Category Archives: Fun

Germany Tops U.S.A As Best International Country

By: Ronan J O’ Shea of The Independent

Germany has been named the country with the best “brand image” according to a new study of 50 countries.

It has leapfrogged the USA, which previously held the title.

The Nation Brands Index, conducted in association with independent policy advisor Simon Anholt, conducts what it says is the world’s most comprehensive global nation branding survey, combining six dimensions: governance, exports, people, culture & heritage, tourism, investment and immigration.

It considers factors such as how people perceive a country’s quality of life, business environment, tolerance and the public image of a country’s products and services The survey measured “the power and quality of each country’s ‘brand image”, according to DW.com.

Speaking to The Independent, Anholt said: “There are over 50 statements about each of the 50 countries in the index, reflecting views on their landscape, people, tourist appeal, economy, government, educational system, products, culture, and much else besides. Each year since 2005, we’ve sent this questionnaire to around 20,000 people in 20 countries, chosen using UN statistics to select a typical sample of the general population. It’s used by more than 40 governments who want to keep track of their country’s international standing.”

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Research Shows Correlation Between Cannabis Use And Creativity

By: Eric W. Dolan of Psypost

A new study suggests that differences in personality traits account for the link between marijuana use and enhanced creativity.

“I became interested in this topic upon the realization that a number of my favorite musicians and artists were well known for their cannabis use, and that this cannabis use was commonly thought to have been a cause of the creative success of many artists,” explained study author Emily LaFrance, a graduate student at Washington State University.

“I began to wonder about this commonly held idea – are cannabis users really more creative than non-users? And if so, is this because cannabis use makes them more creative, or is something else causing differences in creativity between users and non-users?”

For their study, which was published in Consciousness and Cognition, the researchers had 412 cannabis users and 309 non-users complete a series of psychological tests.

They found that cannabis users tended to be more extraverted and also tended to be more open to new experiences.

Cannabis users self-reported higher levels of artistic creativity than non-users, but they did not report a higher number of creative works or achievements.

Cannabis users also performed better than non-users on a test of convergent thinking — meaning the creative process of narrowing down potential solutions to find one correct answer.

But the statistical relationship between cannabis use and creativity disappeared when the researchers accounted for the effect of openness to experience. The results suggest that cannabis users’ higher levels of openness to experience are responsible for their enhanced creativity.

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Scientist May Have Found The Key To Intrusive Thoughts 

Compliments of the BBC 

Scientists could have the secret. They have identified a chemical in the brain’s “memory” region that allows us to suppress unwanted thoughts.

The discovery may help explain why some people can’t shift persistent intrusive thoughts – a common symptom of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and schizophrenia.

Researchers say controlling our thoughts is “fundamental to wellbeing”.

Associated words

Prof Michael Anderson, from the University of Cambridge, who conducted the study, said: “When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms of psychiatric diseases – intrusive memories, images, hallucinations, ruminations, and pathological and persistent worries.”

Researchers found a particular chemical, or neurotransmitter, known as Gaba, held the key.

Gaba is the brain’s main “inhibitory” neurotransmitter. That means, when it’s released by one nerve cell it suppresses the activities of other cells to which it is connected.

They found people who had the highest concentrations of Gaba in their brain’s hippocampus (or memory hub) were best at blocking unwanted thoughts or memories.

“What’s exciting about this is that now we’re getting very specific,” said Prof Anderson.

“Before, we could only say ‘this part of the brain acts on that part’, but now we can say which neurotransmitters are likely to be important.”

New approaches to treatment

The discovery might shed light on a number of conditions, from schizophrenia to PTSD, in which sufferers have a pathological inability to control thoughts – such as excessive worrying or rumination.

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Au Revoir To Vaping Indoors in New York 

By: BBC

A new rule, which will come into law in 30 days, will mean that the practice will be treated the same as smoking normal cigarettes.

Vaping will be banned in places including restaurants, bars and offices.

New York was one of the first states to ban cigarettes in indoor public spaces in 2003.

Using e-cigarettes has become more popular since tighter restrictions were introduced around real cigarettes.

But this new law will have a relatively small effect.

Many areas of New York State already have a ban in place, including New York City, which has had it since 2013.

The New York Times reports that 70% of municipalities in the state had already prohibited using e-cigs in public indoor spaces.

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Mobile Game Goes Viral Clapping For Xi Jinping 

By: Cheang Ming of CNBC 

Chinese tech giant Tencent’s newest hit game wants you to applaud President Xi Jinping’s nearly three-and-a-half hour Communist Party congress address.

Called “Excellent Speech: Clap for Xi Jinping,” a new mobile game from the tech behemoth asks users to “clap” for the Chinese leader by tapping on their screens as many times as they can in a span of 19 seconds. Users are first played a short snippet of Xi’s hours-long speech before they are allowed to show their appreciation by “clapping.”

The game had been played more than 400 million times by Wednesday evening in China, according to What’s on Weibo, an online outlet that tracks social media trends on the mainland. On messaging service WeChat, users claimed they had “clapped” some 1,695 times during the game, What’s on Weibo reported.

As of 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN on Thursday, a counter on the landing page of the game showed users had given Xi a total of more than a billion “claps.”

Xi’s speech on Wednesday touched on many issues, including a new era of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and the progress of his highly-publicized anti-graft campaign.

The president also addressed the topic of economic reform in the world’s second-largest economy — which some believe might not necessarily be carried out anytime soon.

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USA To Finally Battle Japan In Giant Robot Fight 

By: James Vincent of the Verge 

We’ve been waiting a long time to see the “world’s first giant robot duel,” and next week we’ll finally get to watch the metal-on-metal action. If you’ve forgotten the background, all the way back in July 2015 a US team of engineers (MegaBots Inc.) challenged their Japanese rivals (Suidobashi Heavy Industry) to a fight, but the difficulty in finding a venue and upgrading the robots has delayed the bout. Well, next Tuesday, October 17th at 7PM PT, the duel will finally be streamed on Twitch for all to see.

