Babies can tell who has close relationships based on one clue: saliva

Sharing food and kissing are among the signals babies use to interpret their social world, according to a new study.

Learning to navigate social relationships is a skill that is critical for surviving in human societies. For babies and young children, that means learning who they can count on to take care of them.

MIT neuroscientists have now identified a specific signal that young children and even babies use to determine whether two people have a strong relationship and a mutual obligation to help each other: whether those two people kiss, share food, or have other interactions that involve sharing saliva.

In a new study, the researchers showed that babies expect people who share saliva to come to one another’s aid when one person is in distress, much more so than when people share toys or interact in other ways that do not involve saliva exchange. The findings suggest that babies can use these cues to try to figure out who around them is most likely to offer help, the researchers say.

“Babies don’t know in advance which relationships are the close and morally obligating ones, so they have to have some way of learning this by looking at what happens around them,” says Rebecca Saxe, the John W. Jarve Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines (CBMM), and the senior author of the new study.

MIT postdoc Ashley Thomas, who is also affiliated with the CBMM, is the lead author of the study, which appears today in Science. Brandon Woo, a Harvard University graduate student; Daniel Nettle, a professor of behavioral science at Newcastle University; and Elizabeth Spelke, a professor of psychology at Harvard and CBMM member, are also authors of the paper.

Sharing saliva

In human societies, people typically distinguish between “thick” and “thin” relationships. Thick relationships, usually found between family members, feature strong levels of attachment, obligation, and mutual responsiveness. Anthropologists have also observed that people in thick relationships are more willing to share bodily fluids such as saliva.

“That inspired both the question of whether infants distinguish between those types of relationships, and whether saliva sharing might be a really good cue they could use to recognize them,” Thomas says.

To study those questions, the researchers observed toddlers (16.5 to 18.5 months) and babies (8.5 to 10 months) as they watched interactions between human actors and puppets. In the first set of experiments, a puppet shared an orange with one actor, then tossed a ball back and forth with a different actor.

After the children watched these initial interactions, the researchers observed the children’s reactions when the puppet showed distress while sitting between the two actors. Based on an earlier study of nonhuman primates, the researchers hypothesized that babies would look first at the person whom they expected to help. That study showed that when baby monkeys cry, other members of the troop look to the baby’s parents, as if expecting them to step in.

The MIT team found that the children were more likely to look toward the actor who had shared food with the puppet, not the one who had shared a toy, when the puppet was in distress.

In a second set of experiments, designed to focus more specifically on saliva, the actor either placed her finger in her mouth and then into the mouth of the puppet, or placed her finger on her forehead and then onto the forehead of the puppet. Later, when the actor expressed distress while standing between the two puppets, children watching the video were more likely to look toward the puppet with whom she had shared saliva.

Social cues

The findings suggest that saliva sharing is likely an important cue that helps infants to learn about their own social relationships and those of people around them, the researchers say.

“The general skill of learning about social relationships is very useful,” Thomas says. “One reason why this distinction between thick and thin might be important for infants in particular, especially human infants, who depend on adults for longer than many other species, is that it might be a good way to figure out who else can provide the support that they depend on to survive.”

The researchers did their first set of studies shortly before Covid-19 lockdowns began, with babies who came to the lab with their families. Later experiments were done over Zoom. The results that the researchers saw were similar before and after the pandemic, confirming that pandemic-related hygiene concerns did not affect the outcome.

“We actually know the results would have been similar if it hadn’t been for the pandemic,” Saxe says. “You might wonder, did kids start to think very differently about sharing saliva when suddenly everybody was talking about hygiene all the time? So, for that question, it’s very useful that we had an initial data set collected before the pandemic.”

Doing the second set of studies on Zoom also allowed the researchers to recruit a much more diverse group of children because the subjects were not limited to families who could come to the lab in Cambridge during normal working hours.

In future work, the researchers hope to perform similar studies with infants in cultures that have different types of family structures. In adult subjects, they plan to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study what parts of the brain are involved in making saliva-based assessments about social relationships.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health; the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation; the Guggenheim Foundation; a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship; MIT’s Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines; and the Siegel Foundation.

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Does Information Carry Mass?

If information carries mass, could it be the dark matter physicists are craving?

The existence of dark energy and dark matter was inferred in order to correctly predict the expansion of the universe and the rotational velocity of galaxies. In this view, dark energy could be the source of the centrifugal force expanding the universe (it is what accounts for the Hubble constant in the leading theories), while dark matter could be the centripetal force (an additional gravity source) necessary to stabilize galaxies and clusters of galaxies, since there isn’t enough ordinary mass to keep them together. Among other hypotheses, dark energy and dark matter are believed to be related to the vacuum fluctuations, and huge efforts have been devoted to detecting it. The fact that no evidence has yet been found calls for a change of perspective that could be due to information theory.

How could we measure the mass of information?
Dr. Melvin Vopson, of the University of Portsmouth, has a hypothesis he calls the mass-energy-information equivalence. It extends the already existing information-energy equivalence by proposing information has mass. Initial works on Shannon’s classical information theory, its applications to quantum mechanics by Dr. Wheeler, and Landauer’s principle predicting that erasing one bit of information would release a tiny amount of heat, connect information to energy. Therefore, through Einstein’s equivalence between mass and energy, information – once created – has mass. The figure below depicts the extended equivalence principle.

In order to find the mass of digital information, one would start with an empty data storage device, measuring its total mass with a highly sensitive device. Once the information is recorded in the device, its mass is measured again. The next step is to erase one file and measure again. The limiting step is the fact that such an ultra-sensitive device doesn’t exist yet. In his paper published in the journal AIP Advances, Vopson proposes that this device could be in the form of an interferometer similar to LIGO, or a weighing machine like a Kibble balance. In the same paper, Vopson describes the mathematical basis for the mechanism and physics by which information acquires mass, and formulates this powerful principle, proposing a possible experiment to test it.

