Are Sociopaths Good for Society?

The title of this post suggests an insane line of inquiry, which makes it perfectly appropriate for Thought Distiller. Whether sociopaths can be pro-social or benevolent has a huge impact on society. This is the pivotal question here: (a) are sociopaths capable of social good, broadly defined, and (b) if so, are they better at doing…

How to Memorize Anything Quickly

When I was first starting this blog, I wrote a well-received article about speed-reading. I said that I wanted the power to read at superhuman speeds and have perfect recall of everything I read. I went on to remark that perfect recall was a topic for another day. Today happens to be that day. People can train themselves…

Are Sports Killing American Academics?

Given that the Olympics are in full swing, it seems appropriate that I take some time to investigate sports in general. I’ve been asking some of my friends this question: “Do you think that Americans’ huge emphasis on sports culture contributes to our dominant Olympics showings?” Most seem to think that makes sense. This has…

Are Traditional Sleep Patterns Bogus?

Recently, there has been a flood of articles highlighting and pushing back against many people’s relationship (or lack thereof) with sleep. The most notable champion of this movement is Arianna Huffington, with her Sleep Revolution. Ms. Huffington and others make arguments that can be boiled down to a handful of key points: Our society values the…

The Science of Hangovers (and How to Avoid Them)

I almost skipped writing a post today because I turned 21 yesterday and spent the night partying too much for my own good. However, it dawned on me that I could write about hangovers and perhaps make some people’s lives marginally better. Everyone has a favorite hangover cure that they recommend to all their friends.…

Here’s Why Depression Incidence Will Increase

Depression is one of the most powerful forces in the human mind. It makes us less productive, less social, and even less human. It practically represents anti-life because it traps you in a box in which you can no longer express yourself adequately. It can be a confusing, frightening, soul-sucking ordeal. And despite our best efforts, our…

Mediated Knowledge: How Do We Know What We Know?

How do human beings know things? On the surface that seems like a stupid question. We know things because we learn or experience them. For example, I know that Barack Obama was the first African-American president because I was alive for his election. I remember watching the news and reading articles about his victory over…

Nostalgia, Traditionalism, and Economics

Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” Between the late 1600s and early 1900s, nostalgia was considered a psychological illness particular to the Swiss. Swiss mercenaries traveling into the lowlands to fight expressed an almost crippling homesickness, along with bouts…

The Checklist Manifesto

Before you start reading, just know that there is a picture of surgery below. As I mentioned in my last post, I try to read a book a day when I can. Last weekend, I read Dr. Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto. Gawande began by explaining the high incidence of medical errors and went on to…

One Formula to Rule Them All: The Maillard Reaction

A friend of mine recently asked me a question that seemed simple at first glance: what is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation for some topic of your choosing? Though I took stabs at his question over and over, I couldn’t conjure up a fitting answer. Nothing I knew about seemed “deep, elegant, or beautiful” enough to…