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What’s the Story?
A discovery engine for meaningful knowledge, fueled by cross-disciplinary curiosity.
A Brain Pickings project edited by Maria Popova in partnership with Noodle.
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Over at the excellent TED Ideas channel, Helen Walters explores the subtleties behind The Good Country Index.
Also see this global survey of at what age people reach the lowest point of happiness in life.

Over at the excellent TED Ideas channel, Helen Walters explores the subtleties behind The Good Country Index.

Also see this global survey of at what age people reach the lowest point of happiness in life.

Book trailer for The Terrorist’s Son – the forthcoming inaugural title from TED’s new partnership with Simon & Schuster. It tells the moving story of an American boy raised on dogma and hate, whose father planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and how that boy grew up to be a young man dedicated to fighting for a very different cause – that of tolerance and peace.

Harvard’s Dan Gilbert on the psychology of your future self and how your present illusions hinder your future happiness
50% of my archive comes from habitats so radically altered that they’re either altogether silent or can no longer be heard in any of their original form… It’s like taking out of the human musical repertoire everything that Mozart ever wrote. It’s at that level… If you’re a religious person, this may be the last chance to hear the voice of the divine because, to me, that’s as close as we’re ever going to get.

Bioacoustician Bernie Krause, who has been recording the sound of the wild for 45 years, on NPR’s TED Radio HourFittingly, he also created the iconic helicopter sound in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now. 

Krause is the author of the fascinating book The Great Animal Orchestra

Over on the TED Ideas site, Helen Walters look at how Wendy MacNaughton's impossibly delightful illustrations of animals enrich and enhance Jon Mooallem's scintillating TED talk about the strange story of a teddy bear and what it reveals about our relationship to animals, based on his must-read book Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America.
Yes, those are a lot of superlatives. They are all warranted. 
For more of MacNaughton’s own animal-related illustrated storytelling, see her Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology and Meanwhile in San Francisco.

Over on the TED Ideas site, Helen Walters look at how Wendy MacNaughton's impossibly delightful illustrations of animals enrich and enhance Jon Mooallem's scintillating TED talk about the strange story of a teddy bear and what it reveals about our relationship to animals, based on his must-read book Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America.

Yes, those are a lot of superlatives. They are all warranted. 

For more of MacNaughton’s own animal-related illustrated storytelling, see her Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology and Meanwhile in San Francisco.

Storytelling matters now. Emotion matters. Our imagination has become an ecological force.

Jon Mooallem's fantastic TED talk about the strange story of the teddy bear and what it reveals about our relationship to animals, based on his even more fantastic book Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America. Illustrations by the one and only Wendy MacNaughton

I think all children are philosophers. All children are asking themselves these questions. We make sense of the world by telling ourselves stories. And in particular, we tell ourselves stories to make sense of things that don’t otherwise seem to make sense, that defy understanding.

And one of the big problems is of course death. So we tell ourselves these stories to help us cope with the fear of death.

In a fantastic episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour exploring fear, philosopher Stephen Cave, author of the excellent Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization, considers the four stories we tell ourselves when facing the prospect of death.

By far the best meditation on the subject remains Alan Lightman on why we long for immortality in an impermanent universe

Romantic love is a drive — a basic mating drive, not the sex drive. The sex drive gets you out there for a whole range of partners. Romantic love enables you to focus your mating energy on just one at a time, conserve your mating energy and start the mating process with a single individual.

What sums it up best is something that is said by Plato over 2000 years ago. He said the God of love lives in the state of need. It is a need. It is an urge. It is a homeostatic imbalance. Like hunger and thirst, it’s almost impossible to stamp out… Love is in us. It’s deeply embedded in the brain. Our challenge is to understand each other.

Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love — one of these 5 essential books on the psychology of love — in a fascinating episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour exploring how we find love.

I think technology is a really useful tool to bring people together. But at the end of the day, it’s up to us. Technology has made a lot of things in life much more efficient, much easier. Love is something that takes work. And it takes work even if you found your soulmate… the person that you are looking for who is the perfect person for you. You both still have to put in some effort.

And technology can’t solve for that critical element of any relationship. For love to endure, it takes human capital. It takes sweat equity, understanding — and it takes people.

Amy Webb, who data-hacked online dating to find her soulmate, in an altogether fantastic episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour on how we find love.
The audience actually wants to work for their meal. They just don’t want to know that they’re doing that. That’s your job as a storyteller is to hide the fact that you’re making them work for their meal. We’re born problem solvers. We’re compelled to deduce and to deduct because that’s what we do in real life. It’s this well-organized absence of information that draws us in.

Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton in an altogether fantastic episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour exploring what makes a great story

Complement with more secrets of storytelling from Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut and Neil Gaiman, then see the neurochemistry of storytelling and the dramatic art.

You speak English, a futured language, and what that means is that every time you discuss the future or any kind of a future event, grammatically, you’re forced to cleave that from the present and treat it as if it’s something viscerally different. Now suppose that that visceral difference makes you suddenly disassociate the future from the present every time you speak. If that’s true, and it makes the future feel like something more distant and more different from the present, that’s going to make it harder to save.

If, on the other hand, you speak a futureless language, the present and the future, you speak about them identically. If that suddenly nudges you to feel about them identically, that’s going to make it easier to save.

[…]

Futureless language speakers, even after this level of control, are 30 percent more likely to report having saved in any given year. Does this have cumulative effects? Yes. By the time they retire, futureless language speakers, holding constant their income, are going to retire with 25 percent more in savings.

Can we push this data even further? Yes. Think about smoking, for example. Smoking is, in some deep sense, negative savings, right. If savings is current pain in exchange for future pleasure, smoking is just the opposite. It’s current pleasure in exchange for future pain. What we should expect then is the opposite effect. And that’s exactly what we find. Futureless-language speakers are 20 to 24 percent less likely to be smoking at any given in time compared to identical families. And they’re going to be 13 to 70 percent less likely to be obese by the time they retire.

In a fascinating episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour titled The Money Paradox, behavioral economist Keith Chen shares some absolutely astounding research on how the tenses in a language influence that culture’s attitudes about saving and spending money.

Complement with this excellent, albeit flawed by virtue of being written in the futured English language, read on how to worry less about money.

The full TED Radio Hour is well worth a listen.

Ed Yong, one of the greatest science writers of our time, takes us inside the remarkable, if remarkably creepy, world of mind-controlling parasites – creatures that produce such oddities as suicidal crickets and zombie roaches by “subverting and overriding the wills of their hosts.” 

For a deeper dive, see Carl Zimmer’s fascinating Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures.

Human beings are works in progress who mistakenly think they’re finished.

Harvard’s Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness (one of the best books on the psychology of happiness) at TED 2014.

Pair with this excellent read on why human character is a constant evolution, not a fixed quality.

We call it “finding meaning” but we might better call it “forging meaning.”

[…]

Stories are the foundation of identity. We forge meaning and build identity.

Andrew Solomon at TED 2014. His book Far from the Tree – a magnificent read on how love both changes us and makes us more ourselves – won the 2014 National Book Award.
Education is what people do to you, learning is what you do to yourself.
MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito at #TED2014. Pair with this excellent read on how to fuel the lifelong engine of learning beyond formal education