In regard to dark matter, Vopson says that his estimate of the ‘information bit content’ of the universe is very close to the number of bits of information that the visible universe would contain to make up all the missing dark matter, as estimated by M.P. Gough and published in 2008,.

This idea is synchronistic with the recent discovery that sound carries mass (, i.e., phonons are massive.

Vopson is applying for a grant in order to design and build the measurement device and perform the experiments. We are so looking forward to his results!

RSF in perspective

Both dark matter and dark energy have been inferred as a consequence of neglecting spin in the structure of space-time. In the frame of the Generalized Holographic approach, spin is the natural source of centrifugal and centripetal force that emerges from the gradient density across scales, just as a hurricane emerges due to pressure and temperature gradients. The vacuum energy of empty space – the classical or cosmological vacuum – has been estimated to be 10−9 joules per cubic meter. However, vacuum energy density at quantum scale is 10113joules per cubic meter. Such a discrepancy of 122 orders of magnitude difference in vacuum densities between micro and cosmological scales is known as the vacuum catastrophe. This extremely large density gradient in the Planck field originates spin at all scales.

Additionally, the holographic model explains mass as an emergent property of an information transfer potential between the information-energy stored in a confined volume and the information-energy in the surface or boundary of that volume, with respect to the size or volume of a bit of information. Each bit of information-energy voxelating the surface and volume is spinning at an extremely fast speed. Space is composed of these voxels, named Planck Spherical Units (PSU), which are a quanta of action. The expressed or unfolded portion of the whole information is what we call mass. For more details on how the holographic approach explains dark mass and dark energy, please see our RSF article on the Vacuum Catastrophe (

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A unique brain signal may be the key to human intelligence

Though progress is being made, our brains remain organs of many mysteries. Among these are the exact workings of neurons, with some 86 billion of them in the human brain. Neurons are interconnected in complicated, labyrinthine networks across which they exchange information in the form of electrical signals. We know that signals exit an individual neuron through a fiber called an axon, and also that signals are received by each neuron through input fibers called dendrites.

Understanding the electrical capabilities of dendrites in particular — which, after all, may be receiving signals from countless other neurons at any given moment — is fundamental to deciphering neurons’ communication. It may surprise you to learn, though, that much of everything we assume about human neurons is based on observations made of rodent dendrites — there’s just not a lot of fresh, still-functional human brain tissue available for thorough examination.

For a new study published January 3 in the journal Science, however, scientists got a rare chance to explore some neurons from the outer layer of human brains, and they discovered startling dendrite behaviors that may be unique to humans, and may even help explain how our billions of neurons process the massive amount of information they exchange.


Electrical signals weaken with distance, and that poses a riddle to those seeking to understand the human brain: Human dendrites are known to be about twice as long as rodent dendrites, which means that a signal traversing a human dendrite could be much weaker arriving at its destination than one traveling a rodent’s much shorter dendrite. Says paper co-author biologist Matthew Larkum of Humboldt University in Berlin speaking to LiveScience, “If there was no change in the electrical properties between rodents and people, then that would mean that, in the humans, the same synaptic inputs would be quite a bit less powerful.” Chalk up another strike against the value of animal-based human research. The only way this would not be true is if the signals being exchanged in our brains are not the same as those in a rodent. This is exactly what the study’s authors found.

The researchers worked with brain tissue sliced for therapeutic reasons from the brains of tumor and epilepsy patients. Neurons were resected from the disproportionately thick layers 2 and 3 of the cerebral cortex, a feature special to humans. In these layers reside incredibly dense neuronal networks.

Without blood-borne oxygen, though, such cells only last only for about two days, so Larkum’s lab had no choice but to work around the clock during that period to get the most information from the samples. “You get the tissue very infrequently, so you’ve just got to work with what’s in front of you,” says Larkum. The team made holes in dendrites into which they could insert glass pipettes. Through these, they sent ions to stimulate the dendrites, allowing the scientists to observe their electrical behavior.

In rodents, two type of electrical spikes have been observed in dendrites: a short, one-millisecond spike with the introduction of sodium, and spikes that last 50- to 100-times longer in response to calcium.

In the human dendrites, one type of behavior was observed: super-short spikes occurring in rapid succession, one after the other. This suggests to the researchers that human neurons are “distinctly more excitable ” than rodent neurons, allowing them to successfully traverse our longer dendrites.

In addition, the human neuronal spikes — though they behaved somewhat like rodent spikes prompted by the introduction of sodium — were found to be generated by calcium, essentially the opposite of rodents.


The study also reports a second major finding. Looking to better understand how the brain utilizes these spikes, the team programmed computer models based on their findings. (The brains slices they’d examined could not, of course, be put back together and switched on somehow.)

The scientists constructed virtual neuronal networks, each of whose neurons could could be stimulated at thousands of points along its dendrites, to see how each handled so many input signals. Previous, non-human, research has suggested that neurons add these inputs together, holding onto them until the number of excitatory input signals exceeds the number of inhibitory signals, at which point the neuron fires the sum of them from its axon out into the network.

However, this isn’t what Larkum’s team observed in their model. Neurons’ output was inverse to their inputs: The more excitatory signals they received, the less likely they were to fire off. Each had a seeming “sweet spot” when it came to input strength.

What the researchers believe is going on is that dendrites and neurons may be smarter than previously suspected, processing input information as it arrives. Mayank Mehta of UC Los Angeles, who’s not involved in the research, tells LiveScience, “It doesn’t look that the cell is just adding things up — it’s also throwing things away.” This could mean each neuron is assessing the value of each signal to the network and discarding “noise.” It may also be that different neurons are optimized for different signals and thus tasks.

