Even as the number of hours in the day remains fixed, the number of decisions we must make grows. Organic versus non? Public versus private? Paper versus digital? Modern adults must navigate real and virtual worlds, and if they have children, they need to keep an eye on their increasingly complicated worlds as well. Indeed, there is now a well-established body of science showing that there are only so many decisions you can make in a day before all your choices become bad ones. Decision-making doesn’t just feel exhausting, it really drains us.
Since 2004, I’ve spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling thinking about tsunamis and earthquakes. The monster wave that hit Indonesia that year was caused by a earthquake so violent it shifted the axis of the earth a few centimeters. Now I can’t get this out of my mind: The planet literally shook.
Everyone has one--whether its global warming, phthalates, flu, or junk food--it's that thought that makes them quake. Still, despite the fear, most people do their best to live sustainably, heal naturally, and raise their children right.
But how often is it that one's efforts feel good enough? For the most part, the solutions are inadequate or unachievable or overwhelmingly, confusingly both. If you turn on the air conditioner because you are too warm, you cause global warming. If you vaccinate your children to protect them, you fear the vaccine may hurt them, and yet if you get cancer, it’s your fault for being so angry and fearful all the time. What if you don’t actually want to walk to the local abattoir and slaughter your own pig so you can eat your sausages morally? What does that even mean?
You could consider optimism, for a change. I thought about it a lot when I reviewed Matt Ridley's "The Rational Optimist."
The sensation of suddenly realising you can do something reprehensible, and no one is there to witness it
Faced with pictures of odd clay creatures sporting prominent heads and pointy limbs, students at Carnegie Mellon were asked to identify which “aliens” were friendly and which were not... New York Times.
There's a lot relevant to language evolution in the latest Current Biology. First up: crows. The First Word reports on Betty the New Caledonian crow who worked out how to build a hook so as to snare some hard-to-reach food. The most remarkable part of Betty's feat was that there was no trial and error, she just sized the problem up and went to work. The ability of New Caledonian crows to use common sense is confirmed by a recent experiment where a number of birds had to work out how to use a short stick to get a long stick that would then reach food. The researchers say that the crow's ability to reason through a problem rivals even that of apes. Current Biology, LiveScience.