[TWILT #2] Smart Music, Indifferent Cats, and How Cholesterol Affects Mental Aging

  • SumoMe

Cat Lazing on Couch

This Week, I Learned That…

  1. Developers are currently working on music applications that can read your mind. According to an article in Fast Company, online radio and smartphone platforms such as Pandora and Spotify are still struggling to compete with traditional AM/FM radio for the simple reason that people are lazy. With newer platforms, you have to search, browse, and enter all sorts of data about preferences. With conventional radio, all you have to do is turn it on. To compete, software developers are working on platforms that automatically gather data about your schedule, your social network, your heart rate, and so on to give you the music you’re craving at any given time–with the push of a button.
  2. While dogs view human beings as a separate species, cats may not. In an interview with National Geographic, feline researcher John Bradshaw explains that, unlike dogs, cats tend not to behave differently around people than they do other cats. Although they certainly do recognize people as being bigger (and also clumsier), cats groom, play, show affection, and demonstrate caution with people in the same way they do with other cats.
  3. Higher levels of cholesterol may actually slow the aging of the brain. Writing in Psychology Today, Mario Garrett explains that 15% of our brains are composed of a cholesterol lining that fades as we age–causing our brains to literally shrink. This shrinking level of cholesterol has now been shown to correspond to slower speeds in performing tasks. Other recent research shows a correlation between higher levels of cholesterol (good and bad) and stronger memory. And still other research has shown a correlation between the taking of cholesterol reducers and cognitive decline. What’s bad for the heart, it seems, might be good for the mind.
  4. The average age at which creative breakthroughs occur is 40. According to a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the notion that people are more creative when they’re young is a myth. Researcher Benjamin Jones looked at a vast number of great inventors and Nobel Prize winners, and he discovered that 93% of those people experienced the breakthroughs for which they are known after they turned 26 years old. On the other hand, people also aren’t the most creative when they’re the most experienced. The late 30s and early 40s tends to be the sweet spot.
  5. The more money people win in lotteries, the more politically conservative they become over time. Economist Tyler Cowen reports recent longitudinal research conducted on a large number of lottery winners suggesting that greater winnings lead to people becoming more right-wing and less egalitarian.
  6. Shirley Temple was the preferred choice for portraying Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. In covering the news of Shirley Temple Black’s recent passing, IMDb explains that she was prevented from taking the role due to contractual agreements with Fox. Shortly after missing out on the role, Shirley Temple’s acting career fizzled–as she matured and lost her child-like charm.
  7. There is a predator that runs so fast that it blinds itself. Science journalist Ed Yong tells of the tiger beetle, a predatory insect that covers 120 times its body length in a single second in order to catch its prey. To match that speed, relative to body size, a human being would have to travel 480 miles per hour. How well do you think you could see if you were moving that fast?
  8. Memory is not linear but, rather, we reconstruct our past from our present. A recent study by a team of neuroscientists tested to see how memory is influenced by new events. First, the subjects observed objects on a computer screen set against a certain background. Then, they were asked to place the objects in the same place on another screen set against a different background. Finally, the subjects were asked to choose between three locations on a screen which place they thought the object had been. In every case, they selected the position that they had chosen in the second experiment. Their memories, therefore, changed to reflect the new information.

Note: the cat pictured above was actually the first pet my wife and I owned. His name was Cry Baby, but we called him Kiki. He was a stray that just marched right in and made himself a home when we moved into the neighborhood. He has since passed away, but now he has a permanent home right here on the old blog. R.I.P., Kiki.

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