Much in the way that octopuses distribute decision-making across a decentralized nervous system, the implication of the new research is that, at least in humans, it’s not just the neuronal network that’s smart, it’s all of the individual neurons it contains. This would constitute exactly the kind of computational super-charging one would hope to find somewhere in the amazing human brain.

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Quantum entanglement realized between distant large objects

Light propagates through the atomic cloud shown in the center and then falls onto the SiN membrane shown on the left. As a result of interaction with light the precession of atomic spins and vibration of the membrane become quantum correlated. This is the essence of entanglement between the atoms and the membrane. Credit: Niels Bohr Institute

A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute has successfully entangled two very distinct quantum particles. The findings, which were reported in Nature Physics, have various possible applications in ultra-precise sensing and quantum communication.

Quantum communication and quantum sensing are both based on entanglement. It’s a quantum link between two items that allows them to act as if they’re one quantum object.

Researchers were able to create entanglement between a mechanical oscillator—a vibrating dielectric membrane—and a cloud of atoms, each serving as a small magnet, or «spin,» according to physicists. By joining these disparate entities with photons, or light particles, they were able to entangle. The membrane—or mechanical quantum systems in general—can be used to process quantum information, and the membrane—or mechanical quantum systems in general—can be used to store quantum information.

Professor Eugene Polzik, the project’s leader, says: «We’re on our way to pushing the boundaries of entanglement’s capabilities with this new technique. The larger the objects, the further away they are, and the more different they are, the more intriguing entanglement becomes from both a basic and an applied standpoint. Entanglement between highly diverse things is now conceivable thanks to the new result.»

Imagine the position of the vibrating membrane and the tilt of the total spin of all atoms, similar to a spinning top, to explain entanglement using the example of spins entangled with a mechanical membrane. A correlation occurs when both items move randomly yet are observed travelling right or left at the same moment. The so-called zero-point motion—the residual, uncorrelated motion of all matter that occurs even at absolute zero temperature—is generally the limit of such correlated motion. This limits our understanding of any of the systems.

Eugene Polzik’s team entangled the systems in their experiment, which means they moved in a correlated way with more precision than zero-point motion. «Quantum mechanics is a double-edged sword—it gives us amazing new technology, but it also restricts the precision of measurements that would appear simple from a classical standpoint,» explains Micha Parniak, a team member. Even if they are separated by a large distance, entangled systems can maintain perfect correlation, a fact that has perplexed academics since quantum physics’ inception more than a century ago.

Christoffer stfeldt, a Ph.D. student, elaborates: «Consider the many methods for manifesting quantum states as a zoo of diverse realities or circumstances, each with its own set of features and potentials. If, for example, we want to construct a gadget that can take advantage of the many attributes they all have and perform different functions and accomplish different tasks, we’ll need to invent a language that they can all understand. For us to fully utilise the device’s capabilities, the quantum states must be able to communicate. This entanglement of two zoo elements has demonstrated what we are presently capable of.»

Quantum sensing is an example of distinct perspectives on entangling different quantum things. Different objects have different levels of sensitivity to external pressures. Mechanical oscillators, for example, are employed in accelerometers and force sensors, while atomic spins are used in magnetometers. Entanglement permits only one of the two entangled objects to be measured with a sensitivity not restricted by the object’s zero-point fluctuations when only one of the two is subject to external perturbation.

The approach has the potential to be used in sensing for both small and large oscillators in the near future. The first detection of gravity waves, performed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, was one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in recent years (LIGO). LIGO detects and monitors extremely faint waves produced by deep-space astronomical events such as black hole mergers and neutron star mergers. The waves can be seen because they shake the interferometer’s mirrors. However, quantum physics limits LIGO’s sensitivity since the laser interferometer’s mirrors are likewise disturbed by zero-point fluctuations. These variations produce noise, which makes it impossible to see the tiny movements of the mirrors induced by gravitational waves.

It is theoretically possible to entangle the LIGO mirrors with an atomic cloud and so cancel the reflectors’ zero-point noise in the same manner that the membrane noise is cancelled in the current experiment. Due to their entanglement, the mirrors and atomic spins have a perfect correlation that can be used in such sensors to almost eliminate uncertainty. It’s as simple as taking data from one system and applying what you’ve learned to the other. In this method, one may simultaneously learn about the position and momentum of LIGO’s mirrors, entering a so-called quantum-mechanics-free subspace and moving closer to unlimited precision in motion measurements. A model experiment demonstrating this principle is on the way at Eugene Polzik’s laboratory.

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5 meta-skills to supercharge every aspect of your life

Being a specialist used to be the way forward, but the future belongs to people who can adapt to any given scenario on a dime.

It used to be the case that learning a particular trade or skill meant you could land a reliable career. These days, however, constant learning is both expected and required to stay afloat. Rather than developing competency in, say, analysis or communication, modern life demands that we become more agile and able to shift on a dime towards the particular skills that challenges require.

That is why cultivating meta-skills is so important. Meta-skills are broad capabilities that help you to develop other skills and can be applied across a wide variety of domains. As more jobs become automated, possessing these skills will be more important than ever. 

Author Marty Neumeier makes the case for investing in five particular meta-skills in his book, Meta-skills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age: Feeling, Seeing, Dreaming, Making, and Learning.


Just because the future of work lies in automation doesn’t mean that the human element will be taken out of the equation. Social intelligence is going to be an even more important skill than before — with technology outperforming our more analytical talents, individuals with more empathy and other uniquely human gifts are going to bring the most value to the table.

Feeling doesn’t just refer to interpersonal skills; it also covers qualities like intuition, or the ability to arrive at a conclusion without relying on conscious reasoning. The human mind wasn’t designed to do rigorous calculations. It was, however, designed to use heuristics to quickly arrive at likely solutions that serve us well enough most of the time. Learning to lean on this skill more will help you work with others and save time and effort when developing solutions.


