Category Archives: Culture

How Often Do People Check Their Phone?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureCell phone addiction is a very real problem; it even has a name: nomophobia. A person with nomophonia obsessively checks his or her cell phone and feels anxious when not connected to the internet. And losing a smartphone causes absolute panic — increased heart rate, difficulty in breathing, and overwhelming anxiety. Watching a person look for their lost cell phone is like watching a junkie tearing their room apart to find their missing stash. It isn’t pretty. And every parent knows that taking away is cell phone is the most draconian punishment for an adolescent; it is considered the nuclear option. But we digress — researchers have found that increased smartphone use leads to increased narcissism as well as an increase in level of cell phone addiction that paradoxically leads to loneliness, moodiness, and jealousy. That’s right — all those happy, laughing emojis in the realm of the zestful social network do not necessarily lead to a happy, fulfilling life. In the past few years, several studies have provided insight into mobile phone addiction; here are the sobering statistics about how often people check their phones [insert startled emoji]:

The average person checks his or her phone 85 times per day

The average person checks his or her phone every 5 minutes.

The average person spends about five hours a day using apps and web browsing

At least 50% of smartphone use occurs in burst of 30 seconds or less (researches call this “rapid mobile phone interactions”)

37% of people carry a back up battery on a daily basis

14% of people carry a back up cell phone on a regular basis

14% of people carry a portable charger on a daily basis

The average person touches their phone 2,617 times a day

The average person clicks, taps, or swipes their phones 5,427 times a day

Americans between the ages of 18 to 24 check their phones about 74 times a day

Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 check their phones about 50 times a day

Americans between the ages of 35 to 44 check their phones about 35 times a day

Americans who are deceased check their phones 0 times a day (just checking to see if you were paying attention)

Americans collectively check their phone 8 billion times a day

81% of Americans check their phones while dining out at restaurants

26% of Americans ages of 18-24 text message immediately after waking up (before checking email)

Most common daily smartphone activities of the average person: text messaging, website browsing, voice/video calls; email

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Nomophobia
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Feeling Down? How to Cure the Blues

alex atkins bookshelf cultureEver have one of those days when you are feeling down, feeling blue — and you want to snap out of it, but you don’t know what to do? Before you reach for age-old, but risky quick remedies like alcohol or drugs, you should turn to the most powerful and effective pharmaceutical — your brain. According to Alex Korb, a neuroscience researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, thinking the right thoughts is the best medicine for curing the blues. Here are five things you can do to harness the healing and uplifting power of the miraculous human brain — and unlike alcohol and drugs, they are absolutely free:

1. Ask yourself one important questions: who or what are you grateful for? Korb notes that feelings of pride and its opposite — shame and guilt — actually activate the same neural circuits in the brain (specifically, the amygdala, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, insula, and nucleus accumbent if you want to get technical). The antidote is to shift your thinking from shame or guilt to gratitude. Korb states that gratitude and thinking positively activates the parts of the brain that produce the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Korb adds: “It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.”

2. It is important not to suppress your emotions, but rather actively identify and label your emotions. Simply labeling an emotion in a word or two helps us to reduce that emotion. Leadership coach David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, elaborates: “To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system”

3. Make a decision about something in your life — a goal, an event, a personal or work-related situation. The decision does not have to be a perfect solution, it just has to be “good enough.” In short, making a decision boosts levels of dopamine, producing pleasure. “Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals — all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety,” states Korb. “Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.”

4. Don’t hesitate to ask for a hug. Studies show that emotional pain is experienced just as if it were physical pain in your brain; that is to say, when a couple breaks up, for example, that emotional pain is equivalent to the pain of a broken arm. The antidote to that pain is oxytocin — obtained through touching and hugs. Korb explains: “One of the primary ways to release oxytocin is through touching. Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to touch most people [in a workplace context], but small touches like handshakes and pats on the back are usually okay… In addition, holding hands with someone can help comfort you and your brain through painful situations… A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.” The ultimate touching experience is a massage, which boasts serotonin and dopamine, as well as decreasing stress hormones.

