What’s so bad about feeling happy?

Why is being happy, positive and satisfied with life the ultimate goal of so many people, while others steer clear of such feelings? It is often because of the lingering belief that happiness causes bad things to happen, says Mohsen Joshanloo and Dan Weijers of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Their article, published in Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies, is the first to review the concept of aversion to happiness, and looks at why various cultures react differently to feelings of well-being and satisfaction.”One of these cultural phenomena is that, for some individuals, happiness is not a supreme value,” explain Joshanloo and Weijers in their review.The researchers believe that being raised in a culture that does not value happiness could encourage a person to back away from it. However, an aversion to happiness exists in both Western and non-Western cultures, although happiness is more valued in the West.In American culture, it is almost taken for granted that happiness is one of the most important values guiding people’s lives. Western cultures are more driven by an urge to maximize happiness and minimize sadness. Failing to appear happy is often a cause for concern. Its value is echoed through Western positive psychology and research on subjective well-being.In non-Western cultures, in contrast, it is a less valued emotion. The ideals of harmony and conformity are often at odds with the pursuit of personal happiness and the endorsement of individualistic values. For instance, studies have shown that East Asians are more inclined than Westerners to think that it is inappropriate to express happiness in many social situations. Similarly, Japanese are less inclined to savor positive emotions than Americans.The review points out that many cultures shy away from happiness. …

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Optimizing custody is child’s play for physicists

Ensuring that parents in recomposed families see their children regularly is a complex network problem.Physics can provide insights into societal trends. Problems involving interactions between people linked in real-life networks can be better understood by using physical models. As a diversion from his normal duties as a theoretical physicist, Andrs Gomberoff from the Andres Bello University in Santiago, Chile, set out to resolve one of his real-life problems: finding a suitable weekend for both partners in his recomposed family to see all their children at the same time. He then joined forces with a mathematician and a complex systems expert. This resulted in a study published in EPJ B, showing that solving this problem essentially equates to minimizing the energy in a material model.The authors assume that they deal with a network of people who are connected, either because they are in a current relationship or because they are ex-partners. Another assumption is that all involved in the network are willing to cooperate and communicate in an open manner.They then attempt to verify whether it is possible to find a custody arrangement whereby all parents see all of their children together every other weekend, thus satisfying the expectations of all members of the network. The answer is that it is not possible, in general, to have such an agreement.However, they also found that it is possible to have an arrangement in which one of the parents gets to see all of their children every other weekend. They also found an algorithm to maximize the level of contentment of members of this extended family network. Maximizing the number of parents spending time with their own children and those of their current partners was akin to minimizing the energy of a particular magnetic material called a spin glass.Who said that physics can’t have real-life applications?Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Is an earthquake behind the Shroud of Turin image? Radiation from earthquake could have led to ‘wrong’ 1988 dating

Neutron radiation caused by 33 A.D. earthquake could have led to “wrong” 1988 radiocarbon dating of Shroud, suggest researchersAn earthquake in Old Jerusalem might be behind the famous image of the Shroud of Turin, says a group of researchers led by Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino in Italy in an article published in Springer’s journal Meccanica. They believe that neutron radiation caused by an earthquake could have induced the image of a crucified man — which many people believe to be that of Jesus — onto the length of linen cloth, and caused carbon-14 dating done on it in 1988 to be wrong.The Shroud has attracted widespread interest ever since Secondo Pia took the first photograph of it in 1898: about whether it is Jesus’ purported burial cloth, how old it might be, and how the image was created. According to radiocarbon dating done in 1988, the cloth was only 728 years old at the time. Other researchers have since suggested that the shroud is much older and that the dating process was incorrect because of neutron radiation — a process which is the result of nuclear fusion or nuclear fission during which free neutrons are released from atoms — and its interaction with the nuclei of other atoms to form new carbon isotopes.However, no plausible physical reason has yet been proposed to explain the origin of this neutron radiation. Now Carpinteri’s team, through mechanical and chemical experimentation, hypothesizes that high-frequency pressure waves generated in Earth’s crust during earthquakes are the source of such neutron emissions. This is based on their research into piezonuclear fission reactions, which are triggered when very brittle rock specimens are crushed under a press machine. In the process, neutrons are produced without gamma emissions. Analogously, the researchers theorize further that neutron flux increments, in correspondence to seismic activity, should be a result of the same reactions.The researchers therefore believe that neutron emission from a historical earthquake in 33 A.D. in Old Jerusalem, which measured 8.2 on the Richter Scale, could have been strong enough to cause neutron imaging through its interaction with nitrogen nuclei. …

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Trust thy neighbor: During times of community change, familiar sources of information feel more trustworthy

Aug. 7, 2013 — Increases in population size may lead to a breakdown in social trust, according to Jordan Smith from North Carolina State University in the US. As local populations grow, local elected officials and national news media become less trusted, compared with friends and family, local churches and civic institutions. This ‘trust deficit’ has implications for long-term environmental and community planning.Smith’s study is published online in Springer’s journal Human Ecology.Smith studied three southern Appalachian mining communities during a period of change, amid growing controversy over the expansion of amenity-based industries (such as tourism and recreation areas), as well as its impact on both the environment and local communities. The expansion of these industries inevitably leads to rapid increases in population.Smith was particularly interested in the levels of social trust within these communities where conflict is likely to exist between long-term residents who tend to be more concerned about ‘their’ community, and incoming residents who are more transitory and less vested in community affairs.All three communities have transitioned from a natural resource-based economy to a service economy, demonstrated by a steady decline in natural resource-related jobs and a dramatic increase in the types of employment associated with amenity-based communities. This steep rise in population has inevitably changed how residents interact and communicate with one another.By and large, residents in each of the three communities tended to trust the information they received from immediate family members, churches, close friends, and local newspapers more than information coming from other sources. The least trusted information comes from elected officials, national television news, online news sources and co-workers.The analyses also suggest that population density itself is not related to the structure of information networks or the level of trust or distrust within them.Smith concludes: “As resource-dependent communities continue to grow, residents will increasingly look for familiar faces when trying to get information. This in effect reaffirms already held attitudes and beliefs. Conflicts associated with amenity transition are more likely to arise because of conflicting values and ideologies, rather than social structural changes in the community. The road ahead for environmental and community planners is likely to be difficult as they attempt to accommodate greater and greater numbers of amenity migrants.”

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