Computers are fantastic are addressing individual problems, but they don’t do so well at addressing the big picture. This meta-skill captures humanity’s ability to strategize, to understand how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, and to escape biases.

It’s certainly easier to simplify things done to dichotomies, but the real world is complicated and multi-dimensional. Becoming better at seeing things isn’t quite so easy and can challenge your beliefs, but doing so provides a more accurate representation of the world. In turn, seeing better provides better information to act on when navigating the modern world.


Innovation, creativity, generative talent — these skills will always be in high demand. Once rigorous, linear work is outsourced to machines, the less precise and more fanciful talents of the human mind will become the primary characteristic that employers look for.

The antithesis of this meta-skill is the idea that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s true that being original and trying to innovate carries risk. Your innovation might fail, or it might make things worse, but nothing is going to be improved without taking that risk on. Settling for tried-and-true solutions also means settling for mediocrity.


Neumeier characterizes this meta-skill as primarily being related to design and design thinking. “Design thinking is a generative approach to solving problems,” he says. “In other words, you create answers, you don’t find answers.”

Making overlaps with dreaming to a certain extent, but its key distinction lies in the prototyping and testing of generated solutions. Rather than seeking safety and assurance in pre-existing answers, talented makers are unafraid of the messy process of producing an original solution. It’s this ability to navigate uncertain scenarios and tolerate ambiguity that makes this such a valuable and powerful meta-skill.


Neumeier describes this as the “opposable thumb” of meta-skills. Learning how to learn enables you to improve every skill in your life. Gone are the days when a 4-year degree was all you needed to excel in the world. Nowadays, constant learning is a fact of life. This doesn’t have to be laborious — not only does learning lead to greater value, but learning itself can be an intrinsically rewarding activity.

Becoming better at this skill doesn’t mean that you have to learn a subject like mathematics, for example, if you hate it. Rather, talented learners find the subjects that bring them joy and dive into them. Doing this regularly will make you more curious and hungry to learn about other topics that you may not have cared for originally.

These five meta-skills inform nearly every talent and capacity that we exercise in our daily lives. Moreover, they aren’t going to be automated anytime soon. As rapidly as technology is advancing, it’s still a far cry from the curious abilities that millions of years of evolution have gifted us with. Taking advantage of these natural and uniquely human skills is the best way to stay relevant in the changing world.

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Can humans travel through wormholes in space?

Two new studies examine ways we could engineer human wormhole travel.

Imagine if we could cut paths through the vastness of space to make a network of tunnels linking distant stars somewhat like subway stations here on Earth? The tunnels are what physicists call wormholes, strange funnel-like folds in the very fabric of spacetime that would be—if they exist—major shortcuts for interstellar travel. You can visualize it in two dimensions like this: Take a piece of paper and bend it in the middle so that it makes a U shape. If an imaginary flat little bug wants to go from one side to the other, it needs to slide along the paper. Or, if there were a bridge between the two sides of the paper the bug could go straight between them, a much shorter path. Since we live in three dimensions, the entrances to the wormholes would be more like spheres than holes, connected by a four-dimensional “tube.” It’s much easier to write the equations than to visualize this! Amazingly, because the theory of general relativity links space and time into a four-dimensional spacetime, wormholes could, in principle, connect distant points in space, or in time, or both.

The idea of wormholes is not new. Its origins reach back to 1935 (and even earlier), when Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen published a paper constructing what became known as an Einstein-Rosen bridge. (The name ‘wormhole’ came up later, in a 1957 paper by Charles Misner and John Wheeler, Wheeler also being the one who coined the term ‘black hole.’) Basically, an Einstein-Rosen bridge is a connection between two distant points of the universe or possibly even different universes through a tunnel that goes into a black hole. Exciting as the possibility is, the throats of such bridges are notoriously unstable and any object with mass that ventures through it would cause it to collapse upon itself almost immediately, closing the connection. To force the wormholes to stay open, one would need to add a kind of exotic matter that has both negative energy density and pressure—not something that is known in the universe. (Interestingly, negative pressure is not as crazy as it seems; dark energy, the fuel that is currently accelerating the cosmic expansion, does it exactly because it has negative pressure. But negative energy density is a whole other story.)

If wormholes exist, if they have wide mouths, and if they can be kept open (three big but not impossible ifs) then it’s conceivable that we could travel through them to faraway spots in the universe. Arthur C. Clarke used them in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, where the alien intelligences had constructed a network of intersecting tunnels they used as we use the subway. Carl Sagan used them in “Contact” so that humans could confirm the existence of intelligent ETs. “Interstellar” uses them so that we can try to find another home for our species.

If wormholes exist, if they have wide mouths, and if they can be kept open (three big but not impossible ifs) then it’s conceivable that we could travel through them to faraway spots in the universe.

Two recent papers try to get around some of these issues. Jose Luis Blázquez-Salcedo, Christian Knoll, and Eugen Radu use normal matter with electric charge to stabilize the wormhole, but the resulting throat is still of submicroscopic width, so not useful for human travel. It is also hard to justify net electric charges in black hole solutions as they tend to get neutralized by surrounding matter, similar to how we get shocked with static electricity in dry weather. Juan Maldacena and Alexey Milekhin’s paper is titled ‘Humanly Traversable Wormholes’, thus raising the stakes right off the bat. However, they are open to admitting that “in this paper, we revisit the question [of humanly traversable wormholes] and we engage in some ‘science fiction.’” The first ingredient is the existence of some kind of matter (the “dark sector”) that only interacts with normal matter (stars, us, frogs) through gravity. Another point is that to support the passage of human-size travelers, the model needs to exist in five dimensions, thus one extra space dimension. When all is set up, the wormhole connects two black holes with a magnetic field running through it. And the whole thing needs to spin to keep it stable, and completely isolated from particles that may fall into it compromising its design. Oh yes, and extremely low temperature as well, even better at absolute zero, an unattainable limit in practice.