5. Reminisce and get nostalgic. The literal meaning of nostalgia is the suffering caused by the yearning to return to a person’s place of origin. In 2006, psychologist Tim Wildschut, Constantine Sedikides (University of Southampton), and Jamie Arndt (University of Missouri) conducted a fascinating study focused on nostalgia. Even though nostalgic events, that define the meaning of a person’s life, contain negative elements (emotional pain, disappointments, etc.), people tend to filter them out and focus on a narrative that reflects a positive or triumphant outcome. Wildschut and his colleagues found that nostalgia strengthens social bonds, increases positive self-regard, and generates good feelings.

Read related posts: How to Be Happy
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Experiencing Happiness in Life
The Difference Between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life

The Paradox of the American Dream
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks

For further reading: The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time by Alex Korb
Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
by David Rock
Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry
The Whole Brain Business Book: Unlocking the Power of Whole Brain Thinking in Organizations, Teams, and Individuals by Ned Herrmann
How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

The Human Brain Book by Rita Carter
Brain: The Complete Mind: How it Develops, How it Works, and How to Keep it Sharp by Michael Sweeney


What is the Most Popular Blogging Topic?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureBloggers develop a considerable amount of content that is published on the internet. Consider that as of 2016, there are more than 250 million blogs online, excluding the all the blogs from Google’s Blogger platform that does not publish statistics. And each month, more than 409 million people read more than 19.7 billion blog pages posted on the WordPress blogging site. The largest portion of blogs is by companies, who realize that blogs are the most effective marketing strategy to promote their products, services, and brands. A survey of businesses indicated that 86% of business to business companies blog, while 77% of business to consumer companies blog.

The balance of the blogs on the internet are written by the hoi polloi. People who blog, generally fall into two camps: those who blog for the fun of it and those who blog to make money. Those who blog to generate income focus on three of the most profitable blogging topics:

1. Heath and Fitness: food, nutrition, weight loss, exercise, mental health, etc.
2. Relationships: parenting advice, relationship advice, dating, marriage, divorce, etc.
3. Finance: making money, managing money, investing, saving, mortgages, real estate, credit cards, etc.

Surprisingly, in a world that is inundated with statistics about every little thing, there is a paucity of research about the most common or popular blogging topics published by individuals pursuing their particular passions. Below is a list of the best or most popular blog topics based on a review of information presented by many blogging experts:

1. Articles that are lists (commonly referred to as listicles); e.g., top ten lists, A to Z lists, best of lists
2. News and political commentary
3. Food and recipes
4. How-to guides, tutorials, or advice; e.g., fashion, health, diet, self-improvement, home repair, fitness, photography, video games, computer software, smartphones, blogging, etc.
5. FAQs
6. Interviews or profiles with experts, leaders, etc. 
7. Personal stories (first person), diaries, or sharing pet stories
8. Philanthropy and volunteering
9. Product reviews; book or movie reviews
10. Video blogs (vlog); audio post (podcast); webinars
11. Short stories (fiction or nonfiction)
12. Travel

Read related posts: Best Writing Advice From Famous Writers
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What Was the Most Googled Question in 2016?

atkins bookshelf triviaThe proliferation of digital devices and their reliance on the internet reflects that mankind’s propensity for community and curiosity is alive and well. Back in 1996, Ask Jeeves, an early pioneer in search engines, allowed users to seek information by asking questions posed in everyday language. Jeeves (based on the character created by British author P.G. Wodehouse) was the fictional digital valet who would ostensibly fetch the answers. Jeeves was retired in 2006 — perhaps because of his staggering salary, stock option, and health insurance demands. Ask Jeeves became simply, Although Google began to overshadow as early as 2010, influenced an entire generation of internet users to simply type in a question. Questions now make up a large percentage of what is entered into search engines.

What questions web users pose provides a fascinating window into the minds of Americans. What do they wonder about? What do they want to learn how to do? The most Googled questions in the past year reveal a fascination with games, humor, voting — and contemplating moving to Canada as a result of Donald Trump’s surprising win in the presidential election. One can surmise, that if Americans do not move to Canada, embracing humor and endlessly playing Pokemon Go will be critical to mental health. Below is Google’s top ten list of questions in the United States in 2016:

t. How to play Pokémon Go?

