Monthly Archives: November 2011

Where humans lay on the monogamy to harem scale

In the animal kingdom, there are two extremes.
One side: Animals like walruses, they have harems of up to 50 females.
Other side: Animals like red foxes, they mate for life and share all the child rearing responsibilities.

The interesting part comes when we find out that we can actually predict where a species will fall on this scale simply by the ratio of size between the male and female members. Walrus males are almost two times the size of their female counterparts. Red foxes on the other hand, are barely indistinguishable from male to female.

Now for the fun part. Where do humans lay? Our females are on average 80% of a male’s size. So. Does this mean I’m all for poligamy… not necessarily.
I think one of the most beautiful relationship possibilities humans have are those last last lifetimes and deepen as they age.  But this fact which I’ve outlined above, is something that needs to be recognized and dealt with in certain ways.

Brain plasticity concepts teach us that neural tracts that fire often together eventually wire themselves more and more as one. So what? Well that means if you want to be with one person your whole life (and continuously be excited by them) because you think that’s a beautiful way to raise a family, well then you may need to galvanize your pleasure centers by doing endorphin releasing activities with your spouse in tow. Bungy jumping? Sky diving? Go karting? Extreme sports? Trying new foods? Travelling to unexplored cities? Do whatever increases emotional excitement for you.

The science portion of this material comes mainly from Jared Diamond’s book, “Why Sex is Fun” and “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge.


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Rose colored glasses and attention

Someone asked me the other day what the people in Toronto are like.. My immediate answer was, well, I guess it depends on where you’re looking…

There are currently millions of stimuli entering your senses right now. The vast majority of which though, your conscious mind CANNOT acknowledge.

Of the stimuli in our world, we are consciously able to perceive and pay attention to but a slight percentage of these stimuli. It makes evolutionary sense, we focus on what’s important to us.. Like the tiger running at us instead of all the nice lush green forest around him.

But in this non-getting-chased-by-tigers day and age, we can use this fact to greatly change our lives. By focusing on that which pleases us, we can change the way we perceive the environments in which live (and farther down the line, by being happier and with more positive energy, we actually change our environments).

When someone splashes you on the sidewalk, do you steam about it for the rest of your walk to work? Or do you push it from your mind and focus on the fact that the city looks gorgeous today? You can’t think about both at once. It’s a choice. What do you choose to allow your mind to spend time on?

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Not Winning

A friend of mine recently came over and talked about a man he saw on the subway.

He happened to enter the car in area where the most normal place to sit down would have been in front of an extremely intimidating man. He recalled the man wearing army camouflage, large boots, half a shaved head and a generally ‘trying to intimidate’ demeanor.

As my friend continued the story, he recounted his thoughts. He recognized the man attempting to intimidate. Upon realizing this, my friend thought he had a choice as to whether or not he would allow the stranger to win by being intimidated and sitting far away or sitting in front of the stranger as he normally would have.

His idea was that someone in the situation was going to lose. One by getting intimidated or the other by not being able to intimidate.

I was kind of saddened by this, I couldn’t help thinking: What had happened in this strangers life that he would be so compelled to feel the need to intimidate people on an ongoing basis? Wouldn’t that signal a dire need in this person’s life?

I feel like the majority of us immediately go to this competitive mindset when interacting with people. But how much less stressful and happy could your day be, by instead of framing social interaction in a competitive sense, you frame them in a win-win sense? Where you doing what you can to help someone, makes your community better and makes you happier about who you are?

Sure, lot’s of times you won’t be able to do much. But at least the framing in your mind changes.. and that’s the seedling-start to everything.

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Lucid dreams and solving problems during sleep

Scientific America Mind is fantastic in this 2 month edition.

It focuses on why solving problems in your sleep is possible. And not just a mystery, but to be expected.

It has to do with the idea that scientists are redefining sleep. They used to think it was when your brain simply turned off. Now they know it’s just a very different chemical state, but one that is almost as active on average as when awake.

The really cool part is that there are two particular parts of the brain that are less active when asleep. The first part is associated with determining whether a something is socially acceptable or not. The second part is associated with logic.

The argument is that these two parts being quieter allows your brain to think about problems without social implications or conventional logic. And in high level problem solving, thinking about ideas in weird ways can lead to surprising results.

The awake brain is incredibly good at recognizing patterns. But in problem solving this is actually a bad thing because your brain will always think about problems in similar ways. Sleep frees your mind from this pattern based thinking and allows more ‘outside the box’ thinking. And voila, you have the endless examples of scientists arriving at solutions in their sleep. A great example of this is the researcher trying to figure out the molecular structure of benzene. All other hydrocarbon structures before this were linear in structure. But in his dreams he imagined a snake having eaten a number of small rodents, with its tail in its mouth. And thus, the circular molecular structure of benzene was discovered.

And then there is the section on lucid dreaming and how to increase the chances you’ll lucid dream. Below are the abbreviated steps for both.

How to solve problems in sleep:
1. Write down your problem in a brief phrase – keep a pen and paper beside your bed
2. Review the problem before bed
3. Once in bed, visualize problem as concrete image
4. Tell yourself you want to dream about this problem
5. Lay quietly upon awakening and think if you’ve dreamed about the issue
6. At bedtime, picture yourself dreaming about the problem, awakening and writing the solution down

How to increase the chances of lucid dreams:
1. Throughout the day, stop and ask yourself if you’re dreaming or awake, then read something (this will get your mind in the habit of observing your state, reading things ensures you’re not dreaming because it’s notoriously hard to read anything in dreams)
2. Keep a dream journal and write dreams down as you awake
3. Imagine what you want to dream about as you’re falling asleep

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