Maldacena and Milekhins’ paper is an amazing tour through the power of speculative theoretical physics. They are the first to admit that the object they construct is very implausible and have no idea how it could be formed in nature. In their defense, pushing the limits (or beyond the limits) of understanding is what we need to expand the frontiers of knowledge. For those who dream of humanly traversable wormholes, let’s hope that more realistic solutions would become viable in the future, even if not the near future. Or maybe aliens that have built them will tell us how.

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Have Imposter Syndrome At Work? Try This Viral Hack.

No, you’re not a fraud. You’re perfectly capable and qualified. Do this, and you’ll be reminded of that whenever you need a little confidence boost.

Have imposter syndrome or a tendency to downplay your talents at work? It’s time for you to make a brag folder on your desktop.

The idea went viral last month when the popular Instagram account @shityoushouldcareabout shared a tweet from actress and singer Jenneviere Villegas explaining what exactly a brag folder is.

“Do yourself a favor,” Villegas told her followers. “Start a folder on your desktop — mine is called ‘you’re doing a great job’ ― and when you get positive feedback, a compliment, etc., screenshot it and put it in there. When you need a confidence boost, or to combat imposter syndrome, open it up and read them.”

Others chimed in that they kept brag folders with all their work wins, too, either on their desktops or on their phones.

Ian Helms, an associate director of content marketing at Wpromote, has a brag folder, though in his case, it’s an email folder labeled “Yay!” (He tries to flag at least three to five emails each month.) Anytime he’s feeling a little uncertain about how he’s doing at work, he returns to the folder. 

“Sometimes the emails I flag are nice notes of gratitude from clients or teammates,” he told HuffPost. “Other times, it’s messages marking milestones for projects I’m involved in. We also receive a weekly video from our CEO that includes shoutouts from coworkers, so whenever I get a shoutout I keep track of those video messages, too.”

Now that Helms is in a higher position at work, he’s expanded his “yay!” folder to keep track of the impact he’s made on the junior teammates he mentors and to catalog their wins. 

“Keeping track of those moments gives me something to refer back to the next time they might be feeling down about something they did or didn’t do to remind them how great and worthy they are, too!” he said. 

The term “imposter syndrome” was coined by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978 to describe an “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the tiny voice in your head that hounds you with negative self-talk, constantly reminding you that you’re not good enough and don’t deserve to be in the position or field you’re in.

Creating a brag folder like Helms or Villegas have done won’t cure you of your imposter syndrome for good, obviously, but it could help combat it, said Angela Karachristos, a career coach for women in leadership. 

“When dealing with imposter syndrome, the ‘imposter’ likes to remind us why we aren’t capable, qualified or fit for the task at hand,” she told HuffPost. “Referring to a brag folder can snap you out of that false, negative self-talk and bring you back to the truth: That you’re not only capable, you excel at what you do. ”

Melody Wilding, an executive coach and author of “Trust Yourself: Stop Overthinking and Channel Your Emotions for Success at Work,” is also a big proponent of the brag file.

“If you have imposter syndrome, a brag file like this is a simple way to rewire your brain to focus on your talents, strengths and all the value you have to offer,” she said.

Try to use the folder to give yourself internal validation, too, she said. 

“For example, capture moments of strength ― times when you had a difficult conversation, overcame resistance or acted with courage at work, even if you didn’t get the outcome you hoped for,” she explained.

Vivian Kaye, a public speaker and the founder of KinkyCurlyYaki, a hair extension brand for Black women, swears her brag folder.

“I’ve had major imposter syndrome,” she told HuffPost. “I’m a Black woman, immigrant, a college dropout and a single mom who bootstrapped an e-commerce business to millions of dollars in sales. When you look up success, you wouldn’t find a photo of someone with my unconventional background.”

When her imposter syndrome starts to creep in, Kaye taps on the “praise folder” she keeps on her iPhone.

“I think as women, we need to pat ourselves on the back more often than we do,” she said. “We deserve the accolades. We need to stop humbling ourselves and remind the world who we are.”

You can also use the emails and other feedback in your folder to make the case for promotions, write your year-end reviews, or to think about what you’ll bring up in any interviews for new jobs.

In other words, try to leverage your personal wins folder for your career growth, said Nadia De Ala, the founder of Real You Leadership, a group coaching program for women of color in technology.

“It’s valid data that can help you relax if you’re nervous about ‘bragging’ about how awesome and badass you are,” she said. “It makes advocating for yourself feel less difficult and less personal.”

The One Downside Of The ‘Brag File’

There’s one caveat with the brag folder, according to Valerie Young, an imposter syndrome expert and the author of “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women”: You don’t want to become too dependent on positive feedback and compliments.

“For instance, a young woman told me after sending an email she waits to receive some kind of praise or reinforcement that she’d doing a good job,” Young recalled. “I was pretty blunt in telling her that’s a problem because people are busy and they don’t always have time to praise your every move.”

Look at the folder like a visual equivalent of a pep talk, Young said. But to really move the impostor syndrome needle in any lasting way, you may want to create a separate folder for constructive criticism ― one that houses feedback that helped you see your blind spots and refine your skill set.

“Rather than just focus on the things you’ve done well, also include things you’d do differently next time and improvements,” she said. “Gather constructive criticism that you’re grateful for because it made you better.”

This whole process ― creating a brag file and perhaps also creating a constructive criticism file ― takes effort, but ultimately, isn’t it worth it for the confidence boost?

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A engenhosa solução dos antigos persas para ‘capturar o vento’ e se refrescar no calor escaldante

Do Antigo Egito ao Império Persa, um método engenhoso de capturar e dirigir o vento refrescou as pessoas por milênios. Na busca por refrigeração livre de emissões, o «captador de vento» pode vir nos ajudar novamente.

