architecture · design · environment · happiness · health · technology

A happy view, thanks to your window glass

English: A 100 watt "black light" ul...
Get some healthy UV light thanks to newly designed window coatings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Co.Design:

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research in Germany have invented a new type of window that is conceived to improve concentration, regulate sleep, and even make you happier. The so-called “feel-good glass” has a special .1-micrometer-thick inorganic coating that is optimized to transmit wavelengths between 450 and 500 nanometers, where the effects of blue light are most pronounced. Blue light is the part of the spectrum which promotes the balance of biorhythm-moderating hormones (and which traditional glass largely blocks). “The coating we’ve developed helps people to feel they can perform better and makes it less likely they will fall ill,” Dr. Jörn Probst says.

Of course, you could soak up plenty of mood-enhancing light just by stepping outside. But given that Americans spend as much as 90% of their lives indoors, it makes perfect sense to welcome the healthiest aspects of the outdoors inside. The effects can even be felt in spaces criminally low on natural light, the researchers say; as long as there is at least one small window, blue light can creep in.

The patent-pending Uniglas | Vital feel-good glass isn’t on the market yet, and still requires some tinkering. Says researcher Walther Glaubitt: “Up to now we’ve only applied our special coating to the side of the glass facing into the cavity between panes. In future we will also be coating the glazing’s exposed surfaces–in other words, the outside and the inside of the window. That will allow us to achieve around 95 percent light transmissivity at 460 nanometers.”

[see also PSFK]

Neato! I feel happier already! Of course I’m always an advocate of the real thing, but I also work in an office all day and know just how powerful a little sunshine on my shoulder can be for my productivity (unless it’s a REALLY nice day outside and then I’m about as productive as a surgeon with two left hands. Thankfully I’m also left-handed).

But until this glass becomes commercially available, your best bet for better health really is step outside and get a few minutes of sun every day – even 20 minutes daily makes a huge difference.

behavior · brain · creativity · culture · happiness · health · mental health · play · Social

Playing is good for work productivity

Editor’s Note: Hi! I just wanted to take a minute to acknowledge that this post is VERY similar to a  post this week on the blog of digital agency Plexipixel. That’s because they were BOTH written by me, but I didn’t want to plagiarize my own work. For the original version of this post, check out their site.

The title of this blog post sums up the entire concept. There’s no other way to say it: you need to play to be a productive member of society.

However, this idea doesn’t seem to be sticking. 

The perception in America is that the harder and longer you work, the more productive you’ll be. Especially now when jobs are scarce and companies are holding on by the skin of their teeth, people sacrifice play, exercise, and good old legitimate downtime, not to mention sleep (September 30th was National Coffee Day!), to get more work done.

But it turns out we weren’t built to work that way. We need breaks, we need downtime, and we most certainly need to cut loose and be a little silly every once in awhile. As biology professor Robert Sapolsky pointed out in his book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” occasional stress is good – it makes sure we get that report in on time and we are aware of our surroundings in a new city. But constant stress just wears us down.

Several studies have found that play increases new ideas and overall productivity at work. Germans, and other European countries, have more vacation time than Americans, and yet have overall higher productivity, according to data presented in an article in Open Forum. The O.E.C.D. put Americans at 1,804 work hours a year on average and the Germans at 1,436 hours in 2006.Author Thomas Geoghegan believes that Americans weren’t always this overworked. In an interview, Geoghegan explains that in the 1960’s, Americans spent more vacation time than they do now, and many people in their 50s or 60s will tell you that they take less vacation time than their parents did. In the same New York Times article, another commenter noted that Americans view time as a currency in the workplace, as opposed to output, whereas Germans view results as the biggest indicator of results.

And it’s not just time away from work that’s rejuvenating. Repeated research has found that play increases new ideas and overall productivity at work. Psychology Today reports that telling stories and jokes makes us better writers. It also reports that even a little bit of physical play or just boring old exercise – a brisk walk around the block three times a week – fights depression. 

New business, products, and companies stem from play. The t-shirt company Threadless, for example, started off 10 years ago as a hobby. The company has since grown to employ 80 workers, but Jake Nickell, founder and chief strategy officer, “has made sure playtime remains a part of company culture. Shooting a potato gun at plastic parachute guys is a way to relieve stress.”

 Pamela Meyer, author of “From Workspace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning and Changing through Dynamic Engagement,” agrees that taking time out for fun is a good workplace practice.

“This idea of play space is very much a key part of business success” because it fosters dynamic employee engagement, said Meyer in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “Companies that engage their workers by giving them space to create, try new roles or test new ideas benefit from higher employee retention, greater productivity and better financial returns.”

So, to re-re-emphasize my point: Go play, it’s good for your work.

Uncategorized

The outer limits…of humans

I’ve been collecting some weird stuff that doesn’t necessarily correlate directly to humans and culture, but they all do in a roundabout, sideways, too-cool-to-not-mention sort of way.

For starters, some researchers have found evidence that humans have taste buds for calcium. I wonder if there is a difference between cultures who practically live off milk compared to those who don’t.

Also, there is a cool YouTube video about parasitic worms that can actually recreate or at least mimic the genes of their host insect to the extent that they can send messages to the insect’s “brain” and make the insects do what they want, including commit suicide by jumping into a body of water so the worm can escape, essentially turning the bug into a zombie. As the researcher mentions in the video, this has implications for human parasitic diseases (which I can’t remember right now but if you watch the video he will explain it better).

Getting back into the traditional “Anthropology” stuff, German anthropologists have been able to genetically trace bones from the Bronze Age to a pair of men living in a village nearby the cave where the bones were found, making this the longest family tree in history.

As a cool example of the power of motherhood and how much dogs have evolved to be co-habitants of humans, a dog in Argentina rescued a newborn baby abandoned in the ghettos/favelas. The dog was a new mother herself, and after the dog’s owner discovered the baby cuddled in with the pups, he alerted authorities and the baby’s 14-year-old mother came forward. Unfortunately the media attention is actually freaking the dog out a bit, so leave her alone!

Also, for all you star gazers out there, a Top 10 of ancient astronomy observatories throughout the world (interestingly, the Mayan pyramids made it on there, the Egyptian pyramids did not).

Finally, for all you visual or historical anthropologists, a cool article on the history of the daguerrotype, and links to other articles about cool photographic inventions.