We’ve known that bacteria live in our intestines as far back as the 1680s, when Leeuwenhoek first looked through his microscope. Yogurt companies use that information in the sales pitch for their product, claiming it can help keep your gut bacteria happy. The bacteria growing on our skin have also been effectively exploited to sell the underarm deodorants without which we can become, ahem, malodorous. Until fairly recently our various microbes were thought of as freeloaders without any meaningful benefit to our functioning as healthy human beings.
Most of us considered microbes little more than nasty germs before science recently began turning our view of the microbial world on its head. A “microbe” is a bacterium and any other organism too small to see with the naked eye. After decades of trying to sanitize them out of our lives, the human microbiome – the communities of microbes living on and in us – is now all the rage. And yet, some insist that we can’t really call microbes “good.” That’s nonsense.
Giving feedback is unquestionably one of the most challenging tasks for any leader, as it can be painful to both the giver and receiver. It is nonetheless invaluable: Research has shown that employees recognize the importance of feedback – whether positive or negative – to their career development.
Many even welcome it, provided it’s given well. One study of nearly a thousand employees both in the U.S. and abroad found that 92 percent believed that negative feedback is effective at improving performance – “if delivered appropriately.”
Bright stars top Christmas trees in Christian homes around much of the world. The faithful sing about the “Star of Wonder” that guided the wise men to a manger in the little town of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. They’re commemorating the Star of Bethlehem described by the Evangelist Matthew in the New Testament. Is the star’s biblical description a pious fiction, or does it contain some astronomical truth?
Like sending sensors up into a hurricane, NASA has flown four spacecraft through an invisible maelstrom in space, called magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection is one of the prime drivers of space radiation and so it is a key factor in the quest to learn more about our space environment and protect our spacecraft and astronauts as we explore farther and farther from Earth.
While the Nobel Prizes are 115 years old, rewards for scientific achievement have been around much longer. As early as the 17th century, at the very origins of modern experimental science, promoters of science realized the need for some system of recognition and reward that would provide incentive for advances in the field.
Before the prize, it was the gift that reigned in science. Precursors to modern scientists – the early astronomers, philosophers, physicians, alchemists and engineers – offered wonderful achievements, discoveries, inventions and works of literature or art as gifts to powerful patrons, often royalty. Authors prefaced their publications with extravagant letters of dedication; they might, or they might not, be rewarded with a gift in return. Many of these practitioners worked outside of academe; even those who enjoyed a modest academic salary lacked today’s large institutional funders, beyond the Catholic Church. Gifts from patrons offered a crucial means of support, yet they came with many strings attached.
In every culture that anthropologists have ever studied, people tell stories.
Families most frequently tell stories around the time of vacations, family reunions, (sadly) funerals, Thanksgiving and, of course, the family-oriented winter holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
Stories are told about times past, times present and even times yet to be. These stories mix real people and places with imaginary people and places. For instance, there was never anyone called Sherlock Holmes, but the town he lived in – London – is real. The street he lived on – Baker Street – is also real. But there is no 221B – his house number in the story. So, why do we tell these stories?
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A man in debt is so far a slave.” Money has no intrinsic value yet we spend our days damaging our health and spirit in order to obtain it. Why do we sacrifice our well-being for it? Is it the cliché that “we just want to provide a better life for our kids than we had?” Is it just way of the civilized world? The most important question to ask, however, is what power do we have to change this way of thinking and living? The reality is simple: money is a vehicle for social control. Debt makes us good, obedient workers and citizens.