2. How to register to vote?

3. How to play Powerball?

4. How to make slime?

5. How to move to Canada?

6. How to battle in Pokémon Go?

7. How to appear funny?

8. How to catch Pokémon?

9. How to vote early?

10. How to use Snapchat filters?


Read related posts: The Most Googled People
The Most Googled Men
The Most Googled Women
The Most Googled Topic
The Most Common Words in English

For further reading:

The Three Humiliations of Humanity

atkins bookshelf quotations“Sigmund Freud declared that humanity had suffered three historic humiliations — Galileo’s discovery that the earth was not at the center of the universe, Darwin’s [discovery] that mankind was not qualitatively different than the animal kingdom, and his own — that we are not control of our own minds. Modern specialists reject many of his theories about the healing powers of psychoanalysis, but his revelation that the unconscious retains many thoughts and emotions that the conscious mind appears to have forgotten, has radically changed the way people think about themselves.”

From the essay “The Interpretations of Dreams (1899) by Sigmund Freud” in Books That Changed the World (2008) by Andrew Taylor. Taylor is a British journalist and contributor to the Sunday Times.

Is There Really a Life-size Replica of Noah’s Ark in the U.S.?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureSubscribing to the belief that “if you build it, they will come” Answers in Genesis, a Young Earth creationism group built a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, called the Ark Encounter, as a place where the faithful can gather to reaffirm their belief that the Bible is literally true, while unceremoniously tossing science (particularly, the theory evolution) overboard. And let’s not forget the business side of religion — where there is faith, there is profit.

The historically-themed attraction, located in the landlocked city of Williamstown, Kentucky, was built over five years (from 2011 to 2016); it officially opened on July 7, 2016. The ark contains three decks filled with 132 “teaching” exhibits, 8 passengers — Noah and his family (Genesis 7:13 indicates that “[into the ark] entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them”), animal models (dinosaurs co-exist with early man and animals), and colorful dioramas (including one that states that the world is only 6,000 years old). Docents will explain that the ark was built according to the dimensions and descriptions found in the Bible’s Genesis chapters. The interior, however, is another story. Since Genesis leaves out any specific description, the design of the ark’s interior is complete conjecture — it was built according to what the builders imagined it would look like. And yes, with more than 120,000 square feet of cargo space, they firly believe that there was room for two of every animal (or in creationist terms, “animal kinds”), and enough food for all the humans and animals.

Of course, no historically-accurate ark would be complete without a pricey gift shop, a restaurant (Emzara’s Kitchen), two movie theaters, and several areas for staged photo ops. Just outside the ark is a massive pond, the Ararat Ridge Zoo (petting zoo), a first-century Middle Eastern village, and a jaw-dropping zipline (the Eagle’s Nest Aerial Adventure), presumably a replica of the zipline that Noah and his family used for recreation while sailing around the world in a floating zoo. Conveniently located nearby is the Creation Museum, featuring 75,000 square feet of exhibits that “bring the pages of the Bible to life” and where pages of Charles Darwin’s Origins of the Species are burned to provide warmth for visiting guests.

Whether you believe the story of Noah’s Ark and the worldwide flood described in Genesis 6 to be literally true or a profound allegory (or Mashal), one cannot deny that the replica of the ark, standing seven stories high and the length of 1.5 football fields, is a stunning marvel of craftsmanship (built, ironically, by a team of very talented Amish carpenters) and engineering to behold. After all, it has been Intelligently Designed! The stewards of the ark proudly proclaim that the ark is the largest timber-frame structure in the world. Each evening the ark glows against the night sky as it is illuminated by brilliant spotlights in the color of the rainbow, evoking of the Noahic covenant (Genesis 9:12-17 — “everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth”). For Christian fundamentalists, seeing truly is believing. However, for science advocate Bill Nye, the Ark Encounter is creating a generation of scientifically illiterate children and discouraging critical thinking. During his tour soon after the Ark Encounter opened, Nye observed, “On the third deck, every single science exhibit is absolutely wrong… It’s all very troubling. You have hundreds of school kids there who have already been indoctrinated and who have been brainwashed.”

