August 27, 2016
The real Mozart effect
Today's Lesson
with My Brain and I
Baby Mozart? After a 1993 study in Nature found classical music improved children’s spatial reasoning, news outlets mistakenly reported classical music could boost children’s IQ. This error spawned a craze among educators and parents that society is still cleaning up. Overnight, businesses sprouted up making recordings, videos, books and wind-up mobiles devoted to babies’ classical music needs. Not only was this mania based on a falsely-reported story, but the later attempts to recreate the results of the Nature experiment were unsuccessful. Regardless, the mythical baby Mozart effect was born. Subsequent studies have never found an impact of more than 1 IQ point from any particular musical exposure to infants. Another study concluded pop music was actually the best genre for boosting spatial reasoning for children. The states of Georgia and Tennessee passed laws requiring all maternity wards to provide new parents with classical music CDs along with their new babies. Talk about whistling Dixie. Soon, pop scientists were extolling the virtues of classical music to reduce epileptic seizures, accelerate the growth of plants, and even encourage microbial activity at sewage treatment facilities. None of these benefits exist. On the other hand, encouraging children to play music does appear to impact children’s development significantly. A recent Australian study suggests teaching toddlers to “jam” benefits numeracy, attention, and prosocial skills. (Not to mention boosting their CQ!) So maybe it should be called the Baby Hendrix effect?
August 26, 2016
Whatever-her-name-was the Riveter
Free Daily Lesson
Happy Women’s Equality Day! A good day to pay tribute to a true feminist icon: Rosie the Riveter. Except there was no Rosie the Riveter. The character, most commonly associated with the flexing bandana-ed lady in the “We Can Do It” poster, is a composite. In the early 1940s, millions of American men were sent off to World War II in Europe. Government offices looked to the other half of the population to take the jobs formerly held by the new soldiers. Given how few women—especially married ones—participated in the workforce prewar, this was a big deal. In some places, it was literally law that married women had to stay out of the workforce. So the Office of War Information created an advertising campaign recruiting women to do the jobs most critical to supporting the war effort. The campaign used posters, articles, radio programs, and more. In 1942, it created the “We Can Do It” slogan. That same year, two songwriters scored a hit with “Rosie the Riveter.” The song, in turn, inspired a Norman Rockwell painting of a burly riveter named Rosie enjoying a ham sandwich. Rockwell’s painting, whose Rosie was modeled on Michelangelo’s Isaiah on the Sistine Chapel, appeared in The Saturday Evening Post with its 4 million readers. Later that year Pittsburgh artist Howard Miller was hired to paint a buff woman rolling up her sleeves for a “We Can Do It!” poster. He never associated his painting with the Rosie the Riveter song or Norm Rockwell’s painting, or the name Rosie at all. And no records remain of who the painting is modeled after. In fact it wasn’t until the late 1980’s, during the Equal Rights Amendment movement, that Miller’s image was falsely associated with Rosie the Riveter. But whatever it was called, the posters did their job. Between 1942 and 1944 the number of working women increased by 36%. More critically, when the GI’s came home, most women kept working. The face of the American workforce was forever changed by millions of women who rolled up their sleeves just like Rosie. Or whatever her name was.
August 25, 2016
The sand mafia
Lesson of the Day
with Drawing with Shoo Rayner
We’re running out of sand? Sand is one of Earth’s most abundant natural resources. It’s pretty much everywhere. Beaches, riverbeds, the ocean floor. Not to mention, um, deserts. Which is why it’s a great raw material, used in pretty much every kind of construction, from roads to computer chips to buildings. But experts are now warning that the world’s sand is disappearing—at least the critical kind that we use for glass and concrete. For these materials, makers must use water-weathered sand. Desert sand doesn’t work because the wind makes the grains too round to bind. That leaves the sand found in riverbeds, beaches, and floodplains. But decades of development all over the world has taken sand dredging from these natural landforms to an all-time high. Global sand and gravel production is now estimated at 40 billion tons a year! But all that dredging has a severe environmental cost. Entire islands are disappearing from overdredging, and habitats for fish and birds are being destroyed. To counteract the environmental effects, governments have regulated sand dredging practices. This has slowed the growth of legit development. But it has also created a black market run by “sand mafias” to keep up with the globe’s insatiable sand craving. Great.
An amusing daily fact from Justin Kitch, Curious CEO. Learn something amazing and unique every day!
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