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Thursday, 26 April 2018

10 FACTS FROM THE BIZARRE WORLD OF INFINITE MATH

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10 Facts From The Bizarre World Of Infinite Math
By Stephen Cranney,
Listverse, 26 April 2018.

In the late 19th century, German mathematician Georg Cantor discovered “transfinite” mathematics, or mathematics beyond infinity. With this early work, we were introduced to a world where there are numbers larger than infinity and equations that do not follow common sense rules of arithmetic. Suffice to say, it’s probably not the stuff you learned in high school.

Cantor’s work was initially controversial and was vitriolically attacked by some of the most important mathematical figures of his day. However, it gradually came to be accepted as canon and has helped pave the way for set theory, which itself is a potential undergirding for all of mathematics.

10. Infinity Plus One (Or Two, Or Infinity) Equals Infinity

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It turns out that this old childhood adage has something to it. Given the nature of infinity, any number added to, subtracted from, multiplied by, or divided by it equals infinity. This is seen in a classic infinity puzzle known as Hilbert’s hotel paradox:

There is a hotel that has an infinite number of rooms. A weary traveler arrives and requests a room but is informed that all of the rooms are occupied. How can the hotel not have any more rooms, since it has infinite rooms? What should the traveler do?

The answer is that the traveler should request that the person in room one should move to room two, the person in room two should move to room three, and so forth...and she takes room one. Infinity is infinitely elastic and can be expanded or shrunk in any way to fit whatever it needs to, whether it’s one traveler or a googolplex (yes, that’s an actual number) travelers.[1]

9. There Are As Many Odd Numbers (And As Many Numbers That End In 123 or 423) As There Are Numbers

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Infinity is so malleable because, like Hilbert’s hotel, any series of infinite numbers can be put into what is termed a “one-to-one correspondence” with any infinite part of that series. In layperson’s terms, that means that if you take all positive whole numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4...) and all positive even numbers (0, 2, 4, 6, 8...), each of the whole numbers can be matched up with an even number. So zero can be matched up with zero, one can be matched up with two, two can be matched up with four, and so forth.

Since the two series (or “sets”) of numbers match up for each number, we are justified in saying that they are the same size. Called the Galileo paradox after its famous discoverer, this thought experiment shows that the size of infinity cannot be changed using the crude tools of basic arithmetic like division or the addition of finite numbers. For that, you need something more sophisticated.[2]

8. Some Infinities Are Bigger Than Others

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The flip side of the one-to-one correspondence is that if there is an infinite series of numbers that still has numbers left over after being matched up with another infinite series, then we can say that the former series of infinities is actually larger than the infinity that it was matched with. This might seem impossible, but you can probably intuitively grasp a case where this is true: the infinite number of whole numbers (0, 1, 2, 3...) is larger than the infinite number of irrational numbers. If you recall from high school math, irrational numbers are numbers like pi that have a series of decimals that go on forever (3.1415...). Cantor showed that the infinite number of irrational numbers is larger than the infinite number of whole numbers using an ingenious but simple (relative to most groundbreaking mathematical proofs) trick.[3]

He began by assuming that irrational numbers could be matched up with whole numbers and wrote down a series of numbers between zero and one. (Okay, these are my own random numbers from mashing the keyboard, but you get the point.) There are an infinite number of these rows:

0.1435...matched with 0
0.7683...matched with 1
0.1982...matched with 2
0.9837...matched with 3

And so on. You can then create a number from this series by taking the first digit in the first line, the second digit in the second line, and so on; for the numbers above, this would be 0.1687...

Now, there might be a number of 0.1687...somewhere in this stack of numbers. However, if you add one to each of the digits, then the number becomes 0.2798..., and this number cannot be in the stack, since it is by definition different from any of the numbers in the stack by at least one digit. Therefore, there are still irrational numbers left over after trying to match them up with normal whole numbers. Therefore, we can say that the infinite number of irrational numbers is larger than the infinite number of whole numbers.

If you think that is crazy, hold onto your hat...