It won’t be a live event though. In a press release, MegaBots Inc, said that the duel consisted of “multiple rounds of fighting,” and that in order to give the teams time to repair their bots, the rounds were spread out over several days. This meant the fight “could not be livestreamed like a traditional sport.” The duel was held in an abandoned steel mill in Japan, with no spectators beyond the two sets of engineers. Commentary was provided by Mike Goldberg of the MMA and robotics expert Saura Naderi.

Over email, MegaBots’ Gui Cavalcanti explained that the duel was fought on a knockout system, with no point scoring involved. Victory is attained by either knocking over or disabling your opponent (or, if they surrender), with the weight, power, size, and weapons of the bots “left to each individual team.” Cavalcanti adds, though, that the weapons were chosen “to not cut through metal, but instead to damage it.”

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Fox Spends 400M To Broadcast WorldCup But U.S.A’s Team Will Not Be Participating

By: Alan O’Brian

It was a bad, bad night for the United States of America – as President Donald Trump would probably have put it.

For the first time since 1986 the country’s national men’s side failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Heading into their final qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night, the USA simply had to avoid losing or else their fate would be out of their hands.

But it was not to be as Bruce Arena’s men succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of their Caribbean opponents.

This would have been fine if both Panama and Honduras had lost too, but unfortunately the former took down Costa Rica while the latter beat Mexico.
For some certain individuals in America, though, the ignominy of missing out on football’s central showpiece will be considerably greater than for others.

Indeed, Murdoch-owned broadcaster Fox, whose news arm have courted controversy after a string of sexual harassment cases, paid a staggering $400m for the rights to broadcast the 2018 World Cup.

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New Coding Language Kotlin Taking Silicon Valley By Storm 

By: Klint Finley of Wired

YOU’LL FIND MILLIONS of apps in the Google Play store, many of them written using the powerful, stable, workhorse programming language Java. If it were a car, Java would feature a fast, reliable engine but not antilock brakes, power steering, or cup holders. Totally drivable. Not exactly a joy ride.

In May Google gave Android developers another option when it announced it would start supporting a new programming language called Kotlin, which offers most of the same basic features as Java plus the coding equivalent of seat warmers and a killer sound system. This means programmers can write safer, more reliable code with less work. That’s good news for users because it should translate into apps with fewer bugs and crashes. But it’s even better news for programmers, because it means spending more time working on the interesting parts of code and less on more routine matters—the things that make programming a rewarding career or hobby. “Working with it just brings a smile to your face,” says Christina Lee, an Android developer at Pinterest and Kotlin enthusiast.

Companies like Pinterest, Basecamp, and Square had already been using it, but now that it has the official support of Google, you can expect to find Kotlin in more and more places. “Kotlin is what our development community has already asked for,” Android product manager Stephanie Saad Cuthbertson said during the announcement of Kotlin support at Google’s IO conference in May.

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Chile Extends National Parks By Over 10 Million Acres

By: Trevor Nace of Forbes

Chile set aside 11 million acres of land for national parks aided by the largest private land donation from a private entity to a country. The conservation effort of the Tompkins Foundation helped pave the way for Chile to greatly expand its conservation of the pristine Patagonia wilderness.

The Tompkins foundation was established by Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the previous CEO of Patagonia, and the late Doug Tompkins, the co-founder of North Face and Esprit. The couple, known for purchasing large chunks of land in Patagonia for conservation, have always had the ambition to protect and conserve the Patagonian wilderness for generations to come.

However, their efforts weren’t always well received by the Chilean government and citizens. The Tompkins were accused of attempting to split Chile in two to form a new state or as CIA spies intending to infiltrate the Chilean government. It took decades to build the trust of Chile that their intentions were well founded and this move to donate 1 million acres of land to the Chilean government solidifies their relationship with Chile. Tragically, Doug Tompkins wasn’t able to witness the culmination of decades of his work as he passed away in 2015 due to severe hypothermia during a kayaking accident.

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Study Shows Yoga Can Substitute For Physical Therapy And Painkillers 

By: Allison Aubrey 

If you’re tired of popping pain medicine for your lower back pain, yoga may be a good alternative.
New research finds that a yoga class designed specifically for back pain can be as safe and effective as physical therapy in easing pain.
The yoga protocol was developed by researchers at Boston Medical Center with input from yoga teachers, doctors and physical therapists.
During the class, trained instructors guide participants through gentle poses, including cat-cow, triangle pose and child’s pose. Simple relaxation techniques are part of the class as well. More difficult poses, such as inversions, are avoided.
A guidebook that details the poses taught during the class is freely available, as is a teacher training manual.
The findings, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, are in line with new guidelines for treating back pain from the American College of Physicians. The group recommends that people with back pain should avoid pain medicines if possible, and instead opt for alternatives such as tai chi, yoga and massage. As we’ve reported, those guidelines are aimed at people with run-of-the-mill back pain, rather than pain due to an injury or other diagnosed problem.
Who was in the study? Researchers recruited 320 racially diverse, predominantly low-income participants in the Boston area, all of whom had chronic low back pain. The study lasted one year.
What did participants in the study do? Participants were divided into three groups. One group was assigned to a weekly yoga class for 12 weeks. Another group was assigned 15 physical therapy (PT) visits. The third group received an educational book and newsletters. For the remainder of the year — roughly 40 weeks — participants in the yoga group were assigned to either drop-in classes or home practice. The PT group was assigned to either “PT booster sessions” or home practice.

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