The Sunday Post for June 26, 2016

Road Tripping While Female

Road trips have been a fascination for decades. They are trips with endless possibilities, a chance to venture into the unfamiliar to find yourself. But as Bernadette Murphy points out, the presence of female road-trippers in literature is severely lacking. Jack Kerouacs fill the niche of road narratives, and always with exciting adventures. With women, however, the narratives focus more on the dangers of the road.

That film just turned 25, and the fact it remains as one of the only female-centered road trip narratives to have entered the lingua franca in the past quarter century implies that women either don’t have an interest in being on the road or, more tellingly, that they feel unsafe doing so. We know that women certainly face more life challenges, not having the same freedom as men if we have children and other home-based responsibilities. But the few stories of female road trips that do make it onto the larger cultural stage are more likely to be cautionary tales than celebrations of life and personal growth.

Which begs the question: Why is it that road trips, when undertaken by men in literature, seem to be about expanding one’s life and its context, about seeing the bigger world and how the man fits into it, and yet when undertaken by women, are most often in flight from dangerous situations, and seldom, if ever, for pure adventure?

The Psychology of Brexit

You've seen the economic analyses, the apocalypse memes, and the shocked tweets. But how do you explain Brexit from a psychological viewpoint? What were the voters thinking? Thomas Hills, Ph.D., teaches psychology at the University of Warwick and studies the decisions we make throughout our lives. He says, "Underlying the Brexit vote is a story as old as time."

Many have characterized the emotional divide as a split between the Angry and the Scared. The Angry wanted to throw the negotiating table at the EU, and they made claims that often ended with an implicit WTF. The Scared were worried about the consequences of leaving and provided evidence of a similar but different style. These often showed lines going up and down and through the top or bottom of charts. Everyone knows that lines should never rapidly approach the edge of a chart.
Sound check: the quietest place in the U.S.

In bustling cities, we often forget about the comfort of silence. Fortunately, Washington has the quietest square inch in the Lower 48 and it seems Seattleites appreciate it enough to fight for its protection. Samantha Larson hikes to this square inch and interviews Gordon Hempton, the acoustic ecologist that now champions the protection of these untouched environments.

But the quiet spaces — defined not by their lack of sound, which could include birdsong and wind rustling leaves, but their lack of manmade noise — are quickly disappearing. By some estimates, noise pollution affects more than 88 percent of the contiguous U.S.

According to Hempton, the slice of forest I visited has less noise pollution than any other spot in the American wilderness, which is why he chose it as the “One Square Inch of Silence” he wants to sonically protect, with a law that would prohibit air traffic overhead.

Invisibilia: Is Your Personality Fixed, Or Can You Change Who You Are?

An interesting excerpt from NPR's Invisibilia podcast. Alix Spiegel considers the story of a prisoner who claims he is a completely different person from the one that committed a ghastly crime. Our society loves the subject of personalities - we take BuzzFeed quizzes, read our horoscopes, and put our Myers-Briggs type in our Tinder bios. What if personalities aren't as stable as we thought, as psychologist Walter Mischel suggests?

Dan says it took him about two years to reconfigure his personality. He wanted to be less aggressive, less impulsive, more conscientious. He says he's now a different person. But he knows most people won't see him that way.

"I'm forever going to be a criminal," he says, "which I'm not. I've become a completely different human being at this point."

Delia Cohen had a hard time accepting that Dan had changed; you hear those words so often from people, and they're often not true. But she decided to suspend her disbelief and work with him on the TEDx project. They started exchanging emails.