How Wolves Change Rivers

A short video on how the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone in the 1990s led to a smaller population of deer. This led, in turn, to the regeneration of plant life, which brought in more birds, beavers, otters, rabbits, mice, bears (who had more berries to eat), fish, and, eventually changed the course of rivers (because with more vegetation there wasn’t so much run off).

Or, the importance of preserving, tracking, sharing, comparing, and analyzing data so you can correlate one thing (i.e., the re-introduction of a species) with another (i.e., increased vegetation and the subsequent increases in other animal populations, as well as changes to the geophysical environment).

Science Says You Have Time for Happiness.

Happiness quote, Helen KellerThe “pursuit of happiness” is an “unalienable right” guaranteed to U.S. citizens by The Declaration of Independence. But…what is happiness, and how can one become happy?

Many researchers have studied this state of being we call happiness, and here are some of their findings.

Whether you have five minutes to relax or a year to focus on building lasting habits, here are 16 scientifically-backed ways to boost your happiness levels.

Happiness Matrix

Smile. A 2011 study showed that thinking about something positive that makes you smile can actually make you happier (fake smiles don’t do the trick), while 2003 Clark University research found that smiling activates positive memories.

Go for a run. Physical activity boosts the brain’s release of endorphins, feel-good neurotransmitters that can improve mood and well-being.

Pray. Spirituality and religious involvement is linked with greater well-being and happiness, according to a review of more than 300 studies on the connection between spirituality and health, while prayer is thought to relieve stress.

Laugh. In addition to relieving stress, laughter can boost mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Go for a stroll in the park. There are many health benefits to spending time in nature, including, perhaps, increased well-being. One UK study showed that subjects were significantly happier when in natural environments as compared to when they were in urban environments.

Perform an act of kindness. Do something nice for someone else today — it could make you happier, according to University of California research.

Listen to happy music. Students who listened to “happy” music while making a concerted effort to feel happier experienced elevations in mood, according to a small study published this year in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

Walk tall. Walking with an upbeat stride might make you feel happier, according to Florida Atlantic University research. In the study, walkers who were told to take long strides with their arms swinging and heads held high reported feeling happier after a three-minute jaunt than a group that shuffled and looked downwards while walking.

Meditate. Meditation may be helpful in lowering stress levels and reducing symptoms of mild depression, and has been linked with emotional well-being and improved sleep.

Keep a gratitude journal. Be thankful for what you have! A number of studies have found a strong correlation between gratitude and well-being, starting at a young age. Teaching kids gratitude in schools has been linked to boosts in positive emotions and optimism.

Go on vacation. The mere anticipation of an upcoming trip can boost overall happiness for up to eight weeks before you take off, according to a 2010 Dutch study.

Play with a puppy. Your brain may be wired to enjoy playing with puppies. One study suggested that petting a furry friend can increase activity in the left-side of the brain, which is associated with pleasure and happiness, and pet ownership has been linked with increased well-being.

Take a nap. Sleep deprivation can up your stress levels. One experiment showed that after memorizing a list of words, sleep-deprived college students could remember 81 percent of words with a negative connotation (“cancer”), and only 41 percent of positive or neutral words (“sunshine”). What’s more, researchers have linked catnaps with improved mood.

Enjoy a nice cup of tea. Noticing and appreciating life’s small pleasures can literally rewire the brain for happiness by shifting the brain’s negativity bias, according to psychologist Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness. “We’re surrounded by opportunities — 10 seconds here or 20 seconds there — to just register useful experiences and learn from them,” Hanson told The Huffington Post.

Volunteer. Helping others could go a long way towards helping yourself. A recent University of Exeter study found that volunteering can boost happiness, ease depression and even help you live longer, Everyday Health reported.

Have sex. Sex might just help you relieve stress and boost well-being. A study by the Institute For The Study of Labor found that people who have sex at least four times a week tend to be happier and less depressed — not to mention make more money. Plus, it could even keep your heart and immune system healthy!

Think of happy times. Feeling nostalgic about the past can make you feel happier and more optimistic about the future, according to a recent University of Southampton study.

What makes you happy? Is there anything you do to boost your own happiness that isn’t on this list? What advice would you give to someone on how to be happy?

[Article by Carolyn Gregoire at The Huffington Post.]