7. There Are Infinitely Many Levels Of Infinities

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Cantor also showed that, just as the number of infinite whole numbers is on a whole different level of infinity than the number of irrational numbers, there is also a type of infinity that is larger than the number of irrational numbers, a level of infinity above that, another one above that, and so on, up through (you guessed it) infinity. Furthermore, any level of infinity added to a higher level of infinity automatically sums to the higher level of infinity in the same way that infinity plus one equals infinity.[4]

The Reader’s Digest version of why this is the case is that you can take an infinite series of numbers ( for example, 0, 1, 2, 3...) and then make a larger infinite series by taking the number of all of the different possible combinations of the numbers in the original series. In math, this is called a power set. So for the whole numbers, the power set would include not just 1, 2, 3...but also every combination of numbers in that infinite series of numbers including 1 billion and 1, 2, 13, 2 million...etc. Once you’ve made your first power set, there is no reason why you cannot make a power set of the power set, or a power set of a power set of a power set of a power set...

6. All Of This Eventually Drove Georg Cantor Insane

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Photo credit: Wikimedia

As you can imagine, dwelling on all of this too much can do a number on your sense of reality, and that is exactly what happened to its discoverer. Cantor believed that the “next” level of infinity after the whole numbers was the number of irrational numbers; the only problem was that he could not prove it.

This famous mathematical problem, labeled the continuum hypothesis (he eventually just started saying that God revealed to him that the continuum hypothesis was true), combined with the vicious attacks upon his work, eventually led to a psychological collapse, and he spent the rest of his days in and out of hospitals while trying to prove that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays.[5]

5. The Problem That Drove Cantor Insane Is Unsolvable

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Some people have tried to provide a rigorous foundation for math by using a series of axioms, or statements that are supposedly so commonsensical that they can be trusted without any prior explanation. (E.g. One cannot equal two. Why? Because!) 

In the 1960s, mathematician Paul Cohen proved that the continuum hypothesis is unsolvable if we assume that the most commonly used axioms are true. However, to this day, mathematical work continues to be done under the assumption that the axioms are true and that the continuum hypothesis is false, as well as the reverse assumption that the conventional axioms are true as well as the continuum hypothesis. Mathematicians consider the different assumptions about the continuum hypothesis as belonging to different “mathematical universes,” since we cannot prove that one or the other is true.[6]

4. The Symbol For Infinity That Cantor Chose Is A Hebrew Letter

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Like astronomers and biologists, mathematicians who discover some new concept or important value get to have at least some input into what its name will be. Given that kind of power, you would think there would be more Klingon characters in high-level math today, but no. As creative as mathematicians are, hardly any of them want to stray from the very conventional Greek symbols, which is why different Greek letters can mean so many different things depending on which branch of math you are using - we simply have so many more mathematical constants and concepts than Greek letters.

While his religious background is still debated by historians, Cantor saw what he was doing as a way to approach the divine through mathematics, so he decided that the different levels of infinity would be symbolized by the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet: aleph. The set of all whole numbers would be aleph-naught, or aleph with a zero subscript. The next highest infinity would be aleph-one, which, as we have mentioned, may or may not be the number of irrational numbers.[7]

3. There Is A Level Of Infinity In Which Infinity Plus One Does Not Equal One Plus Infinity

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In addition to the aleph numbers, Cantor also came up with omega numbers. The first omega number is defined as the smallest number that is larger than the number of whole numbers, or the first number after aleph-naught. To draw on Hilbert’s hotel example again, if the number of rooms is aleph-naught, then the first omega number is a shack outside the hotel. The next omega number after that is simply omega plus one. What this means, however, is that one plus omega is different than omega plus one, since the one in the former would be simply absorbed by omega (since infinity is malleable), whereas the one after omega represents the next step.[8]

Unfortunately, understanding more technical proof of this supersedes the abilities of your humble author’s intellect, but I read it in a book, so it has to be true.

2. Infinity Minus infinity Does Not Equal Zero

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Infinity minus infinity is undefined in the same way that dividing by zero is undefined.

