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SOCIAL STUDIES

When is it OK to give up on a boring book? Add to ...

Coffee shop creativity

“In a series of experiments that looked at the effects of noise on creative thinking, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had participants brainstorm for new products while they were exposed to varying levels of background noise,” says The New York Times. “Their results, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that a level of ambient noise typical of a bustling coffee shop or a television playing in a living room, about 70 decibels, enhanced performance compared with the relative quiet of 50 decibels. A higher level of noise, however, about 85 decibels, roughly the noise level generated by a blender or a garbage disposal, was too distracting, the researchers found.”

When to abandon the book

“It’s the season of ‘beach reads’ and Best Summer Books lists – and thus, also, the season for the re-emergence of the perennial question of when, if ever, it’s okay to give up on a book halfway through,” Oliver Burkeman writes in The Guardian. “Here’s my official position: It’s fine to abandon books or other projects – but you’ve got to really abandon them, not let them fade amid vague intentions to finish them some day. … [T]hrow the beach-read into the sea. Make abandonment a positive choice. Otherwise you’ll be paralyzed, unable to walk away entirely or to finish, stuck in a Catch-22. Which is, by the way – according to the website Goodreads – the book that people are most likely to start but never complete.”

Best words for meetings?

“Forget presentations, handshakes and power suits: Workers looking to make the biggest impact in a business meeting should instead focus on using a very specific set of words,” says Business News Daily. New research has found that workers who used the words “yeah,” “give,” “start,” “meeting” and “discuss” ended up with more accepted proposals in meetings. In the study, Cynthia Rudin, a professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan school of management, and MIT student Been Kim examined data from meetings and the impact of certain words during those meetings. The research is particularly important considering that 11 million meetings take place every day, Rudin and Kim said. The specific words were found to be persuasive for a number of reasons. For example, the word “yeah” is believed to show acceptance and agreement on a point of view.

Spot the mistake

Last week, a Russian was arrested for stealing a bridge after police said they followed drag marks to his home, reports United Press International. The 23-year-old man in the northern Vologda region apparently hooked the small steel bridge to his tractor and hauled it away to sell as scrap metal. He had allegedly broken the structure down into smaller pieces with a cutting torch, but had not yet sold them. Recent daring metal thefts in Russia include several locomotives and a special bike ridden by a circus bear.

Whales afraid of the dark?

“The ocean is a scary place,” says the New Scientist. “Below about 200 metres, no light can penetrate and the water becomes pitch black. All sorts of monsters live in this perpetual darkness: Colossal squid lie in ambush, and hungry sperm whales prowl. Even if you’re as big and powerful as a long-finned pilot whale, there’s always the possibility of running into kraken. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that pilot whales like to stick close together when they plunge into the murky depths. A new study shows that they stay within a few metres of each other as they dive, and even stroke each other with their flippers. After all, if you’re going to venture into the darkness, it helps to have a hand to hold.”

Thought du jour

“Hope is a pleasant acquaintance, but an unsafe friend.” – Thomas Chandler Haliburton, Nova Scotia politician and author (1796-1865)

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