

Skin Tight Jeans and Syncopation

Explaining the genius of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”—using music theory.

Very cool piece

 I've been challenged by friends on Facebook to write a “not boring” piece that explains a successful pop song using music theory. My bet is that it’ll be boring, but I'm going to do my best not to bore you!
I have picked Katy Perry's “Teenage Dream.” Because: this song's success seems to mystify all the Katy Perry haters in the world. Why did it go to No. 1? Let’s start by talking about the ingenuity of the harmonic content. This song is all about suspension—not in the voice-leading 4–3 sense, but in the emotional sense, which listeners often associate with “exhilaration,” being on the road, being on a roller coaster, travel. This sense of suspension is created simply, by denying the listener any I chords. There is not a single I chord in the song.
The second key to this song's Enormous Chart Success has to do with the weighting of the melody lines. Perfect balance of tension and release. Each line of the verses begin straight, on the beat, but end with a syncopation: [straight:] “you think I'm pretty without any” [syncopated:] “makeup on.

Risk score system accurate in predicting macular degeneration risk

1. 8 predictors (age, sex, education level, race, smoking status, presence of pigment abnormality, soft drusen, and maximum drusen size) were utilized to create a macular risk scoring system (MRSS).
2. Area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was excellent (internally validated c-index = 0.88; externally validated c-index = 0.91). Sensitivity and specificity at cutoff of 0 were 87.6% and 73.6% respectively.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Spark Therapeutics and Genable Technologies Announce Collaboration to Advance a Gene Therapy Treatment for a Rare Form of Retinitis Pigmentosa

PHILADELPHIA, March 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spark Therapeutics andGenable Technologies announced today that they have entered into a collaboration agreement for Genable's lead therapeutic to treat rhodopsin-linked autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (RHO adRP), GT038. Under the terms of the collaboration, Genable will license certain adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector manufacturing patents from Spark.

Water, Tai Chi, and Mood

"You can't control the waves but you can learn how to surf"
John Kabbat-Zinn

Three Links Follow

What does it mean to learn how to surf?  When we experience emotions, they tend to multiply on themselves.  For example, let’s say you’re driving in your car and you just miss the green light and get stuck at a red.  This annoys you.  Then you think to yourself ‘This is stupid, why am I getting angry about something so small?’  Now you’re angry at yourself for being angry.
When you surf, you can’t resist the flow of the waves.  If you try to resist, you’ll end up underwater.  The same is true with emotions.  If you resist your emotions and try to fight them, they will consume you.  If instead you accept your emotions, then they lose their grip over you, and you can glide along their surface.

Soft Overcomes Hard: Control Your Emotions with Tai Chi

“In order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.”
Bruce Li
After spending many hours meditating and practicing, I gave up and went sailing alone in a junk. On the sea I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched the water! Right then — at that moment — a thought suddenly struck me; was not this water the very essence of gung fu? Hadn’t this water just now illustrated to me the principle of gung fu? I struck it but it did not suffer hurt. Again I struck it with all of my might — yet it was not wounded! I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.
(from BrainPickings.Org)

Monday, March 24, 2014


Facial expressions—such as wide-eyed fear or narrow-eyed disgust—are the result of how our eyes have evolved to perceive, not to communicate.
Our eyes widen in fear, boosting sensitivity and expanding our field of vision to locate surrounding danger. When repulsed, our eyes narrow, blocking light to sharpen focus and pinpoint the source of our disgust.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Government Is a Hitman: Uber, Tesla and Airbnb Are in Its Crosshairs

The real losers are not just the next generation of innovators but also customers who lose out on more ways of getting what they need or want.

What the Invisible Hand of free-market innovation giveth, the Dead Hand of politically motivated regulation desperately tries to taketh away.
That’s the only way to describe what’s happening to three wildly innovative and popular products: the award-winning electric car Tesla, taxi-replacement service Uber, and hotel-alternative Airbnb. These companies are not only revolutionizing their industries via cutting-edge technology and customer-empowering distribution, they’re running afoul of interest groups that are quick to use political muscle to maintain market share and the status quo.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link

Many of us have long been told that saturated fat, the type found in meat, butter and cheese, causes heart disease. But a large and exhaustive new analysis by a team of international scientists found no evidence that eating saturated fat increased heart attacks and other cardiac events.
The new findings are part of a growing body of research that has challenged the accepted wisdom that saturated fat is inherently bad for you and will continue the debate about what foods are best to eat.

