In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion describes the year following the sudden death of her husband. At one point while collecting his clothes for donation, she stops. She can’t give away all of his shoes, for he might need them if he returns. This is the magical thinking of the title.
It’s often said that there are no atheists in foxholes. While this isn’t technically true—a group called The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers even keeps a roster of them—new research suggests that inducing fear of death at least makes atheists a little less entrenched in their beliefs.
In the early 1990s, Trent Reznor (the man behind Nine Inch Nails) purchased the house at 10050 Cielo Drive, in Los Angeles. Before moving in, he learned of its dark past. This is the house where members of Charles Manson’s “family” murdered Sharon Tate and four other people in 1969. Reznor moved in despite (or perhaps because of) these events.
April 15 marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. If you don’t recall the details, just read one of the many other stories in the media right now, or watch a certain movie by James Cameron (not the one with aliens). Or read the novella Futility, written 114 years ago.
Around the world, everyone looks up at the same stars, trying to divine occult truths. But the kind of information they're looking for depends on their personality and on their culture, according to new research.
A short piece by Tad Friend in the January 9 New Yorker demonstrates no fewer than three forms of magical thinking in one column of text. The subject: John Logan, a playwright and screenwriter (recently: Hugo, Rango, Coriolanus). The scene: Bauman Rare Books on Madison Avenue.
Next time you need to discuss something with your boss while not telling him off, or you’re headed to the candy store with a credit card, consider chugging some water beforehand. Your brain will thank your bladder.
Billy Joel sang about his “uptown girl.” Jim Croce warned us about “bad, bad Leroy Brown,” who lived on the South Side of Chicago, “the baddest part of town.” In some cities, uptown is genuinely nicer than downtown, but might people have a general bias to prefer northern areas over southern in any city?
I finally watched inception last night. If you're interested in the mechanics of the subconscious, it's a must-see, both expository and provocative. But it's based on the premise that discreetly planting ideas in people's heads ("inception") is much harder than discreetly extracting ideas. It seems to me that they got this reversed.
Yesterday I went to "Your Brain on the Internet," a discussion that was part of the New Yorker Festival. I got at least one $30 idea out of the deal: The computer scientist Jaron Lanier noted, almost in passing, that the people he knows don't achieve creativity by trying to do something novel. They achieve it by being more themselves.
Yesterday's World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands nearly ended in a penalty shootout. If it had, the kickers and keepers would have done well to know about these bits of psychological research on penalty kicks.