A cidade de Yazd, no deserto do centro do Irã, é, há muito tempo, um centro de criatividade. Yazd é o berço de uma das maravilhas da engenharia antiga — um sistema que inclui uma estrutura de refrigeração subterrânea chamada yakhchal, um sistema de irrigação subterrâneo chamado qanats e até uma rede de mensageiros chamada pirradazis, criado mais de 2.000 anos antes do serviço postal americano. 

Dentre as tecnologias antigas de Yazd, encontra-se o captador de vento, ou bâdgir, em persa. 

Essas estruturas notáveis são comumente encontradas elevando-se sobre os telhados de Yazd. Muitas vezes, são torres retangulares, mas elas também existem em formato circular, quadrado, octogonal e em outros formatos ornamentados.

Afirma-se que Yazd é a cidade com mais captadores de vento do mundo. Eles podem ter se originado no Antigo Egito, mas, em Yazd, o captador de vento logo se mostrou indispensável, possibilitando a vida naquela parte quente e árida do planalto iraniano.

Embora muitos dos captadores de vento da cidade do deserto tenham caído em desuso, suas estruturas estão agora chamando a atenção de acadêmicos, arquitetos e engenheiros, a fim de estudar o papel que eles poderiam desempenhar para nos manter refrigerados em um mundo em rápido aquecimento.

Como os captadores de vento não precisam de eletricidade para funcionar, eles são uma forma de resfriamento verde e barata. Com o ar condicionado mecânico convencional já representando um quinto do consumo total de eletricidade do mundo, alternativas antigas como o captador de vento estão se tornando uma opção cada vez mais atraente.

Existem duas forças principais que dirigem o ar através das estruturas: a entrada do vento e a mudança da impulsão do ar dependendo da temperatura — o ar quente tende a subir sobre o ar frio, que é mais denso.

Primeiramente, quando o ar é captado pela abertura de um captador de vento, ele é canalizado para baixo até a construção, depositando eventuais fragmentos ou areia no pé da torre. O ar então flui ao longo de toda a parte interna da construção, às vezes sobre piscinas subterrâneas com água para melhor resfriamento. Por fim, o ar aquecido se elevará e deixará a construção através de outra torre ou abertura, com o auxílio da pressão no interior da construção.

A forma da torre e outros fatores — como o projeto da casa, a direção para onde a torre está voltada, a quantidade de aberturas, sua configuração de pás internas fixas, canais e altura — são todas adequadamente definidas para aumentar a capacidade da torre de canalizar vento para baixo, até o interior da construção.

A história do uso do vento para resfriar construções começou quase ao mesmo tempo em que as pessoas começaram a viver no ambiente quente dos desertos.

Uma das primeiras tecnologias de captura do vento data de 3.300 anos atrás, no Egito, segundo os pesquisadores Chris Soelberg e Julie Rich, da Universidade Estadual Weber em Utah, nos Estados Unidos. Nesse sistema, as construções tinham paredes espessas, poucas janelas voltadas para o sol, aberturas para entrada de ar na principal direção dos ventos e uma ventilação de saída do outro lado — conhecida em árabe como arquitetura malqaf.

Mas há quem defenda que o captador de vento foi inventado no próprio Irã.

De qualquer forma, os captadores de vento se espalharam pelo Oriente Médio e pelo norte da África. Variações dos captadores de vento iranianos podem ser encontradas com nomes locais, como os barjeels do Catar e do Bahrein, os malqaf do Egito, os mungh do Paquistão e muitos outros, segundo Fatemeh Jomehzadeh, da Universidade de Tecnologia da Malásia, e seus colegas.

Acredita-se que a civilização persa tenha adicionado variações estruturais para permitir melhor resfriamento, como a sua combinação com os sistemas de irrigação existentes para ajudar a resfriar o ar antes da sua liberação por toda a casa.

No clima quente e seco de Yazd, essas estruturas se tornaram cada vez mais populares, até que a cidade se tornou um oásis de altas torres ornamentadas em busca do vento do deserto. Yazd é uma cidade histórica que foi reconhecida como Patrimônio Mundial da Unesco em 2017 — em parte, pela sua grande quantidade de captadores de vento.

Além de desempenhar o propósito funcional de resfriar as casas, as torres também tinham forte importância cultural. Os captadores de vento fazem parte da paisagem de Yazd, da mesma forma que o Templo do Fogo de Zoroastro e a Torre do Silêncio.

E há também o captador de vento do Jardim de Dowlat Abad, que se acredita ser o mais alto do mundo (com 33 metros de altura) e um dos poucos ainda em funcionamento. Abrigado em uma construção octogonal, ele fica de frente para uma fonte e um lago que se estende ao longo de fileiras de pinheiros.

Possível renascimento?

Com a eficácia do resfriamento fornecido por esses captadores de vento livres da emissão de gases, alguns pesquisadores argumentam que eles merecem ressurgir. 

O pesquisador Parkham Kheirkhah Sangdeh estudou minuciosamente a aplicação científica e a cultura local dos captadores de vento na arquitetura contemporânea na Universidade de Ilam, no Irã. Ele afirma que inconvenientes como insetos que ingressam nas calhas e o acúmulo de poeira e fragmentos do deserto fizeram com que muitas pessoas abandonassem os captadores de vento tradicionais. 

No seu lugar, são utilizados sistemas de resfriamento mecânicos, como unidades convencionais de ar condicionado. Muitas vezes, esses sistemas alternativos são alimentados por combustíveis fósseis e usam refrigerantes que agem como poderosos gases do efeito estufa quando liberados para a atmosfera.

