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Sam Brinson Posts

Something Smells Fishy

It’s more than a metaphor. The subtle scent of rotting fish raises suspicion. We don’t only become suspicious of the fishy smell itself, but to whatever task that happens to be occupying our attention. Researchers Norbert Schwarz and Spike Lee (not that Spike Lee) write in their paper:  “… exposure to fishy smells is sufficient…

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The Psychology of Finding What You’re Looking for

By many measures, the world of today is a lot better than that of even 100 years ago. Literacy, life expectancy, and number of people above the poverty line have all increased dramatically. That’s not to say there aren’t many more problems to solve, and that we don’t have further uphill to climb in already improving…

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How You (and a Computer) Learn the ‘Rules of the Game’

In 1848, the 25-year-old Phineas Gage was working on a railroad in Vermont, packing explosive powder into a hole with an iron tamper. Unexpectedly, the powder exploded, sending the tamper backwards through Gage’s skull and brain. That he survived is a miracle, but astonishingly he even seemed capable of functioning effectively, maintaining normal memory, speech,…

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A 90 Year-Old Cure for Unhappiness

In 1930 Bertrand Russell published a book that he hoped would “suggest a cure for the ordinary day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer.” Whether we still suffer in the same ways in 2018 is a matter for debate, but what is true is that ‘The Conquest of Happiness’ still offers some…

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Where is Our Place in the Animal Kingdom?

We have a strained relationship with other animals. We’ve worshipped them, cooperated with them, molded them, and farmed them. While some are the subjects of our love and affection, others are subjected to horrendous treatment in the name of tasty meals, fashionable clothes, cosmetics, and science. Do we have the right to shove pigs and…

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