Even Some Intellectuals See the Value of Optimism

A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full

I am a realist, after all, and I do fret over things I may be able to do little or nothing about directly: economic injustice; wars and the repeated failure to learn from history; our gun-crazy society; the overreliance on tests to spur academic achievement; and attempts to strip women of their reproductive rights.

But I’ve found that life is a lot more pleasant when one looks at the bright side, seeing the glass half full and assuming that reason will eventually prevail.

Pronoiac Mistakes

Did a Copying Mistake Make Humans So Smart?

Mistakes made during cell division long ago may have lead to the sophistication of the modern human brain.

A copyediting error appears to be responsible for critical features of the human brain that distinguish us from our closest primate kin, new research finds.

When tested out in mice, researchers found this “error” caused the rodents’ brain cells to move into place faster and enabled more connections between brain cells.

People You Don’t Know Are Working Hard to Do Good

Scientists discover benevolent virus that kills all grades of breast cancer within seven days

The virus, known as adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2), is naturally occurring and carried by up to 80 percent of humans, but it does not cause any disease.

Researchers learned of its cancer-killing properties in 2005, after Penn State scientists observed it killing cervical cancer cells. They also found that women who carried the AAV2 virus and human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, had a lower propensity to develop cervical cancer.

First-Class Healing

At an urban L.A. school, nature grows — and test scores too

Leo Politi Elementary School wanted only to make a dreary corner of campus more inviting to its 817 students. Workers ripped out 5,000 square feet of concrete and Bermuda grass three years ago and planted native flora.

What happened next was unforeseen. It was remarkable.

The plants attracted insects, which attracted birds, which attracted students, who, fascinated by the nature unfolding before them, learned so much that their test scores in science rose sixfold.

Pronoiacs Fight for Justice

In the tomato fields of Florida, fighting for our most exploited farm workers.

At great personal risk — sweating, he says, through his fear — Lucas [Benitez] was the driver for a daring 2001 rescue of four Florida farmworkers who were brutalized and effectively enslaved by growers. He played an important role in convicting those responsible: brothers Juan and Ramiro Ramos, who’d made millions holding workers against their will by, according to the FBI, “threaten[ing] them at gunpoint, promising torture and death if they tried to escape.”

Pronoiacs Fight for Environmental Health and Beauty

Wind power without the blades.

Noise from wind turbine blades, inadvertent bat and bird kills and even the way wind turbines look have made installing them anything but a breeze. New York design firm Atelier DNA has an alternative concept that ditches blades in favor of stalks. Resembling thin cattails, the Windstalks generate electricity when the wind sets them waving.