Good news | The World Weekly
It turns out that all of those emoticons are just one way for people to express their joy. A group of US-based researchers studied 10 languages - English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Indonesian, Russian and Brazilian Portuguese - and found that, overall, speakers used more positive words than anything else.
From classic novels to current websites, from TV shows to tweets, the study spanned virtually every way in which language is used. With the help of an algorithm, scientists examined the 5,000 to 10,000 most commonly used words and then asked native speakers to rate how positive or negative each word was on a 10-point scale.
The study’s goal was to discern whether or not human languages tend to be positive or negative. And ultimately, the Cornell University researchers found that not a single one erred on the negative side. Spanish tweets used the happiest turns of phrase, while Chinese books came in closest to neutral. And the Chinese language, along with Russian, was revealed to have the narrowest range of emotion, whereas English was the most expressive. But perhaps all those Russian and Chinese-speakers were simply texting and tweeting with emoticons, which, after all, weren’t taken into account.
War, catastrophe and torture dominate the headlines, but behind these headlines there is some positive news. Across the developing world, things are getting better. Reports suggest that the last decades have seen historically extraordinary gains in almost every measure of human wellbeing; from the number of kids going to school to the number of people getting enough to eat.
A study by TakePart World showed that the annual number of children who die before reaching the age of five fell by almost half between 1990 and 2012, decreasing from 12.6 million to 6.6 million. Thanks to the development of cheap and effective healthcare technologies, the number of women dying due to childbirth has further fallen to half. Additionally, with an increase of 55 million children attending school in 2011, illiteracy and other chronic issues are also in retreat in most parts of the world. Eighty-six percent of the world now have homes and 89% are able to access safe drinking water.
Despite the ongoing wars and intercommunal conflicts, in general standards of living are improving in terms of health, education and nutrition. There is still much to be done for those seeking to stamp out poverty entirely, but they can take some comfort in the latest statistics.
Lucy in the sky without depression
Paul McCartney once said that if politicians took LSD, there would be no more war, poverty or famine. Whilst this would certainly be good news for pretty much everyone, McCartney’s theories have yet to be placed under rigorous scientific scrutiny and it is equally possible that a nuclear war could begin by Obama mistaking Putin for a hexagonal space octopus.
Scientists have, however, hypothesised that psychedelic drugs could help alleviate depression. Fifteen volunteers were given psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, and then underwent magnetic resonance imaging scans. Their brain activity resembled that of people dreaming. Unsurprisingly, activity in parts of the brain responsible for planning become more disjointed and uncoordinated. This tends to happen when one thinks one is an eggman or, conversely, a walrus. But the volunteers also showed more pronounced activity in the parts of the brain responsible for emotional thinking.
This enhanced emotional insight may help in treating depression if psychedelics are used as part of psychotherapy. Scientists at Imperial College London are currently looking into this.