The Big Think Newsletter


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with Alex Berezow ● Thu 5 May, 2022

Hi Big Thinkers,Today is Cinco de Mayo. For those of you who are celebrating, it might be helpful to know what the holiday is actually about. Surprise! It’s not about Mexican independence.After brushing up on that cultural lesson, we invite you to turn your attention to some truly great stories we feature in this week’s newsletter: the macabre reason Incas drugged children prior to human sacrifice rituals, how your personality could be linked to dementia, and the tiny clocks that beat within the heart of every atom.Cheers,Alex

THE BIG IDEA

The surprising reason Inca children were drugged before human sacrifice

Some ancient civilizations utilized mind-altering substances in their religious ceremonies. It was thought that the Incan civilization, which practiced child sacrifice, gave the children psychotropic substances as a way for them to connect to the divine prior to their deaths. But new research suggests that the drugs were used for a more macabre reason: to reduce their anxiety and make them more compliant.

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THE WELL

Superhumans: The remarkable brain waves of high-level meditators

Just in case you missed it, we have a great video on “superhuman” brain waves out on The Well, our new co-publication with the John Templeton Foundation. Neuroscientists have discovered that the brains of people who have spent a lifetime meditating are constantly flooded with a unique kind of brain wave called a gamma wave, something that the rest of us only experience occasionally for brief seconds at a time.For stories like this and so much more, sign up for The Well newsletter here with just one click — it’s hosted by Big Think’s Jonny Thomson, and you will get our favorite stories every Tuesday in your inbox.

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THE BIG DISCOVERY

Your personality is linked to risk of dementia and cognitive decline

Many factors are related to your risk of developing dementia, lifestyle and genetics being chief among them. But there’s another factor that we ought to consider: personality. New research shows that neurotic people — those tightly-wound, emotional types — are likelier to experience more years of cognitive decline.

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13.8

A clock beats inside the heart of every atom

Old-school clocks were based on the swing of a pendulum, like that creepy grandfather’s clock in your attic. Atomic clocks are really the same thing, but instead of a swinging piece of metal, they are based on the oscillations of electrons. These contemporary clocks, which are accurate to the nanosecond, are key to all of the technology we rely on today.

EXPLORE 13.8

Live smarter

Alex Berezow is the executive editor of Big Think. He holds a PhD in microbiology and has over a decade of experience in science journalism.

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