Archive for July 5th, 2014

Silence is More Painful for Men than Women

Tesla Coil

electric discharge from a Tesla coil

The title of this article from the Science of Us says it all:
Men Would Rather Give Themselves Electric Shocks Than Sit Alone With Their Thoughts.

Most people don’t think it’s fun to sit alone with nothing to do but think — it’s part of the reason for obsessive phone-checking during idle moments. A new study in Science highlights just how unenjoyable this experience is: in short, very. To the point that some people will choose to shock themselves rather than sit alone with nothing to do for a little while.

Among the participants who said they’d pay to avoid being shocked again (meaning those who found it particularly unpleasant), 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women nonetheless shocked themselves rather than face, without distraction, what is apparently a terrifying hellscape inside their heads. The researchers suggest the gender difference could come down to men having greater sensation-seeking tendencies than women — that is, they get bored more easily.

The article goes on to suggest that mindfulness training can help reduce the unpleasantness of time alone. It is certainly true that people coming to a retreat house can be disturbed at first by the experience of time by themselves without distraction but later come to enjoy it. I wonder if the findings account in part for the greater number of women who go on retreat?

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Many Worlds

Schroedingers cat

The quantum-mechanical “Schrödinger’s cat” paradox according to the many-worlds interpretation. In this interpretation, every event is a branch point; the cat is both alive and dead, even before the box is opened, but the “alive” and “dead” cats are in different branches of the universe, both of which are equally real, but which do not interact with each other.

Sean Carroll argues forcefully for the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, first articulated by Hugh Everett.

The formalism of quantum mechanics, in this view, consists of quantum states as described above and nothing more, which evolve according to the usual Schrödinger equation and nothing more. The formalism predicts that there are many worlds, so we choose to accept that. This means that the part of reality we experience is an indescribably thin slice of the entire picture, but so be it. Our job as scientists is to formulate the best possible description of the world as it is, not to force the world to bend to our pre-conceptions.

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