The Science of ‘Paying It Forward’

ONE morning in December of 2012, at the drive-through window of a Tim Hortons coffee shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a customer paid for her order and then picked up the tab for the stranger in the car behind her in line. Then that customer paid the bill for the following customer in line — and so on, for the next 226 customers, in a three-hour sequence of spontaneous generosity.
It turns out that such “pay it forward” chains are not unheard-of at Tim Hortons (though they are usually much shorter), and news outlets have reported the emergence of many such chains in a variety of restaurant drive-throughs and tollbooths throughout North America. Last year, a Chick-fil-A in Houston experienced a 67-car chain. A few months later, a Heav’nly Donuts in Amesbury, Mass., had a run of 55 cars.
Why do these things happen? One possibility is that generosity among strangers can be socially contagious.
In an experiment the results of which were published last month in the journal PLoS One, we studied both possibilities. We found that receiving and observing generosity can both significantly increase your likelihood of being generous toward a stranger, but that if you observe a high enough level of generosity, your willingness to help suffers — you become a “bystander” who feels that help is no longer needed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

20 Apps You’ll Need for Better Instagram Pics and Videos

Instagram can be a powerful marketing tool when used correctly. But plain cell phone photos with vintage inspired filters can only go so far. Luckily, there are plenty more apps available to enhance Instagram photos and videos even further. We asked around to find some favorites among Instagram users. Below are 20 of them.

via HolyKaw

Monday, March 17, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell: Tell People What It's Really Like To Be A Doctor

When I asked Gladwell what topics he thought I should cover in future Forbes blogs, he said, “Help people understand what it is really like to be a physician.”
I did not see that coming. I figured he’d request an expose on Big Pharma, an in-depth examination of various medical conditions or a portrait of preventive care. But explaining what it’s really like to be doctor is a much more personal request and, as it turned out, much more challenging.
He also expressed concerns about the economics of medical practice and the consequences for physicians:
“I don’t understand, given the constraints physicians have in doing their job and the paperwork demanded of them, why people want to be physicians. I think we’ve made it very, very difficult for them to perform their job. I think that’s a shame. My principal concern is the amount of time and attention spent worrying about the business side. You don’t train someone for all of those years of medical school and residency, particularly people who want to help others optimize their physical and psychological health, and then have them run a claims-processing operation for insurance companies.”
It’s this side of medical practice that wears down even the best physicians.
And in 2012, a study found that 9 out of 10 physicians across the country are unwilling to recommend the profession to others.
Where Does That Leave The Future Of Medical Practice?
In the summer of 2009, three young Americans went for a hike. Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were living together in Syria, teaching and writing. Their friend Josh Fattal was visiting from the U.S. The three took a tour to a waterfall in the Kurdish highlands of Iraq, and as they hiked along a road that turned out to be the border with Iran, an armed man in uniform waved them over.
The next thing they knew, they had embarked on a two-year ordeal in the infamous Evin prison in Tehran. They join NPR's Renee Montagne to talk about their new memoir, A Sliver of Light.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Photos that Bear Witness to Modern Slavery

Slavery has come back into our sphere of attention with "Twelve Years a Slave." Lisa Kristine poignantly (and painfully) brings attention to modern day slavery in this Ted Talk. It will take 30 minutes of your time to view and in my view will be very worthwhile.

For the past two years, photographer Lisa Kristine has traveled the world, documenting the unbearably harsh realities of modern-day slavery. She shares hauntingly beautiful images — miners in the Congo, brick layers in Nepal — illuminating the plight of the 27 million souls enslaved worldwide. (Filmed at TEDxMaui)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Simple Chart That Explains Why You're Addicted To Certain Products

The result of this effort is his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and the creation of the Hook Model: a four-phase process that companies use to form habits.
Through consecutive hook cycles, successful products reach their ultimate goal of unprompted user engagement, bringing users back repeatedly, without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.

Read more:

A Short Guide to a Happy Life: Anna Quindlen on Work, Joy, and How to Live Rather Than Exist by Maria Popova

“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.”
From the fabulous Brain Pickings blog:

There are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit. But a résumé is cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the chest X ray and it doesn’t look so good, or when the doctor writes “prognosis, poor.”
You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.
So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?
Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.
Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.
Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.

Meet the 'Most Connected Man' in the World

And you thought managing a smartphone and an inbox was exhausting.
45-year-old Chris Dancy is known as the most connected man in the world. He has between 300 and 700 systems running at any given time, systems that capture real-time data about his life.
His wrists are covered with a variety of wearable technology, including the fitness wristband tracker Fitbit and the Pebble smartwatch. He weighs himself on the Aria Wi-Fi scale, uses smartphone controlled Hue lighting at home and sleeps on a Beddit mattress cover to track his sleep.

