Carl Sagan is one of those rare humans who makes anyone he's arguing with look ham-fisted. The guy talking nonsense about transitional fossils is no exception.
This article originally appeared on 07.10.21
Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!
Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.
Mansfield and his team are, understandably, incredibly proud. What they discovered is that the tablet is actually an ancient trigonometry table.
"The huge mystery, until now, was its purpose – why the ancient scribes carried out the complex task of generating and sorting the numbers on the tablet. Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles. It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius."
"The tablet not only contains the world's oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry. This means it has great relevance for our modern world. Babylonian mathematics may have been out of fashion for more than 3,000 years, but it has possible practical applications in surveying, computer graphics and education. This is a rare example of the ancient world teaching us something new."
The tablet predates Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who has long been regarded as the father of trigonometry. Mansfield's colleague, Norman Widberger, added:
"Plimpton 322 predates Hipparchus by more than 1,000 years. It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own."
"A treasure trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us."
People were understandably excited by the news.
Some mathematicians actually think studying the Babylonians back then could help us improve the way we do trigonometry today.
Babylonian tablet Plimpton 322 will make studying maths easier, mathematician says http://ab.co/2vuEzuL\u00a0 | @abcnewspic.twitter.com/U10wQ7ZA42— ABC Australia (@ABC Australia) 1503644411
"With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trig. (with) clear advantages over our own."\n@n_wildberger: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/aug/24/mathematical-secrets-of-ancient-tablet-unlocked-after-nearly-a-century-of-study\u00a0\u2026\n#TOK— Roo Stenning (@Roo Stenning) 1503658186
Of course, there were the haters...
Find someone who loves you as much as this guy dislikes a hypothesis about Babylonian math: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/ancient-babylonian-tablet-may-contain-first-evidence-trigonometry\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/c5yO8LmjhE— Miles Brundage (@Miles Brundage) 1503605001
But all in all, Twitter users were pretty impressed with the Babylonians' skills.
And we're over here trying to figure out how to do trig with our TI-83s... man I love it when the ancients show what real intelligence is.— Kenny Hayse (@Kenny Hayse) 1503633184
Congratulations to Dr. Mansfield and his team on their incredible discovery... and for making trigonometry exciting!
Being spatially aware has a surprisingly profound effect.
Acts of kindness—we know they’re important not only for others, but for ourselves. They can contribute to a more positive community and help us feel more connected, happier even. But in our incessantly busy and hectic lives, performing good deeds can feel like an unattainable goal. Or perhaps we equate generosity with monetary contribution, which can feel like an impossible task depending on a person’s financial situation.
Perhaps surprisingly, the main reason people don’t offer more acts of kindness is the fear of being misunderstood. That is, at least, according to The Kindness Test—an online questionnaire about being nice to others that more than 60,000 people from 144 countries completed. It does make sense—having your good intentions be viewed as an awkward source of discomfort is not exactly fun for either party.
However, the results of The Kindness Test also indicated those fears were perhaps unfounded. The most common words people used were "happy," "grateful," "loved," "relieved" and "pleased" to describe their feelings after receiving kindness. Less than 1% of people said they felt embarrassed, according to the BBC.
So, maybe with kindness, we need to put our social anxieties away and act without overthinking (to a certain point, of course). Perhaps it’s best to find the simplest actions we can commit to on a daily basis, rather than formulating some grandiose gesture.
Reddit user u/tacoabouttoeat asked the online forum “what’s a small act of kindness that literally anyone can do/practice everyday?” and people gave some brilliantly simple ideas.
