Learning! Round Up: The benefits of silence and swearing, the absence of gender lines, and more.

Learning! Round Up of research including the benefits of swearing and silence, the absence of gender lines, circumstantial evidence in child pornography cases, and ancient oxygen

The Sound of Silence

Well, dang it. Turns out my penchant to have constant noise around me isn't so good for my brain. Research shows that two hours of silence a day prompts development in the hippocampus, and that those developing cells integrate into the neural system. We also integrate internal and external input better during silence.

Interestingly, this may be in part due to the fact that our brains will fill in the gaps of silence - creating their own perceived soundscape.

I generally find silence oppressive, but maybe I need to make more of an effort to engage in quiet time. If only I was still in school and could just enjoy some silent reading time...

Circumstantial Evidence is Enough

The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled on a child pornography case, declaring that circumstantial evidence is enough to put someone away for possession. What this means is that the Crown no longer has to explain how the child porn got on someone's computer, discounting other reasons it might be there.

To be clear, it seems the judge and jury are still intended to consider other reasonable causes for the images or videos to be on someone's computer, but the Crown does not have to rule out every other possible explanation - an impossible task.

Ancient Air

In a happier Canadian news item, some Canadian scientists figured out how to analyze air that was trapped in salt crystals a billion years ago, learning that there was about twice the amount of oxygen in the air back then than we thought.

This means that oxygen levels rose before complex organisms developed, and that there might be older multicellular fossils out there!

Meditation Made Simple

Speaking of silence, meditation can seem a lot more complicated than it has to be. Sure, there are a lot of different kinds and a whole variety of ways to do it, from guided imagery to walking meditations. Here's a basic intro to meditation that you can do anytime, anywhere, and that will help you practice mindfulness throughout the day.

The Benefits of Swearing

I grew up a good Mennonite child who didn't swear, pretty much ever. Counterintuitively, when I started revisiting church as an adult the crass language started to flow a little more freely. Turns out, I was on to something! Swearing helps us withstand pain and improves morale in the workplace! But this doesn't mean we should start encouraging our kids to let loose with the cuss words - being taboo is a big part of why these words have an impact.

More Blurry Gender Lines

Two studies have come out in the past year looking at gender differences: one examining the body and the other examining the brain. Both concluded that, while there is not really a distinctly "male" or "female" brain or body. Like many things, it's a spectrum.

When it comes to the body, medical experts tend to agree that classifying a person as "male" or "female" based solely on their external genitalia is kind of useless, as it doesn't take into account chromosomes, genes, hormones, internal genitalia, gender identity, and secondary sex characteristics.

For brains, there are characteristics more common in male brains and others more common in female brains, but there is no "male" or "female" brain. They also found that people are rarely only masculine or only feminine in the way they act - go figure, we are all a combination! (And what even is "masculine" behaviour, anyways?)

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