Even Dancy's dogs are tracked via Tagg, which logs their daily activities.

Beyond Immersion: Learn a New Language with Better Listening Skills

Get on the fast track to accomplishing one of your bucket list items, learning another language. Chris Lonsdale's TEDx talk offers five principles and seven actions that will help anyone learn to speak a new language fluently within just six months. The most important of these is perhaps to become better at observing and listening.P
In the 18-minute video, Lonsdale, who learned to speak Chinese in half a year, busts some myths about language acquisition. For example, immersion per se won't necessarily help you learn the language, and learning a language isn't about acquiring knowledge. Instead, it's in large part about psychology and physiological training: becoming familiar with (and open to) new sounds that our brains tend to filter out, as well as coordinating the muscles in our faces. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The brain’s motor network helps people remember and recognize music that they have performed in the past better than music they have only heard, new research shows.
The study sheds new light on how humans perceive and produce sounds, and may pave the way for investigations into whether motor learning could improve or protect memory or cognitive impairment in aging populations. The work appears in the journal Cerebral Cortex.
For the study, researchers recruited twenty skilled pianists from Lyon, France. The group was asked to learn simple melodies by either hearing them several times or performing them several times on a piano. Pianists then heard all of the melodies they had learned, some of which contained wrong notes, while their brain electric signals were measured using electroencephalography (EEG).
“We found that pianists were better at recognizing pitch changes in melodies they had performed earlier,” says the study’s first author, Brian Mathias, a McGill PhD student who conducted the work at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Centre in France with additional collaborators Barbara Tillmann and Fabien Perrin.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready

How I Met Sir Richard Branson (from James Clear)

Two weeks ago, I walked into a conference room in Moscow, Russia and sat down ten feet from Branson. There were 100 other people around us, but it felt like we were having a conversation in my living room. He was smiling and laughing. His answers seemed unrehearsed and genuine.
At one point, he told the story of how he started Virgin Airlines, a tale that seems to capture his entire approach to business and life. Here’s the version he told us, as best I can remember it:

Gadgets to Boost Bike Safety

Driven in part by riders’ demands for a greater sense of comfort and safety on the road, new apps and gadgets are promising to do for the bicycle what air bags and satellite navigation did for the family car. What used to be a simple, healthful mode of transport is fast becoming a tech festival on wheels.

Do Brain Workouts Work? Science Isn’t Sure

For a $14.95 monthly membership, the website Lumosity promises to “train” your brain with games designed to stave off mental decline. Users view a quick succession of bird images and numbers to test attention span, for instance, or match increasingly complex tile patterns to challenge memory.
Wired Well
Personal technology for health and fitness.
While Lumosity is perhaps the best known of the brain-game websites, with 50 million subscribers in 180 countries, the cognitive training business is booming. Happy Neuron of Mountain View, Calif., promises “brain fitness for life.” Cogmed, owned by the British education company Pearson, says its training program will give students “improved attention and capacity for learning.” The Israeli firm Neuronix is developing a brain stimulation and cognitive training program that the company calls a “new hope forAlzheimer’s disease.”
And last month, in a move that could significantly improve the financial prospects for brain-game developers, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began seeking comments on a proposal that would, in some cases, reimburse the cost of “memory fitness activities.”
The problem, Dr. Doraiswamy added, is that the science of cognitive training has not kept up with the hype.
“Almost all the marketing claims made by all the companies go beyond the data,” he said. “We need large national studies before you can conclude that it’s ready for prime time.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wait for it…

We’re all waiting for something.
As kids, we waited for the time that we could do it ourselves, go it alone, tie our own shoelaces, order our own food off the menu, take our baths by ourselves, and walk up and down the street or around the mall without parental supervision. We were kids. We didn’t yet have enough life experience or enough insight to realize that the time we occupied, as kids, was some of the most precious we would ever have. The most free. The most unstructured. The most creative. The happiest.

How could we know? We didn’t need to know. And yet, we waited, impatiently, to grow up, to be big kids, to be teenagers, to be (gasp) adults. We couldn’t wait. Each day was a year long. Each year a lifetime. 