If climbing aboard Noah’s Ark in Williamstown doesn’t float your boat, you can visit two other full-size replicas on the other side of the globe. You can make a stop in Dordrecht, Netherlands to visit Johan’s Ark or travel all the way to Ma Wan Island, Hong Kong, China to visit Noah’s Ark Theme Park. Of the three replicas, the Ark Encounter is the largest.

Here is a view of the Noah’s ark, located in the U.S., by the numbers.

Cost: over $100 million dollars
Size: height – 51 feet; length – 510 feet; width – 85 feet
Decks: 3, each 18 feet high
Interior space: 120,000 square feet

Amount of wood used: 3.1 million feet
Mount of metal plates and bolts: 95 tons
Admission: Adults – $40; Senior – $31; Child (up to age 12) – $28
Size of parking lot: 4,000 spaces
Cost to park: $10-15

Size of site: 800 acres
Craftsmen employed: 1,000
Estimated visitors in first year: 2 million
Seasonal jobs: 300-400

Read related posts: What was the First Bible Printed in the United States?
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For further reading: Searching for Adam: Genesis and the Truth About Man’s Origin by Terry Mortensen (2016)
Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye (2015)
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins (2010)
Inherit the Wind: The Powerful Drama of the Greatest Courtroom Clash of the Century by Jerome Lawrence (2003)’s_Ark_replicas_and_derivatives

Who is the Best President in U.S. History?

atkins bookshelf triviaWhat better way to celebrate Presidents’ Day than to review and reflect on the list of the best U.S. presidents as ranked by presidential historians. C-SPAN’s academic advisors (Douglas Brinkley, history professor at Rice University; Edna Medford, history professor at Howard University; and Richard Norton Smith, presidential historian and author) reached out to historians and other professional observers of the presidency and asked then to rate each U.S. president on ten qualities of presidential leadership: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of his times. Each quality was ranked on a one through ten scale (one means not effective; ten means very effective) and tallied to arrive at each president’s total score.

The presidential survey has been conducted in 2000, 2009, and 2017. In each survey, Abraham Lincoln was consistently ranked as the best president in U.S. history. For two of those surveys, George Washington was ranked as the second best president. Richard Norton Smith notes: “The golden age of the American presidency, according to this survey, is 1933 to 1969. Five presidents from this era each rank in the top 10 which tells you something about the criteria that historians tend to use. It reinforces Franklin Roosevelt’s claim to be not only the first modern president but the man who, in reinventing the office, also established the criteria by which we judge our leaders.” Since historians prefer to judge a president’s legacy from an objective distance, Trump’s tumultuous, topsy-turvy, twittery presidency will not be evaluated nine to ten years from now. Here is the ranking of the presidents of the United States:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower
6. Harry S. Truman
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. John F. Kennedy
9. Ronald Reagan
10. Lyndon Baines Johnson
11. Woodrow Wilson
12. Barack Obama
13. James Monroe
14. James K. Polk
15. Bill Clinton
16. William McKinley Jr.
17. James Madison
18. Andrew Jackson
19. John Adams
20. George H. W. Bush
21. John Quincy Adams
22. Ulysses S. Grant
23. Grover Cleveland
24. William H. Taft
25. Gerald R. Ford Jr.
26. Jimmy Carter
27. Calvin Coolidge
28. Richard M. Nixon
29. James A. Garfield
30. Benjamin Harrison
31. Zachary Taylor
32. Rutherford B. Hayes
33. George W. Bush
34. Martin Van Buren
35. Chester Arthur
36. Herbert Hoover
37. Millard Fillmore
38. William Henry Harrison
39. John Tyler
40. Warren G. Harding
41. Franklin Pierce
42. Andrew Johnson
43. James Buchanan

Read related posts: What are the Perks of Being a President of the U.S.?
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