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Social studies

Music found to lower blood pressure Add to ...

Making healthy music

“Want to lower your blood pressure? Pick up a musical instrument,” says Pacific Standard magazine. “That’s the implication of a pilot study from the Netherlands, which suggests playing music is beneficial to one’s cardiovascular system. ‘Our study suggests that active music making has some training effects that resemble those of physical exercise training,’ researchers from the Leiden University medical centre’s department of cardiology reports in the Netherlands Heart Journal. While several small studies … have found listening to certain types of music can lower blood pressure, this appears to be the first to find such benefits in the players themselves.”

Climate threatens coffee

“Changing climate threatens to reduce the flow of coffee, which fills 1.6 billion cups a day, to a trickle,” says the New Scientist. “It may not be long before that after-dinner espresso costs more than the wine, and some caffeine addicts will be forced to go cold turkey. If that prospect fills you with dread, you are not alone. There are some 26 million farmers who depend on coffee to feed their families. Coffee is the most valuable tropical export crop, and as the world’s favourite drink it is big business. Our seemingly insatiable appetite for macchiatos and lattes has made coffee the second most traded commodity after oil, with exports worth a whopping $15-billion (U.S.) a year. All that is under threat because the coffee industry is built on a plant that is peculiarly vulnerable to our changing climate.”

New uses for phone booths

“Phone booths and kiosks have been quietly disappearing for the past 25 years, ever since the advent of the cellular phone in 1973,” says the Los Angeles Review of Books. “Most of those that remain stand as symbols of other eras, overrun with graffiti, sticky with secretions. Others have been resurrected, repurposed by needs as much spiritual and aesthetic as practical. In Japan and France, phone booths have been transformed into aquariums; in New York, they have been made into lending libraries and art galleries. In Leverick Bay, British Virgin Islands, some phone booths are now showers, and in Finland a few have been remodelled into bathrooms. Many have been transformed into WiFi hotspots.”

The memorable 20s

“What is it about twentysomethings?” writes Katy Waldman at Slate.com. “A little-known but robust line of research shows that there really is something deeply, weirdly memorable about this period. It plays an outsize role in how we structure our expectations, stories and memories. The basic finding is this: We remember more events from late adolescence and early adulthood than from any other stage of our lives. This phenomenon is called the reminiscence bump. Memory researchers … still aren’t completely sure what causes us to drench those years with special import.”

See a face, see a mind

“Why do engineers put faces on their robots?” writes Alva Noe for U.S. National Public Radio. “Not because the robot needs a face to do what it is built to do. It is rather that the engineers understand that where there is a face, we can hardly resist supposing that there is a mind. … It is well known that people with facial injury are often treated as if they are cognitively impaired. We can’t help but feel that behind the impassive face there is a dull mind, even when we know that this is not the case. The fact is we find it easy to attribute mind to what looks and acts like a human being and we find it almost impossible to attribute mind to what does not.”

Thought du jour

If I can’t drink my coffee three times a day, I shrivel up like a piece of roast goat.

J.S. Bach, German composer (1685-1750)

 

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