Here are eight easy-to-accomplish crowdsourced answers that might bring us one step closer to a more peaceful world:
1. Be aware of your surroundings.
It takes zero effort.Giphy
“Either move with the flow of traffic or get to the side if you have to situate yourself.” – @JoeMorgue
2. Use headphones when taking public transport.
A tune we can all groove to.Giphy
“If you don’t have them - you can go 20 minutes without making excessive noise while sharing a small space with other people.” – @cynthiayeo
3. Give compliments.
Does anyone not like feeling appreciated? Anyone?Giphy
“If you have a charitable thought about someone, even a stranger, say it out loud to their face. It is free, it is easy, and it might be the best thing that has happened to that person all week. Nothing creepy or overtly sexual or flirty, just kind words. ‘That shirt is really your color! Your haircut is beautiful. I appreciate your help, you were a real lifesaver!’ It doesn't cost you anything and it means the world to the people you are talking to.” – @Comments_Wyoming
4. Hold doors open for people.
An instant warm welcome no matter where you are.Giphy
“Makes a big difference in one's day.” – @sconnie64
5. Don’t act on “road rage."
Be like bond. Keep it cool.Giphy
“After several years of commuting I came to the realization that with a few exceptional days, I always got home at the same time. Regardless of how many people ‘cut me off’ or drove too slowly and whatever. I started to just ‘go with the flow’ and always let people in when needed, always give extra room, and just enjoy my music/podcast. Life changing.” – @CPCOpposesAbortion
6. Have patience.
You never know what someone is going through.Giphy
“You never know what someone else is going through. Could be a breakup, their dog just died, granny finally made it to heaven, or maybe mom just broke the news that she's got end stage cervical cancer and has weeks left to live. You never know, so be patient. After all, wouldn't you want someone to be patient with you?” – @mamalion12
7. Thank the people you live with for taking care of things around the house.
No, thank YOU for the "thank you."Giphy
“It doesn’t have to be over the top, but everyone feels better about doing chores when it is noticed and appreciated. ‘Thanks for folding my laundry’ or ‘thanks for always keeping track of our bills, you’re awesome at managing money!’” – @Mrshaydee
8. Leave a place you visit just a little bit nicer than when you found it.
Your future self will thank you for it.Giphy
“Pick up a piece of litter at the park. Give that mat with a pucker ready to trip someone a little tug to get it to lay flat in the business you're at. Let an employee know when you spot a leaky dairy product on the shelves so they can deal with it. Return someone else's grocery cart.” – @BlueberryPiano
This article originally appeared on 09.08.16
Every night around 5:30 p.m., she stood up and told the staff at her Ohio nursing home that she needed to leave. When they asked why, she said she needed to go home to take care of her mother. Her mom, of course, had long since passed away.
Behavior like Norma's is quite common for older folks suffering from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Walter, another man in the same assisted living facility, demanded breakfast from the staff every night around 7:30.
Jean Makesh, CEO of Lantern assisted living facilities, says he meets folks with stories like these every day. It's their stories that inspired him to make some changes at Lantern.
"I thought I knew a lot about elderly care. The more and more time I was spending with my clients, that's when I realized, 'Oh my god, I have no clue.'"
A big believer in the idea that our environment has an enormous effect on us, he started thinking big — and way outside the box.
"What if we design an environment that looks like outside?" he said. "What if I can have a sunrise and sunset inside the building? What if I'm able to have the moon and stars come out? What if I build a unit that takes residents back to the '30s and '40s?"
And that was just the beginning. He also researched sound therapy. And aromatherapy. And carpet that looked like grass. No idea was off-limits.
What he came up with was a truly unique memory-care facility. And after testing the concept in Lantern's Madison, Ohio, facility, Makesh is opening two new locations this year.
All photos courtesy of Lantern
Some studies have shown that this kind of aromatherapy may indeed have some merits for improving cognitive functioning in Alzheimer's patients.
There's even a little "main street" where residents can gather.
The insides of the rooms aren't too shabby, either.
Makesh said one of the frustrating shortcomings of most nursing facilities is that they create conflicts with unnatural environments and schedules, and they try to solve them by throwing antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications at patients. In other words, when someone has severe dementia, we often give up on them. From there, they stop getting the engagement their brain needs to thrive.
But Makesh's project shows that when we think strategically about altering the environment and focus on helping people relearn essential self-care and hygiene skills, the near-impossible becomes possible.
"In five years, we're going to [be able to] rehabilitate our clients where they can live independently in our environment," he said. "In 10 years, we're going to be able to send them back home."
He knows it's a lofty goal. And whether he'll meet it remains to be seen. But in the meantime, he's proud to own one of the few places that offers something pretty rare in cases of severe dementia: hope.