The Best of the Week

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Social researchers look at Stonehenge, meditation and differences between East and West.

World War I in Photos: The Western Front, Part I – The Atlantic – By Alan Taylor

A visually arresting gallery of World War I photos, part of a new series by the Atlantic.

The stalemate on the Western Front lasted for four years, forcing the advancement of new technologies, bleeding the resources of the belligerent nations, and destroying the surrounding countryside.

Children Who Play Outdoors are Happier and More Creative Experts Say – The Daily Mail – By Sarah Bridge

Children that played outside said they felt a kind of spiritual connection or purpose from nature and the world around them.

“This is the first generation that’s significantly plugged in to a different extent and so what does this mean?’ said [researcher Gretel] Van Wieren. “Modern life has created a distance between humans and nature that now we’re realizing isn’t good in a whole host of ways.”

Rice Theory: Why Eastern Cultures Are More Cooperative – National Public Radio – By Michaeleen Doucleff

One of the majorly studied areas of difference between “East” and “West” is the idea that Westerners are more independent and “individualist,” prizing or rewarding personal achievement. “Collectivist” cultures, by contrast, often emphasize the good of the group over the individual and identify more with group excellence.

Planting paddy rice in Laos. Image: Stuart Ling.

Planting paddy rice in Laos. Image: Stuart Ling.

Now some researchers believe the difference could have roots in our agricultural past.

“[The cost of growing rice] falls on the village, not just one family,” [said researcher Thomas Talhem]. “So villages have to figure out a way to coordinate and pay for and maintain this system. It makes people cooperate.”

Wheat, on the other hand, as well as barley and corn, don’t generally require irrigation — or much collaboration. One family alone can plant, grow and harvest a field of wheat, without the help of others.

New Research Suggests Continuous Human Presence in Stonehenge Landscape for Ten Millennia – The Independent – By David Keys

Archeologists discover the famous British landmark and surrounding monuments have been used since 8000 B.C.

Still standing ancient tombs and other monuments in the Stonehenge landscape date from the subsequent Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Romano-British, Anglo-Saxon and later medieval periods – and the nearby small town of Amesbury has existed since at least the 9th century AD.

Study Suggests Dogs Able to Follow Direction of Human Voice – Phys.org – Bob Yirka

Dogs have been involved with humans for possibly tens of thousands of years, living in harmony as hunting aids and companions. Studies show our behavior may be more intertwined then previously thought.

One example was a prior study that found that dogs are able to follow a person’s gaze, or in many instances a pointed finger. In this latest effort, the researchers sought to determine if dogs are also able to make inferences based solely on the direction in which human communications are traveling.

Gary Becker, an Economist Who Changed Economics – The Washington Post – By Catherine Rampell

One of the towering minds of economics, Gary Becker, passed on May 3rd. Known for using economics to illuminate other social sciences like psychology, sociology and political science, Becker won the Nobel Prize in 1992.

He began applying economic analysis to gender relations, marriage markets and the division of labor within families… He predicted that rising wages would disrupt traditional gender roles and encourage more women to join the paid workforce. Likewise, he helped explain why people had fewer kids as societies got richer: As jobs began paying better, time spent raising children became costlier and raising children to get those jobs required more parental investment per child. Richer people still wanted children, but they would trade quantity for quality in their fertility decisions.

A Buddhist monk in meditation. Image: Photo Dharma.

A Buddhist monk in meditation. Image: Photo Dharma.

Which Kind of Mindfulness Meditation is Right for You? – Greater Good Science Center – By Hooria Jazaieri

A new study looks at three different kinds of meditation: sitting mindfully, the “body scan” and yoga.

In all three groups participants reported reduced rumination, as well as greater self-compassion and well-being. These results echo decades of research showing that mindfulness practices improve physical and mental health.

Scientists Discover Mysterious, Ancient Rock Lines in Peru – Christian Science Monitor – Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience

The lines may have shown people the way to ancient fairs:

The mounds, pyramids and lines were likely the ancient version of neon signs, [archeologist Charles] Stanish explained: “We’re expending time and effort and resources to make our place bigger and better,” he said, explaining the mindset of those who created the constructions. The various settlements on the coast probably competed to attract the most participants to their own fairs.