To read more, please hit the link

Memories Can Go Astray When We Step Outside Our Bodies

Our bodies may help us remember our lives, fixing experiences in place. By using virtual reality, scientists can make people feel like they're outside their own bodies. And when they do, the brain struggles to remember what happened.
The phenomenon is a bit like the disembodied sensation that some people have with post-traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia, according to Loretxu Bergouignan, a neuroscience researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and lead author of the study. You might even compare it to an extreme form of daydreaming.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Eat Plants And Prosper: For Longevity, Go Easy On The Meat, Study Says

A new study linking animal protein-rich diets to increased mortality in middle age adds fuel to the controversy over how much protein — and from what sources — is ideal for health. One thing that seems pretty clear: It doesn't hurt to go heavy on the greens.

The Fat Drug

IF you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat.
But what if that meat is us? Recently, a group of medical investigators have begun to wonder whether antibiotics might cause the same growth promotion in humans.

I'm Kelly McGonigal, and This Is How I Work

What do you know--One of my favorite researchers/authors  in the world of psychology has a similar work flow to myself :)

We talk a lot about willpower here at Lifehacker—why it's important, the science behind it, and how to boost it. Kelly McGonigal's career is dedicated to researching these things. As a psychologist and lecturer at Stanford, her work (and most recent book, The Willpower Instinct) focuses on self-control, motivation, procrastination, and how to overcome challenges to create healthier habits. When Kelly's not in the classroom (or on stage at TED), she's a founding member of the Yoga Service Council and group fitness instructor. We stole a few minutes of Kelly's very busy schedule (she did this interview via email on a plane!) to find out her best time-saving tricks, favorite playlists, and most inspiring advice. 

Here is a link to her "Science of Willpower" interview: Link

Saturday, March 08, 2014

How to generate new neurons in brains, spinal cords of living adult mammals

No stem-cell transplants required
March 4, 2014
UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have created new nerve cells in the brains and spinal cords of living mammals without the need for stem cell transplants to replenish lost cells.
In a comment to a KurzweilAI news article, “Brain signals from a primate directly move paralyzed limbs in another primate ‘avatar,’” “Cazbot” wondered if “a sort of ‘neural jumper’ could be used to bridge damaged sections of spinal chord.”
This new research indicates it may someday be possible to do just that — by regenerating neurons from the body’s own cells to repair traumatic brain injury or spinal cord damage, or to treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists in UT Southwestern’s Department of Molecular Biology first successfully turned astrocytes — the most common non-neuronal brain cells — into neurons that then formed networks in mice. They have now successfully turned scar-forming astrocytes in the spinal cords of adult mice into neurons. The latest findings are published today inNature Communications and follow previous findings published in Nature Cell Biology.
“Our earlier work was the first to clearly show in vivo (in a living animal) that mature astrocytes can be reprogrammed to become functional neurons without the need of cell transplantation. The current study did something similar in the spine, turning scar-forming astrocytes into progenitor cells called neuroblasts that regenerated into neurons,” saidChun-Li Zhang, assistant professor of molecular biology at UT Southwestern and senior author of both studies.

What Languages Sound Like To Foreigners

3D Printing Low-Cost Prosthetics Parts in Uganda

Researchers at the University of Toronto, in collaboration with Autodesk Research (Toronto, Ontario) and CBM Canada (Stouffville, Ontario) are employing 3D-printing techniques to produce cheap, fast, and easily customizable prosthetic sockets for use in the developing world. I was invited to check out the lab on behalf of Medgadget to get a better idea of what’s the latest in custom printed prosthetic devices.
Ryan Schmidt: We first create a 3D scan of the limb using an Xbox Kinect. We can bring that digital limb into Autodesk Meshmixer, smooth out the rough scan mesh, and use it directly to design the socket. We create a molded “bucket” around the limb’s contours, and can use Meshmixer to quickly push and pull parts of the design to modify its shape. In the end, the model is sent to a 3D printer, which prints the socket in a few hours using PLA (poly lactic acid), a thermoplastic that is easily modifiable with heat. This method can make a typical socket for under $10;;
Medgadget: What benefits does this 3D printing method have over the traditional method?
Matt Ratto: The traditional method involves wrapping an amputated limb with a plastic mold to first create a negative cast. Once that dries, plaster is poured into the negative cast to make a positive cast, which serves as a representation of the actual limb. Finally, a socket is molded around the positive cast, and can be used upon curing.
Ryan Schmidt: The traditional method is very time-consuming, especially if iteration needs to be done. It’s a destructive process, so any modifications destroy the original molds, and that information is lost. The method we use with 3D printing allows for a quick scan to digitize the limb, simplifying the process. It allows for quick and non-destructive modifications.
3D scanning has become increasingly widespread, and the capabilities of 3D printers have been steadily improving. The missing piece now, and the novelty of Meshmixer, is the ability to deal with the data and models and link the scanning and fabrication.