The GDP Monster: Always Under Revision

Gross Domestic Product NBC NewsAh, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Does it keep you awake at night? No? Well, it should. “Why is that?” you ask, “I’ve got other things to worry about.”

Investopedia defines the GDP as “the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period, though GDP is usually calculated on an annual basis. It includes all of private and public consumption, government outlays, investments and exports less imports that occur within a defined territory.”

So what does that mean in plain English? It means the GDP is an indicator of your standard of living.

If you would like to learn a little more about the GDP, then watch this (U.S.-centric) video. NBC News created this animation to provide a simple explanation of the GDP. (All countries have a GDP; NBC News is focusing on the United States.)

NBCNews.com | December 20, 2013

The GDP monster: Always under revision

The Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, is constantly being revived. That‘s because counting all the goods and services sold in the country can be a challenging and overwhelming task. Usually, the government issues at least three versions of the GDP, but last year, the figure was revised all the way back to 1929. Watch this video, reported with CNBC’s Jeff Cox to learn why.

Now will you worry about the GDP of your country? :)

If you are in the United States, you may review data about the GDP on the web site of the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Surfboards & Golf Carts: Inflation’s Mixed Costs

NBC News Consumer Price Index AnimationHave you ever wondered how U.S. government economists determine inflation, i.e., whether or not costs in the United States are going up or down relative to salaries and the U.S. dollar?

Me, neither. But NBC News did.

They created this short and entertaining animation about the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. The writers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics define the CPI this way: “The Consumer Price Indexes (CPI) program produces monthly data on changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services.”

NBCNews.com | December 16, 2013

Surfboards & golf-carts: Inflation’s mixed costs

Every month the government issues its measure of consumer inflation, and every month slews of Americans scratch their heads in puzzlement. For a better understanding of this important, but complicated, economic indicator, watch this animation, reported with CNBC’s Allison Linn.

Do you think you understand the CPI now?

MBTI Personality Types Socioeconomic Infographic

How much money will you make based on your MBTI personality type?

This infographic analyzing MBTI Personality Types Socioeconomics breaks it down for you.

MBTI Personality Types Socioeconomic Infographic

What is your MBTI? Are you surprised by any of the results?

I’m an INFJ, although I was type-tested by the Keirsey Temperament Sorter-II. This results on the Infographic reflect what the Keirsey test results told me: we are rare, even within Optimists.

[Via Time Magazine. The criticisms of the infographic are worth reading.]

Gender Inequality in Film

Regarding gender inequality in film, Geena Davis writes in The Hollywood Reporter:

The basics are that for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture.

And the New York Film Academy takes a look at gender inequality in film and displays the results in the following infographic.

New York Film Academy takes a look at gender inequality in film

Geena Davis offers these Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist:

Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?

Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don’t gather, I don’t know.

And there you have it. You have just quickly and easily boosted the female presence in your project without changing a line of dialogue.

What do you think of the data displayed in the infographic above? Do you agree or disagree with the data presented? What is your opinion of Geena Davis’ suggestions?

I was surprised to learn that women constitute 17% of characters in movies. I knew it was low, but I did not think it was that low.

Tesla Model S Owners Complete the “NY Times Road Trip” without Incident

The Model S dashboard uses an LCD instrument cluster and a 17-inch main touch screen.I would like to offer my congratulations to these drivers for their dedication and commitment! What a fun trip that was to follow.

You can check out the Twitter feed from this past weekend, complete with telemetry feeds. You may also want to check out their forum posts. The drivers also posted some videos to YouTube.

I look forward to reading the comments and news about these seven four “normal” drivers proving a NY Times reporter “wrong”, with thousands of people watching the data come in live. I also look forward to reading John Broder’s response to these driver’s recreation of his road trip.

Update: 18 February 2013, ~10 PM EST. Lauren Goode writes that four of the nine (whoops! I thought there were seven) completed the Tesla Road Trip. This was, however, preplanned for four of the drivers who left. I.e., four of the other drivers left of their own accord. A fifth driver ran into software problems, but the Tesla Motors help desk pushed software to him to fix it. Of the drivers who completed the journey, their consensus is that Broder did not adequately charge his car. It is equal to saying a gas engine does not work because you decide to fill it 1/4 of a tank, and then you cannot drive it for the same distance as a full tank.

What do you think? Does Elon Musk’s data of Broder’s trip speak for itself? Or, does data need context?