Carnegie Mellon class of 2022.
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Feodora Chiosea via Dreamstime

Try reading the following list, then covering it up and seeing how many you can remember: XCN, NPH, DFB, ICI, AES, PNX. How did you do? Most people would start to falter at the third chunk of letters, if not sooner.

Now, try doing the same for this list: X, CNN, PHD, FBI, CIA, ESPN, X. You’d probably get more chunks correct. But these are the same letters! The only difference is the spacing; now you can see chunks that are familiar to you [1].

This illustrates the relationship between working memory and long-term memory. You can hold more in…

Having six fingers is a dominant trait! This fun fact leaves some people puzzled — that means if you have it, your kids will have it, right? Shouldn’t it be more common in the population than having five fingers, then? Does this mean it’s somehow advantageous to have an extra finger?

I’ve heard all these asked, and the answers are no, no, and no. Clearly, while many of us have heard the terms “dominant” and “recessive,” there’s not much clarity about what they mean. This article serves as a review.

Simple Dominance

In classical genetics, traits —passed-down physical characteristics — are encoded…

Schools don’t teach what we’ve already evolved to learn.

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@gorodenkoff, via iStock

Reading, writing, mathematics, science, history — there’s a fairly narrow set of subjects considered “academic.” But not everyone needs these to succeed in adult life. Shouldn’t we be taught skills that are more broadly useful, like how to socialize with others, or how to be a problem solver?

And if people do want to learn those “academic” subjects, can’t they just learn naturally? …

Experts won’t address alternative COVID-19 theories? Fine, I’ll do it.

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What if viruses don’t actually cause diseases? That’s the premise of The Contagion Myth, a recent book from the Weston Price Foundation gaining support among COVID-19 lockdown critics — surely there’s no reason to keep us spaced apart with cloth on our faces if this new disease is something like cancer or scurvy, not something that can be spread person-to-person.

How intriguing! This book gave me much to think about. But ultimately, while it does call attention to important health findings, it fails to do what its supporters claim: debunk germ theory.

The Argument

The authors explain terrain theory, the rival to…

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Source: IoginovVados, via Depositphotos

“Look on the bright side.” “Mistakes help you learn.” “At least you tried.”

People offer these sayings with good intent. But they may not be the most helpful when you’re grieving a genuine disappointment. At this point, they’re like saying “Everything happens for a reason” at a funeral: not a meaningful contribution, and probably not a welcome one.

It’s okay to view a failure as something tragic, something that should not have happened. You don’t have to spin it into some destined blessing. Still, a realistic reframe can help you feel better — and moving forward, do better. …

Why cravings and hunger cues can’t be trusted

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Some people have a broken regulation system for how much to eat.

Often, this involves a different dopamine response; compared to people of a healthy weight, obese people release more dopamine in response to food cues, but less in response to actual eating, leading them to eat more to get the expected reward. Under this system, one can’t be expected to eat in “moderation.” The strongest solution, then, is to break the craving–response cycle—by making “problem foods” off-limits.

Yet many people who once dealt with binge eating curiously managed to recover from it without restricting any foods. This description fits…

Moderation isn’t for everyone

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via Getty Images

You could be an expert on nutritional biochemistry, preaching all the facts about how the body loses weight— yet still not be able to help people lose weight.

The problem isn’t that people are clueless about what physically causes weight loss. Nearly everyone has heard of calorie-counting, exercising, and grouping foods into “healthy” and “junk.” Although the USDA Food Pyramid is flawed, the typical American would still be leaner by actually following its recommendations, rather than overeating added sugars and oils and undereating vegetables.

It’s not so much that we need in-depth science of the body. Science shows that if…

It is now August, and in much of the U.S., people are still subject to public mask mandates, social distancing expectations, and gathering restrictions, which began as early as March. Citizens disagree over whether these measures are helpful or harmful— why?

Some may view it as a mere political disagreement: those on the political left support stronger restrictions to protect citizens’ health, while those on the right oppose unnecessary infringements upon individual freedom. Others, including Anthony Fauci, blame those who are “anti-science.”

Results of this research reveal a stronger predictor of pandemic views: one’s belief in science as an authority…

Exciting new findings can be hard to interpret or apply.

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Neuroscience is quite a juicy field, and now the public is eager to get a taste. News pieces about the brain are on the rise — now, not just about clinical issues of the brain, but with broader applications to everyday issues, with a particular focus on “optimizing” its abilities.

When reporters are desperate to portray research as groundbreaking, and when teachers are desperate to find ways to improve student learning, these forces combine to form an appealing niche. Edupreneurs can now be taken more seriously if they cite saucy-sounding science to prop up their methods as brain-based.

Surely a…

There isn’t a way to differentiate that’s reliably shown to work — but there still is hope.

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Gym class didn’t make me healthy and fit. It just showed me how I wasn’t. I couldn’t do a single sit-up, or run a mile fast enough for the fitness cutoff, or hold a flexible yoga pose without collapsing, as hard as I tried. I just felt that putting strain on my body was uncomfortable, and seeing how I compared to my peers was humiliating. These experiences discouraged me from seeing exercise as something I’d want in my lifestyle—so while most of my classmates learned as intended, these classes did the opposite for me.

It was only later that I…

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