Probably the best video giving practical advice to help you change the world [video]

Rarely have I come across such a well-produced, well-written video clip for a good cause. Even rarer are videos that give such clear and simple ways to do good.
"Guy Kawasaki"

10 Things Happy People Do Differently

Happiness is a mindset. And if you’re looking to improve your ability to find happiness, then check out these 10 things happy people do differently.

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Great Deception

Interesting article by a Marriage Counselor on Brain Reconditioning that can apply to multiple areas of life...


We’re Less in Control Than We Think

By Brent Atkinson

At the tail end of a sweltering, humid Chicago day in 1993, I took my family to the community pool for a dip. As the children splashed gleefully, I sat nearby reading Robert Ornstein’s new book, The Evolution of Consciousness, unaware that my life was about to change.
Libet’s findings ran contrary to the way most of us experience ourselves. Most of us think, “When I move, it’s because I decided that I was going to move.” But Libet’s studies showed that impulse and inclination preceded conscious intention. It was as though somebody else in the subject’s brain decided when he or she would flick his or her wrist. Initially, Libet’s study stirred a storm of controversy, but over the next few decades, his findings would be replicated time and time again, with more and more sophisticated technologies, leading to him winning a Nobel Prize for his contributions.
Gradually, I began to accept the concept that conscious understanding and effort weren’t the mighty forces that I’d assumed they were and that automatic urges and inclinations were much stronger than I’d ever imagined.

The evidence is clear—meditation conditions the brain to produce automatic inclinations that help people be more attentive and optimistic and less affected by stressful circumstances and anxiety. In other words, the nervous system changes promoted by mindfulness can serve as a stable platform that enables people to act more skillfully in all areas of their lives.
This process includes:
  1. Conscious pursuit of understanding and change. We need to use our conscious minds to understand our lives, develop ideas about what’s healthy and unhealthy, and pursue concrete changes that move us toward health and well-being.
  2. Stress reduction and rejuvenation. We need to develop nervous system inclinations that reduce stress, relax the mind, and rejuvenate the body.
  3. Distress tolerance and self-regulation. We need to develop nervous system inclinations that help us tolerate the inevitable stress that accompanies making difficult changes and self-regulate in emotionally charged situations.
  4. Emotional accessibility. We need to develop nervous system inclinations that produce feelings that connect us to others.
  5. ..
  6. Brent Atkinson, PhD, is director of postgraduate training at the Couples Research Institute in Geneva, Illinois, and Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University. He’s the author of Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy: Advances from Neurobiology and the Science of Intimate Relationships and Developing Habits for Relationship SuccessContact:

Thursday, March 06, 2014

How Fat May Hurt the Brain, and How Exercise May Help

Obesity may have harmful effects on the brain, and exercise may counteract many of those negative effects, according to sophisticated new neurological experiments with mice, even when the animals do not lose much weight. While it’s impossible to know if human brains respond in precisely the same way to fat and physical activity, the findings offer one more reason to get out and exercise.
Many thought the brain, though, should be insulated from those harmful effects. It contains no fat cells and sits behind the protective blood-brain barrier that usually blocks the entry of undesirable molecules.
However, recent disquieting studies in animals indicate that obesity weakens that barrier, leaving it leaky and permeable. In obese animals, substances released by fat cells can ooze past the barrier and into the brain.
As they grew rotund and accumulated more fat cells, the researchers found, their blood showed increasingly hefty doses of a substance called interleukin 1 that is created by fat cells and known to cause inflammation.
In these mice, as interleukin 1 migrated to the head, it passed the blood-brain barrier and entered areas such as the hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for learning and memory. There, it essentially gummed up the works, the researchers found when they examined tissue from the animals’ brains, which had high levels of interleukin 1 together with widespread markers of inflammation. 
The results suggested that, as the scientists write in the study, “treadmill training normalized hippocampal function,” even in animals born to be fat and that remained heavy.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

16 Depressing Facts to Ruin Your Friend's Day

Perfect icebreakers to jumpstart a conversation are difficult to come by.
Fortunately, there's no shortage of depressing facts that are a surefire way to get people talking. Regale fellow party-goers with tales of the world's loneliest animal, or bring down the mood with some harrowing statistics regarding our favorite medical practice.
Become the Debbie Downer you've always hoped to be with these depressing facts that will seriously bum you out. Or at least get a conversation going.

You Are Not So Smart: A Field Guide to the Brain’s Guile by Maria Popova

The science of why 600 Facebook “friends” are an illusion, or why brand loyalty is a product of the ego.
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