Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘animation’

04 OCTOBER, 2012

The Surprising Science of Why It’s Dark at Night, Animated

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The glowing edge of space, or how the expansion of the universe is affecting the visible spectrum.

We’ve already seen how mankind conquered the night, but why is the sky dark after nightfall in the first place? The real reason, like most of science, is far less obvious than it seems, and far more expansive. Count on the fine folks of MinutePhysics — who have previously explained why the color pink doesn’t exist and why the past is different from the future — and their signature hand-drawn animation to illuminate the answer. And if Richard Feynman didn’t give you enough pause in demonstrating that the fire in your fireplace is actually the light and heat of the sun, how about knowing that the glow of the sky you see today isn’t starlight but leftover light from the Big Bang? Now that’s a moment of cosmic awe.

All of our evidence seems to indicate that space has no edge, but the universe itself does — not a spatial edge, but a temporal one.

For a less scientific but no less delightful take on the subject, see Edward Gorey’s characteristically irreverent and altogether fantastic Why We Have Day and Night.

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03 OCTOBER, 2012

The Neurochemistry of Empathy, Storytelling, and the Dramatic Arc, Animated

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What cortisol and oxytocin have to do with a 19th-century German playwright.

This week, I’m headed to the Future of Storytelling summit, an unusual cross-disciplinary unconference exploring exactly what it says on the tin. Among the presenters is neuroeconomics pioneer Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity. In this short film on empathy, neurochemistry, and the dramatic arc, directed and edited by my friend Kirby Ferguson and animated by Henrique Barone, Zak takes us inside his lab, where he studies how people respond to stories.

What he found is that even the simplest narrative can elicit powerful empathic response my triggering the release of neurochemicals like cortisol and oxytocin, provided it is highly engaging and follows the classic dramatic arc outlined by the German playwright Gustav Freytag 150 years ago.

Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds but, in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry — and that’s what it means to be a social creature.

Complement with Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human.

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21 SEPTEMBER, 2012

The Science of Procrastination and How to Manage It, Animated

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This is where you insert the meta-joke about what else you’re actually supposed to be doing this very moment.

From AsapSCIENCE — who have previously brought us the scientific cure for hangovers, the neurobiology of orgasms, and how music enchants the brain — comes this illustrated explication of the science of procrastination and how to manage it, a fine addition to these five perspectives on procrastination. Among the proposed solutions is the Pomodoro technique, a time-management method similar to timeboxing that uses timed intervals of work and reward.

Human motivation is highly influenced by how imminent the reward is perceived to be — meaning, the further away the reward is, the more you discount its value. This is often referred to as Present bias, or Hyperbolic discounting.

For a more metaphysical take on the subject, see the fantastic anthology The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination.

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