Há muito tempo, o advento das modernas tecnologias de resfriamento é culpada pela deterioração dos métodos tradicionais no Irã, segundo a historiadora da arquitetura iraniana Elizabeth Beazley escreveu em 1977.

Sem manutenção constante, o clima hostil do planalto iraniano desgastou muitas estruturas, desde captadores de vento até casas de armazenamento de gelo. Kheirkhah Sangdeh também observa que o abandono dos captadores de vento se deveu, em parte, à tendência do público de adotar tecnologias vindas do Ocidente. 

«É preciso que haja mudanças de perspectiva cultural para usar essas tecnologias. As pessoas precisam observar o passado e entender por que a conservação de energia é tão importante», afirma o pesquisador, «a começar pelo reconhecimento da história cultural e da importância da conservação de energia».

Kheirkhah Sangdeh espera que os captadores de vento do Irã sejam reformados para oferecer resfriamento com uso eficiente de energia às construções existentes. Mas ele encontra muitas barreiras para esse trabalho, como as tensões internacionais existentes, a pandemia de covid-19 e a atual falta de água. «A situação está tão ruim no Irã que [as pessoas] levam um dia de cada vez», afirma ele.

Métodos e sistemas de resfriamento que não utilizam combustíveis fósseis, como os captadores de vento, poderão muito bem merecer seu ressurgimento, mas, para surpresa de muitos, eles já estão presentes — embora não sejam tão grandiosos como os iranianos — em muitos países ocidentais.

No Reino Unido, cerca de 7.000 variações de captadores de vento já foram instaladas em edifícios públicos entre 1979 e 1994. Eles podem ser vistos em construções como o Hospital Real de Chelsea, em Londres, e em supermercados de Manchester. 

Esses captadores de vento modernos lembram pouco as estruturas iranianas em forma de torre. Em um edifício de três andares em uma rua movimentada no norte de Londres, pequenas torres de ventilação pintadas de rosa-choque oferecem ventilação passiva. No alto de um shopping center em Dartford, também no Reino Unido, torres de ventilação cônicas giram para capturar a brisa com o auxílio de uma asa traseira que mantém a torre voltada para a direção do vento. 

Os Estados Unidos também adotaram projetos inspirados nos captadores de vento com entusiasmo. Um desses exemplos é o centro de visitantes do Parque Nacional de Zion, no sul de Utah. 

O parque fica em um alto planalto desértico, com clima e topografia comparáveis com a região de Yazd, e o uso de tecnologias de resfriamento passivo como o captador de vento eliminou quase por completo a necessidade de ar condicionado mecânico. Os cientistas registraram diferença de temperatura de 16°C entre o lado externo e o interior do centro de visitantes, apesar das muitas pessoas que passam regularmente pelo local. 

À medida que se aprofunda a busca de soluções sustentáveis para o aquecimento global, surgem mais oportunidades que favorecem a construção de captadores de vento. Em Palermo, na Itália, pesquisadores descobriram que o clima e as condições de vento existentes fazem da cidade um local propício para uma versão do captador de vento iraniano. 

Em outubro, o captador de vento foi exposto com destaque na feira Expo Dubai, nos Emirados Árabes Unidos, como parte de uma rede de construções cônicas no pavilhão da Áustria. Para sua idealização, a empresa de arquitetura austríaca Querkraft inspirou-se no barjeel — a versão árabe do captador de vento. 

Enquanto pesquisadores como Kheirkhah Sangdeh argumentam que o captador de vento tem muito mais a oferecer para o resfriamento de casas sem o uso de combustíveis fósseis, essa engenhosa tecnologia já migrou para outras partes do mundo — mais do que se pode imaginar. Na próxima vez que você encontrar uma torre de ventilação alta no topo de um supermercado, edifício ou escola, examine com cuidado. Você pode estar olhando para o legado dos magníficos captadores de vento do Irã.

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’Zuckerbergism’: Why the young founder myth is a trap for entrepreneurs

A recent study challenges the conventional thinking that says only young people can dream up successful new businesses.

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There’s no shortage of stories about young, hyper-successful entrepreneurs. From the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 lists to films like “The Social Network”, these stories offer an alluring blueprint for early success: dream huge, work hard, and soon enough you too can get filthy, tech-titan rich.

You’re less likely to hear the more common story: a young entrepreneur starts a new business, accrues debt, runs out of luck, gets demoralized and then, reluctantly, takes on a regular job. What explains the frequency of these crash-and-burn stories? It seems the problem doesn’t lie in the pursuit of entrepreneurism, but rather in the age at which entrepreneurs start launching businesses.


That’s the takeaway of a recent study that found the mean age for the 1-in-1,000 fastest growing new ventures to be 45 years. This finding held true across “high-technology sectors, entrepreneurial hubs, and successful firm exits.” So, although conventional thinking tends to paint the young generation as uniquely creative innovators and (sorry in advance) Big Thinkers, it seems that older generations are more likely to possess traits that facilitate entrepreneurial success.

“We find that age indeed predicts success, and sharply, but in the opposite way that many propose,” the researchers wrote. “The highest success rates in entrepreneurship come from founders in middle age and beyond.”

The basic idea behind this age-success relationship is that people tend to accumulate skills, resources and experience with age. However, the findings did reveal some caveats:

“Overall, we see that younger founders appear strongly disadvantaged in their tendency to produce the highest-growth companies. That said, there is a hint of some interesting age thresholds and plateaus in the data. Below age 25, founders appear to do badly (or rather, do well extremely rarely), but there is a sharp increase in performance at age 25. Between ages 25 and 35, performance seems fairly flat. However, starting after age 35 we see increased success probabilities, now outpacing the 25-year-olds. Another large surge in performance comes at age 46 and is sustained toward age 60.”


