Walkable Streets Solve Nearly Every Problem


Anybody who lives in a city knows that walkability of neighbourhoods is a key reason they live where they do. The attraction to mobility options, safe places, cultural and economic diversity is what keeps cities growing. Walkable spaces makes all of that happen and more!

What smoking was to the 20th century car driving is to the 21st, and people are starting to realize we need to kick the car addiction. Car culture kills people through increased obesity, awful urban planning, and pollution (not to mention collisions). Over at Fast Co. Exist they put together a list of 50 reasons why everyone should want more walkable streets.

“The benefits of walkability are all interconnected,” says James Francisco, an urban designer and planner at Arup, the global engineering firm that created the report. “Maybe you want your local business to be enhanced by more foot traffic. But by having that benefit, other benefits are integrated. Not only do you get the economic vitality, but you get the social benefits—so people are out and having conversations and connecting—and then you get the health benefits.” A single intervention can also lead to environmental and political benefits.

Here’s numbers 25 & 26 from the list:

25. It shrinks the cost of traffic congestion
The more people walk and the fewer people are stuck in traffic on roads, the more that benefits the economy. In the Bay Area, for example, businesses lose $2 billion a year because employees are stuck in gridlock.

26. It saves money on construction and maintenance
While building and maintaining roads is expensive—the U.S. needs an estimated $3.6 trillion by 2020 to repair existing infrastructure—sidewalks are more affordable. Investing in sidewalks also brings health and air quality benefits worth twice as much as the cost of construction.

Read all 50.

Efficient Beans to Beat Drought Conditions


Beans are delicious, so delicious that earlier this year the UN declared 2016 to be year of the pulse. Around the world beans are cultivated for their protein and their ability to grow in many places. Some beans are better at growing in wet areas while others in drought conditions. This has led botanists to look into why some beans are better than others in terms of the drought resistance. They figured it out thanks to crossbreeding the beans!

What the researchers have now found is that the plants have developed two distinct strategies, depending on the soil in which they were planted and the length of the dry periods they had to endure.

One group has developed deeper roots so they can reach the available moisture in soil that retained water even when there was no rain.

The second group has smaller leaves and closes down their operations to wait for better times. Some varieties use what little resources they have left to grow as many beans as possible, to ensure the survival of the next generation.

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Thanks to Delaney!

After Conflict, Reach Out and Touch Them


An interesting new study has shown that male athletes touch each other more than female athletes after a sporting conflict. It also turns out that the male athletes demonstrate better “making up” skills – and it all comes down to touching each other. The researchers suspect that this could be some hardwired behaviour since chimps do the same thing – after a conflict they physically touch more in an almost consoling way. The researchers also point out that this behaviour in sport might be way males tend to dominate in certain social practices. Could the act of making supportive physical contact after a confrontation help people get along?

Researchers have long been puzzled by the abilities of male chimpanzees, who constantly bicker and fight, to put aside their differences and co-operate and work together in struggles for territory with other groups.
Studies showed that male and female chimps acted differently in the aftermath of fights, with males much more inclined to engage in reconciliation behaviours.
Psychologists wondered if the same habits were true for humans – and decided to analyse high-level, same sex sporting competitions for these reconciliation traits.

But across the four sports observed, men spent significantly more time touching than females, in what the authors term “post-conflict affiliation”.
“What you’ll see is that many times females brush their fingers against each other,” said lead author Prof Joyce Benenson from Emmanuel College and Harvard University.

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Kindness Spreads Like a Disease

When we think of contagious things it usually in a negative context like a flu or other illness. The next time you here of something being contagious you can now have a positive association because kindness is contagious too.

New research is discovering that individuals who are around generous people can “catch” that attitude and become more kind themselves. It’s really inspiring research!

People in our studies didn’t even need to see others do anything in order to catch their kindness. In another follow-up, people read stories about the suffering of homeless individuals. After each story, they saw what they believed was the average level of empathy past participants had felt in response to its protagonist. Some people learned that their peers cared a great deal, and others learned they were pretty callous. At the end of the study, we gave participants a $1 bonus, and the opportunity to donate as much of it as they liked to a local homeless shelter. People who believed others had felt empathy for the homeless cared more themselves, and also donated twice as much as people who believed others had felt little empathy.
We still don’t fully understand the psychological forces that power kindness contagion. One possibility, supported by our own work, is that people value being on the same page with others. For instance, we’ve found that when individuals learn that their own opinions match those of a group, they engage brain regions associated with the experience of reward, and that this brain activity tracks their later efforts to line up with a group. As such, when people learn that others act kindly, they might come to value kindness more themselves.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Good Storytellers Tend to be Happier


Everybody likes a good story, but not everybody can tell a story well. If you are one of those people who are a good storyteller you might just be happier than other people. It turns out that good storytellers are happier and that male storytellers who can spin a good yarn are more attractive to females. Practice makes perfect so try telling stories to everybody!

It feels wonderful to tell someone your stories when you are first becoming intimate. Think of the people you have been in love with in your life. I bet that at least once early in your relationship you stayed up all night talking, telling stories that were revealing and illuminating. That deep communication is sexy.

Stories are profoundly intimate, says Kari Winter, a historian and literary critic at the University at Buffalo. “It is empowering to the teller because they get recognition from the listener. And it is empowering to the listener because it helps them understand the teller.”

Read more.