Commute by Bike to Decrease Your Stress

bike

Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab has found evidence to support what most commuter cyclists already know: riding a bike to work instead of driving a car lowers one’s stress. Not only are you improving your own mental health you’ll be consuming less gas and save a lot of money while getting physically fit.

There is no better day than today to start riding your bike to work.

“It’s particularly interesting to see that many people don’t transition back into the home after a long day of work very well. By biking to work we know that the physical nature of cycling and physical exertion will engender a more calm and focused state of mind. So while being good for us physically, we also see lots of psychological and emotional benefits.”

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Curiosity (and art) is Addictive

A new theory based on some old research is that our drive to figure things out can be as addictive as doing drugs. If you’ve ever had to deal with a complex problem and found the solution you know that particular feeling of success.

it turns out that our brains react to learning new things (which solve a problem we have) in a similar way we react to opiates.

Biederman hypothesized that knowledge addiction has strong evolutionary value because mate selection correlates closely with perceived intelligence. In other words, addictions and cravings might stem from this need for knowledge. Even more interesting is the relationship Biederman believes exists between this same mechanism and art.

Biederman’s theory was inspired by a widely ignored 25-year-old finding that mu-opioid receptors – binding sites for natural opiates – increase in density along the ventral visual pathway, a part of the brain involved in image recognition and processing. Viewing art and understanding the beauty behind actually activates the same areas in the brain as a drug-induced high.

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Rethinking Environmental Education Under Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism is the current way of thinking about the economic state of the world. It’s the thinking that has led to the financialization of nearly everything in the world – think about how we justify our thinking in economic terms and not other terms.

The critiques of the mind-numbing neoliberal approach to thinking are growing and the most recent issue Environmental Education Research examines how neoliberalism is changing how we teach. This is good because we need to move our way of thinking beyond an economics-only framework, the more we critique neoliberalism the better the world we can create.

“Environmental education is political,” said Hursh. “People do not fully comprehend the meaning of neoliberalism, but often overuse it to blame or explain current environmental conditions and issues. We need to talk about the nature of environmental education within the context of the dominant economic and political system of neoliberalism.”

The 13 articles in the new special issue of Environmental Education Research challenge readers to consider the many ways that environmental education has been shaped by and interacts with the logic of neoliberalism.

Hursh focuses his research and writing on educational policy, neoliberalism, and teaching environmental sustainability and social studies, as well as public dimensions of environmental education, with a particular emphasis on how it applies to the energy system and climate change dynamics. In his most recent writing, Hursh describes how neoliberalism undermines education and democracy. His next book, The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education, is scheduled to release summer 2015 by Routledge

Read Environmental Education Research.

Read the press release.

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A Competition and Journal Looking Into Philosophy and Games

Game Praxis

Games are a very popular cultural medium with a reputation for not being very “deep”. Game Praxis is a new project I’ve co-founded to encourage game makers and players to ask big questions through gameplay. It’s a game competition and a journal focused on philosophy and games.

The goal is simple: generate more interesting content about how games can be used to explore bigger questions. For the first run of Game Praxis pre-existing games can be submitted so if you’ve already made a game that you think should be considered you can do so.

The Game Praxis mission:

Should you choose to accept it? Marx observed philosophers have interpreted the world when the point is to change it. Much the same could be said for the game industry. We need to build more than better worlds, we need to build a better world. We see crunch, the precarious careers of late capital, and a troubled and troubling apprehension of gender in game and the game industry as symptoms of an underlying pathology of the spirit. In the game industry, the measure of success is money. With all due respect to our invocation of Marx, we aren’t against the production of surplus value but we believe there are more creative ways to evaluate games, game industries and our lives in game.

Check out Game Praxis!

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Travel For a Better Brain

I just booked a flight to London and coincidentally came across an article that says that our brains can benefit greatly from exploring the world. A good way to start the day!

It turns out that the ability of the brain to handle new information is connected to well-being and that travel can get your bring working in new ways. It is also beneficial to step out of your comfort zone, which travelling general encourages. So you should book that trip you’ve been thinking about!

In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally: that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change. In general, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, or how the brain is wired. Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they’re also sensitive to change: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.

“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel. Cognitive flexibility is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity. But it’s not just about being abroad, Galinsky says: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.” In other words, going to Cancun for a week on spring break probably won’t make a person any more creative. But going to Cancun and living with local fishermen might.

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