26 10, 2015

Cross Your Fingers, Knock on Wood: Do Superstitions Work?

When flying Jennifer Aniston always boards an airplane with her right foot first. Michael Jordan wore his college shorts underneath his NBA uniform for his entire career. Jordan ended up winning six championships and the 46-year-old Aniston has flown countless times without incident. Of course you don’t have to be famous to believe in superstitions. Many of us have uttered the phrase “knock on wood” or avoided stepping under ladders in the hopes of warding off bad luck. Superstitions are largely innocuous and allow for at least the illusion of control in situations where we feel like we have none. This begs the question: do superstitions work and if so why? For this discussion it’s helpful to think about the nature of superstitions. Early humans had little information about the world they inhabited. They created associations based off their experiences. Say it had been raining for days and stopped suddenly when a person performed a specific action or picked up a certain object. Our ancestors lacked access to sophisticated meteorological equipment and didn’t know the storm had moved out of the region. Instead, they related the change in weather to something they had done. Lacking any other evidence, this cause and effect belief system makes sense and indeed was reinforced by a lack of deeper knowledge. We like to think we live in a pretty rational time in history. Our embrace of the scientific method, whereby an idea must be regularly tested before proven, should make us immune to irrational thinking. However, we know this simply isn’t true. We’re all prone to assumptions and beliefs that don’t make sense within this larger understanding. […]

12 10, 2015

The Frequency of Life

You wake up; rub the sleep from your eyes, maybe yawn and then what? If you own a smart phone the next step probably includes checking your email, Facebook, texts, or a favorite news site. The world is quite literally in our hands. We have 24/7 access to a wealth of information that has radically transformed how we live. Take a moment to think about your typical day. How much time is spent in front of a screen? And yes, I realize you’re staring at one now while you read this post. There are valid reasons to stay connected whether it’s looking at photos of family members who live on the other side of the world or staying abreast of what’s going on around the globe. A lot of this content has the potential to enrich our lives and provide us with greater understanding of ourselves and others. Unfortunately, and let’s be honest, we waste a lot of time and energy zoning out in front of our devices. We seem to be at a crossroads where we value this new freedom but aren’t exactly sure how to handle it. Recently, there has been a call to return to a simpler way of life that includes “getting back to nature.” This idea is somewhat vague and doesn’t present an honest view about the human race’s struggle to live in and overcome their environment. For centuries people were at the mercy of nature. We lived in constant survival mode as we dealt with everything from unexplained illness to unpredictable weather to food scarcity. The flipside is our current reality which consists of the overuse of nature and its resources to the point of crisis. There has to be a balance between being at the mercy of our environment and exploitation of the natural world. As it turns out that balance already exists inside each of us. In 1952 physicist Winfried Otto Schumann made a discovery that didn’t seem to have much importance at the time. Schumann calculated the frequency of the resonances that bounce between the Earth’s surface and the highly conductive ionosphere. Resonances are spectrum peaks in the Earth’s electromagnetic field that occur within a specific frequency. […]