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Level Up Your Knowledge with These 6 Excellent Websites

Level Up Your Knowledge with These 6 Excellent Websites

Building knowledge: For some people it is a passing interest, for others it is a hobby, while for some it is an obsession. Regardless of where you stand on the spectrum, chances are that from time-to-time you look to learn something new. Luckily, for all of us there are a series of websites that can help us learn a thing or two about… well, anything. You are likely find an answer at one of these websites no matter what your interest or need is.

TED

If you are not just looking for information, but also inspiration, then TED.com is the website that will fulfill your needs. The Technology, Education, and Design oratory forums that take place in California are a collecting of inspiring and innovative minds. In fields ranging from architecture, dance, science, history, sociology, to philosophy and beyond, TED invites all great minds to present their concepts in 20-minute presentations.

It is hard to find a single TED oration that is not filled with inspiring concepts, motivating ideas, and worthwhile tidbits of information. As a whole, TED is a great way to both learn and be inspired to learn more. That is more, with TED gaining popularity, there is only more and more information being presented to feed the curious mind.

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If you’re keen to learn more Finance-related information, do check out post on “16 Great Personal Finance Resources & Blogs”.

Answerbag.com

While a rather informal website, Answerbag.com provides a great service to anyone who “just can’t remember how buoyancy works,” or “Am not sure who was the best baseball player of the 1970s.” Answerbag has a very simple concept and the right answer will be found sooner or later.

It is a committee source website, which allows anyone to answer any question. Think of it as a worldwide way of just shouting out a random question to a group of friends. The best part is that when a proper answer comes across, it is likely multiple people will verify that it is the case.

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One of the best parts of Answerbag.com is that since it is informal, you do not have to be embarrassed if your question is rather random or silly. The thousands of individuals who frequent Answerbag likely have either an answer, or some useful insight.

How Stuff Works

For those who are scientifically or design-oriented minds, HowSTuffWorks.com is a great site to answer the fundamental questions. You can simply type in your inquiry on the search page, and more than likely there will be a like, or similar, question that has already been answered. You can also browse through a great range of topics and areas of study. For the inquisitive mind, this site is a treasure-trove of interesting and practical facts.

    Khan Academy

    For those with a thirst for learning, who just found the lectures and dedication to be too much work, KhanAcademy.org has found the answer. Fit into small YouTube-sized videos are now information that is ever-growing, presented by the founder Mr. Kahn. You can learn about astronomy, how RNA turns to DNA, or learn about art history.

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    The library of the Khan Academy is growing each week. With the growing of the site, so to can your knowledge grow.  Of course, these “classes” should not take the place of actual education, but they are great for studying for tests. There are also fantastic brainteasers, which test the mind and general knowledge.

    Project Gutenberg

    For those who have a love of reading, Gutenberg.org is a true Godsend. With over 38,000 books on tap, each is fully free and available for anyone to read at any time. With the advent of Kindles and IPads, which allow for comfortable digital reading, there has never been a better time to have the literary bug.

    There truly is a book for any genre and style of writing one could hope for. Not only can one read great classics, but there are thousands upon thousands of lesser-known books spanning across literary time. This adds an element of true excitement for the bibliophile.

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    Brain Pickings

    If you are feeling like rolling the dice on what it is you might learn, then brainpickings.com is the site for you. Made by an MIT fellow, BrainPickings is a hodgepodge of art, history, science, anthropology, and so on. While the site itself may be a bit off-putting due to its rather highbrow nature, the site truly carries quite a punch when it comes to knowledge.

    Articles like “7 Must-Read Books on Emotions and the Brain” and “Mapping European Stereotypes” will entertain as well as inform. Soon, one will forget all about the “highbrowness” of the site and be thankful such well-informed individuals are also capable of quality writing.

    Photo credit: Idea via Shutterstock

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    Level Up Your Knowledge with These 6 Excellent Websites

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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