So, what’s the lesson for young, prospective entrepreneurs? It’s not to stop dreaming big. But maybe it’s wise to start dreaming more strategically — to broaden the definition of entrepreneurism to include more low-cost, low-risk paths, like carving out entrepreneurial opportunities within your current job. That way, you can accumulate more of the experience and skills that’ll help to fortify your entrepreneurial pursuit when the time comes.

The findings on age and success also imply that young entrepreneurs shouldn’t fall into the trap of comparing themselves to the outlier young-success stories — the Zuckerbergs, Musks and Gates’ of the world.

“We should stop lying to young people about commerce and tell the truth that business is hard,” Jeffrey A. Tucker wrote in an article for the American Institute for Economic Research.“Work is hard. Saving money is hard. Serving customers is hard. For some people, just showing up is hard. These are all learned skills. The fun comes once you master them.”

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Hidden philosophy of the Pythagorean theorem

In Plato’s dialogue, the Timaeus, we are presented with the theory that the cosmos is constructed out of right triangles.

This proposal Timaeus makes after reminding his audience [49Bff] that earlier theories that posited “water” (proposed by Thales), or “air” (proposed by Anaximenes), or “fire” (proposed by Heraclitus) as the original stuff from which the whole cosmos was created ran into an objection: if our world is full of these divergent appearances, how could we identify any one of these candidates as the basic stuff? For if there is fire at the stove, liquid in my cup, breathable invisible air, and temples made of hard stone — and they are all basically only one fundamental stuff — how are we to decide among them which is most basic?

A cosmos of geometry

However, if the basic underlying unity out of which the cosmos is made turns out to be right triangles, then proposing this underlying structure — i.e., the structure of fire, earth, air, and water — might overcome that objection. Here is what Timaeus proposes:

“In the first place, then, it is of course obvious to anyone, that fire, earth, water, and air are bodies; and all bodies have volume. Volume, moreover, must be bounded by surface, and every surface that is rectilinear is composed of triangles. Now all triangles are derived from two [i.e., scalene and isosceles], each having one right angle and the other angles acute… This we assume as the first beginning of fire and the other bodies, following the account that combines likelihood with necessity…” [Plato. Timaeus 53Cff]

A little later in that dialogue, Timaeus proposes further that from the right triangles, scalene and isosceles, the elements are built — we might call them molecules. If we place on a flat surface equilateral triangles, equilateral rectangles (i.e., squares), equilateral pentagons, and so on, and then determine which combinations “fold-up,” Plato shows us the discovery of the five regular solids — sometimes called the Platonic solids.

Three, four, and five equilateral triangles will fold up, and so will three squares and three pentagons.

If the combination of figures around a point sum to four right angles or more, they will not fold up. For the time being, I will leave off the dodecahedron (or combination of three pentagons that makes the “whole” into which the elements fit) to focus on the four elements: tetrahedron (fire), octahedron (air), icosahedron (water), and hexahedron (earth).

Everything is a right triangle

Now, to elaborate on the argument [53C], I propose to show using diagrams how the right triangle is the fundamental geometrical figure.

All figures can be dissected into triangles. (This is known to contemporary mathematicians as tessellation, or tiling, with triangles.)

Inside every species of triangle — equilateral, isosceles, scalene — there are two right triangles. We can see this by dropping a perpendicular from the vertex to the opposite side.

Inside every right triangle — if you divide from the right angle — we discover two similar right triangles, ad infinitum. Triangles are similar when they are the same shape but different size.

And thus, we arrive at Timaeus’ proposal that the right triangle is the fundamental geometrical figure, in its two species, scalene and isosceles, that contain within themselves an endless dissection into similar right triangles.

Now, no one can propose that the cosmos is made out of right triangles without a proof — a compelling line of reasoning — to show that the right triangle is the fundamental geometrical figure. Timaeus comes from Locri, southern Italy, a region where Pythagoras emigrated and Empedocles and Alcmaon lived. The Pythagoreans are a likely source of inspiration in this passage but not the other two. What proof known at this time showed that it was the right triangle? Could it have been the Pythagorean theorem?

Pythagorean theorem goes beyond squares

We now know that there are more than 400 different proofs of the famous theorem. Does one of them show that the right triangle is the basic geometrical figure? Be sure, it could not be a² + b² = c² because this is algebra, and the Greeks did not have algebra! A more promising source — the proof by similar right triangles — is the proof preserved at VI.31.

Notice that there are no figures at all on the sides of the right triangle. (In the above figure, the right angle is at “A.”) What the diagram shows is that inside every right triangle are two similar right triangles, forever divided.

Today, the Pythagorean theorem is taught using squares.

But, the Pythagorean theorem has nothing to do with squares! Squares are only a special case. The theorem holds for all figures similar in shape and proportionately drawn.

So, why the emphasis on squares? Because in the ancient Greek world proportional-scaling was hard to produce exactly and hard to confirm, and the confirmation had to come empirically. But squares eliminate the question of proportional scaling.

Pythagoras and the philosophy of cosmology

We have an ancient report that upon his proof, Pythagoras made a great ritual sacrifice, perhaps one hundred oxen. What precisely was his discovery that merited such an enormous gesture?

Could this review help us to begin to understand the metaphysical meaning of the hypotenuse theorem — namely, that what was being celebrated was not merely the proof that the area of the square on the hypotenuse of a right triangle was equal to the sum of the areas of the squares on the other two sides, but moreover, was the proof that the fundamental figure out of which the whole cosmos was constructed was the right triangle?

Prof. Robert Hahn has broad interests in the history of ancient and modern astronomy and physics, ancient technologies, the contributions of ancient Egypt and monumental architecture to early Greek philosophy and cosmology, and ancient mathematics and geometry of Egypt and Greece. Every year, he gives “Ancient Legacies” traveling seminars to Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. His latest book is The Metaphysics of the Pythagorean Theorem.