Most people know reading is good for them. But what does it do to the brain?

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We hear and read all the time that reading is one of the best habits to develop. Successful people like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Emma Watson have touted their insatiable appetites for devouring new information as one of the key ingredients they’ve needed for their achievements. And we all know where that information can be found: in books.

Besides the obvious fact that reading more opens us up to new information and shows us new ways of connecting sets of information, what is not as widely known by most people are the ways reading changes our brains.

Neuroscientific evidence…

Scientists now know that extremophiles can survive in space

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Humans have been sending bits of metal, animals, and people flying into space since the 1960s. Most of the time, the stuff humans have sent into space has ended up there, because they meant it to be up there.

However, scientists have recently speculated that humans could have been unintentionally importing microbial life forms into space, shuttled there on spacecraft exteriors and interiors, since space travel began. The implications this could have are thought-provoking, even awe-inspiring.

Tardigrades in their dormant state can survive in the vacuum of space

Microbes in space? How this can happen.

Scientists have discovered a number of hardy organisms which can, on earth…

The press should respect the privacy and the interests of the players

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I don’t think it’s acceptable to force someone to do something they have said they don’t want to do. The Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka has, however, recently had to leave the French Open, one of the most prestigious competitions in the world, for declining interviews with the media.

Osaka has been clear that she suffers from social anxiety and depression, and that as a result she is averse to being put in the spotlight, especially after performances she knows haven’t been her best.

Osaka has had to…

The pioneering feminist theorist who aims to improve people’s welfare

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Martha Nussbaum is a feminist philosopher who, from the 1980s, has been producing research and educating students about how people’s welfare across the world could be improved.

She has worked with several other eminent and prestigious philosophers, theorists, and economists to develop her ideas, not least Amartya Sen, John Rawls, Bernard Williams, Susan Okin, Iris Young, and Cass Sunstein.

Generally speaking, Nussbaum can be considered a liberal philosopher, since her work focuses on the freedom people should have to become who they want to be. …

For Foucault, power can be a vehicle for exerting change

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Michel Foucault was a French philosopher who lived from 1926–1984. He was extremely productive and his work spans many topics. He wrote about the ways madness has been understood throughout history, changing conceptions and systems of punishment, and how sexuality has been understood throughout history, at different moments.

However, one concept which has a prominent position throughout Foucault’s work is power. Power has often been understood as a negative force or concept in political thought and history. …

Forests are a natural sink of carbon dioxide, but they’re also a source of cash

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The Amazon rainforest is being destroyed at a rate that climate scientists are finding extremely alarming. The world’s forests are very important for reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But with less forest, there’ll be more carbon dioxide. Climate scientists are worried that this will have a catastrophic environmental impact.

One major reason these important forests are being destroyed in South America is that clearing space for agriculture has a positive short-term economic impact. So, some powerful domestic politicians such as Jair Bolsonaro support deforestation for these small financial gains.

However, in the long-term, this is a…

There are many myths and misconceptions out there about feminism

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The history of feminism is a complicated topic, but the ideology itself is simple. The French socialist Charles Fourier is first credited with using the word feminism, in 1837. However, reflection about, and beliefs in, the equal personhood of women with men predate this coinage.

The ancient tragedies of the poets and playwrights Homer, Sophocles, and Aeschylus can be understood as early attempts to explore the psychological conditions of women who were objectified and treated as possessions. However, it was not until the 20th century that meditation about the political and social status of women was translated into action.


Democracy has been less historically prevalent than you might think

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Democracy is today, in the Western world, the most praised form among possible political regimes, especially among academics. However, for most of history, political regimes have not been democratic, and democracies have been understood as problematic institutions.

For most of Western history, communities and societies had most typically and most commonly been ruled as kingdoms ruled by hereditary monarchs, or oligarchies ruled by the wealthy and educated aristocracy.

Democracy literally means the power or the rule of the people, and it is derived from the conjunction of the two Greek words demos, meaning people, and kratia, meaning rule, government, or…

Take control of your finances — why miss out on fun ways to make money?

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At the end of 2020 and during the first few months of 2021, retail investing has been at the heart of some major news stories. Who could forget the recent coverage of the Reddit community WallStreetBets? Covered by pretty much every major press outlet, the tale provides great reasons to invest.

In December 2020 and January 2021, an army of retail investors put in a heroic effort to squeeze the price of Gamestop and AMC shares by inflating demand and therefore the share prices of these companies. …

Football has always been the people’s game, and the people want to keep it.

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In Europe, we call “soccer” football. On the European side of the Atlantic, football is the continent’s most popular sport. It’s the same story in Central and South America, as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, and Colombia are all huge footballing nations. Worldwide, the sport has 4 billion fans.

The league was designed so the teams involved were guaranteed to stay in the competition.

Football has always prided itself on being a sport easy to access, with no barriers to participate. But in April 2021, the elite…

Ed Fernyhough

Cambridge, LSE & Bristol graduate. Write on culture, philosophy, business and politics. Owner of The Retrospective.

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