Brain Pickings

The Longevity Project: Insights on Life from an 80-Year Study

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Immortality has long been humanity’s existential pipe dream, but its holy grail has evaded us scientists and philosophers alike since time immemorial. But as modern science continues to strive for eternal youth, the true secrets of longevity may lie where we least expect to find them. In The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study, social psychologists Leslie Martin and Howard Friedman dissect one of the most famous studies in the history of psychology to reveal the character traits, habits and mindsets that make some people live longer than others. And the findings are guaranteed to surprise you.

The project is based on an 80-year longitudinal study of that began in 1921, when researchers started following 1,500 then-kids to investigate the habits and behaviors that made them thrive and perish. Its revealing conclusions, rather than didactically overwhelming you with long to-do lists of thing to keep you forever young, help you develop simple patterns that lay the foundation for a healthier, longer life.

The most surprising thing to me in The Longevity Project was the differences that we found for men versus women when they encounter divorce. Divorce certainly is stressful and a bad things for anyone, but men were really able to improve their odds and ameliorating their risks by getting remarried after a divorce. That wasn’t really so much the case for women.” ~ Leslie Martin

Both deeply fascinating and remarkably readable, The Longevity Project is essentially a pop culture mythbuster that offers compelling and counter-intuitive insight into the art and science of being our best selves for the longest possible time.

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YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011

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What 101 classical musicians have to do with honoring the past while appreciating the present.

Nearly two years ago, Google initiated the world’s first online collaborative orchestra, which we featured as one of three fantastic examples of orchestra innovation. They invited the world’s best amateur classical musicians to audition for 90 spots on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.

Last year, the YouTube community, with the help of leading orchestras around the world, selected 101 musicians from 33 countries to perform in an extraordinary concert at Sydney Opera House, streamed live on YouTube. The complete concert, running close to three glorious hours, is now available online and is an absolute force of collaborative magnificence.

On the project page, you can explore the global winners by instrument and location, and play with Experiment — an innovative augmented-reality musical instrument. (Get the marker here.)

Combined with Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir, the YouTube Symphony bespeaks the incredible potential of technology-enabled collaborative creation, one of those things that make us thrilled to live in the era we’re living in.

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PICKED: Beautiful Short Film for World Water Day

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Today is the 19th annual World Water Day and French nonprofit Solidarités International marks the occasion with a beautiful short film to raise awareness about safe drinking water: It’s estimated that 3.6 million people, of which 1.5 million are children under 5, die of diseases caused by water contamination every year, making it the world’s leading cause of death. Yet both the public and political leaders remain largely unaware and thus unlikely to take action against this preventable epidemic.

This film, produced by agency BDDP Unlimited and directed by young director, illustrator, musician and photographer Clément Beauvais, is both a moving reminder about the importance of this fundamental substance and a specific call to action for journalists to spread awareness about it and appeal to readers to sign a petition that will be personally handed to the French president during the 6th World Water Forum in March 2012.

Looking for meaningful ways to support World Water Day beyond awareness? Here are a few actionable ideas. And to further grasp both the beauty and the gravity of the subject, don’t miss the remarkable Blue Planet Run.

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