Sunday review: storing images in bacteria, coral reefs and climate change, and other random reads of the week.

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I spend probably over 20 hours a week online, and perhaps need to reevaluate my habits. While a complete digital detox might not be for me, I am starting to be mindful of the information I expose myself to. Every day, as I scroll through my never-ending feeds, I look for interesting and hopefully mind-boggling things to read.

Here’s my roundup of the most interesting reads of the week (July 10–17).

  • The older you get, the harder it is to learn new things. That’s no news to me, but now I know why (kinda). It’s because “an adult brain not only loses its flexibility but suppresses it. This process may reflect the different agendas of adults and children. Children explore; adults exploit,” according to this WSJ article. “From an evolutionary perspective, childhood is an adaptation designed to let animals learn. Baby animals get a protected time when all they have to do is learn, without worrying about actually making things happen or getting things done. Adults are more focused on using what they already know to act effectively and quickly.” This explanation was one of those I-never-thought-about-it-that-way kind of moments.
  • Scientists brought an extinct virus back to life. My first question is why, my second is are we all in danger now. A group of scientists “econstituted and reanimated an extinct virus, horsepox, using DNA they’d ordered via mail.” My third question is how come you can order DNA via mail?! The Engadget article goes on to explain that “the team stitched together multiple gene fragments (each with about 30,000 base pairs) into the complete 212,000-pair horsepox genome and inserted it into cells already infected with a different pox, bringing the inanimate virus to life.” It’s “clever work” (no $#!t), but it’s unclear whether this would lead to a scientific breakthrough or pose a potential threat, or both.
  • Our brains also suck at time management. So if you’re an adult, not only do you struggle with learning new things, but you can’t manage time well either. “Our minds struggle with time management the longer the timeline we’re trying to manage becomes... In fact, time isn’t the only variable — your brain is wired to understand things that feel far away from you in time, space, or even your social network more abstractly than things it determines to be close to you.” The article then offers two workarounds to make you a better long-term planner (I will come back to this in December when it’s time for resolutions).
  • One way to incorporate reading into your routine is reading slow. “By keeping your book in one location each time, you free yourself from the distractions of a commute or the pounding waves of a beach. As a result, a strange new relationship forms, between you, the voice of the book, and the room…This has the added effect of creating a shared universe between the books you read here.” This makes me want to cuddle up with a book and a hot beverage in a dimly lit room with a fireplace (yes I know it’s July).
  • Doodling is scientifically proven to be good for you. Apparently, doodling is even better than drawing (or coloring) for your problem-solving skills and creativity. Doodling can also improve focus, memory and productivity. And now I kinda know the difference between doodling and drawing: doodling is freestyling, “aimless shapemaking”, whereas creating “representational images” is drawing.
  • Scientists can store images and videos in bacteria. MIND BLOWN. “Scientists can now encode any digital file in the form of DNA, by converting the ones and zeroes of binary code into As, Cs, Gs, and Ts of the double helix.” This combined with the virus resurrection from above makes me feel severely uneducated. People are bringing things back from the dead and using live organisms as hard drives, and well I’m in marketing.
  • Cosmic icon Jill Tarter dedicated to finding out if we’re alone in the universe. “She spent countless hours managing underfunded telescopes, fundraising for projects, publishing paper after paper, and trying to convince skeptics that the search for extraterrestrial life, this strange new field, was worth it. And Tarter did it at a time when women were encouraged to do the opposite. “Why do you want to take calculus? You’re just going to get married and have babies,” a high-school guidance counselor told her.” Some motivation to keep going.
  • Winter is here, in case you haven’t heard. With Game of Thrones season 7 premiering tonight, all of my feeds are exploding with GoT themed news. But this site was by one of the most entertaining things that popped, especially if you’re into design or marketing.
  • Our kids will have to deal with climate change. And it is yet uncertain how bad it will be. “So is it moral to bring a child into an environment about to be destroyed by climate change? Well, if you want to have a baby, you’d better fix the world, baby. And, apparently, a lot faster than we thought.”
  • But may be there’s hope. Researchers found coral reefs in a place there aren’t supposed to be any. “Overall, how these reefs were able to form and survive isn’t yet understood, but figuring it out will be important in light of ongoing climate change-induced reef loss.”
  • It is possible to implant false memories. Looking at photos of events that one could have experienced (but didn’t) can create false memories. Moreover, “not only did looking at photos boost the memory of that particular event, but also impaired memories of events that happened at the same time and were not featured in the photographs.”