To give an example of why this is, since infinity plus one equals infinity ([infinity + 1] = [infinity]), if we subtract infinity from both sides, we are left with 1 = 0. Similarly, and for many of the same reasons, infinity divided by infinity is not one but is also undefined.[9]

1. This Actually Has Real-World Scientific Applications

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Like many other areas in mathematics, what started as a purely theoretical thought experiment has been found to have implications in the hard sciences. For example, some quantum mechanics equations sum to infinity; in practice, physicists tweak the equation to make calculations doable, but it is not clear if doing so is justified, given what we know about transfinite math.

In cosmology, whether the universe is infinitely large, space is infinitely divisible, the universe will expand forever, or whether there are infinite universes are all open questions that draw on infinite logic.[10] Some researchers have even found applications of Hilbert’s hotel paradox in both quantum and classical optics.

Top image credit: kalhh/Pixabay.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]

Friday, 20 April 2018

8 WACKY PRODUCTIVITY APPS THAT FORCE YOU TO PERFORM UNDER PRESSURE

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How to Perform Under Pressure With These 8 Wacky Productivity Apps
By Dann Albright,
Make Use Of, 13 April 2018.

Pressure helps people be more productive. Whether you like them or not, deadlines probably get you to work faster. They might add stress to your life, and make you feel like you’re not getting enough done. But pressure does, generally, help.

Want to add some pressure to your life? Try one of these apps and sites that force you to work quickly.

1. The Most Dangerous Writing App

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There may be no other app that puts on as much pressure as this one. The Most Dangerous Writing App (TMDWA) (Free) forces you to keep writing, lest all of your work be lost. When you stop typing, your words start to fade and the screen goes red.

If you wait five seconds, everything is deleted and you’ll need to start over.

This is a great tool for writers who know they can get words down, but find it difficult to keep themselves focused and motivated to keep going.

You can choose a session length from three to 60 minutes or a word count. And you have the option of enabling hardcore mode, which obscures your text, making it impossible to edit while you write.

2. Flowstate


The app that came before TMDWA, Flowstate offers much of the same functionality with a nicer interface. It’s also downloadable so you don’t have to write in your browser. Browsers are inherently distracting, so using a standalone app might be easier.

Flowstate has more options for session length than TMDWA, and it also offers you a choice of font. Is it worth US$5 or US$10? It might be if you like nicely built apps more than browser windows.

Will it replace Pages or Word? Probably not. But it’s a great way to supplement them.

Download: Flowstate for Mac (US$10) | iOS (US$5)

3. Gone

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Putting an item on your to-do list should mean that you’re going to tackle it right away. But often we use our task lists as a place to store things for long periods of time or remind us how much we’re procrastinating.

Gone (Free) doesn’t let you do that. You put a task on it, and it will disappear in 24 hours. If you haven’t completed it in that time, it’s gone.

You can create an account to sign in so you can access your list from another computer or your phone, but that’s about the only feature this one has to offer.

4. Tet

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Instead of giving you 24 hours to complete your tasks, Tet gives you until the end of the day. At the end of the day, every task that you haven’t checked off gets deleted.

And to add insult to injury, Tet keeps score. Every time you check an item off of your list, the counter in the corner of the app goes up by one. Every time one gets removed at the end of the day, it goes down by one.

You can’t pretend that you’re more productive than you are, because Tet will tell you the truth.

Download: Tet for Android (Free)

5. Forest

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Forest is a great app for helping curb smartphone addiction (or just to keep you from playing Clash of Clans until you get your current project done). But growing a tree is peaceful and serene - where’s the pressure?

The app received an update that now allows you to team up with friends, and your trees will only grow if everyone has the app running and doesn’t get distracted.

Which means if you’re on your phone, everyone else’s tree will be stunted. That’s peer pressure for you.

Download: Forest for iOS | Android (US$1.99)

6. Time 2

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Add a task to Time 2 and tell the app how long you think it will take you to do it. The timer counts down, and you see how much time you have left.

But if you go over that time, the app will let you know. It sounds an alarm and then starts counting up. So you know exactly how much longer it took than planned.

It’s not quite as high-pressure as some of the other apps, but it will remind you that you’re missing your deadline. Which is definitely pressure enough for many people.

Download: Time 2 for iOS (Free)

7. Tab Wrangler

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Like the ephemeral to-do lists above, you can make your browser tabs disappear after a certain amount of time. Tab Wrangler makes it easy - just set an amount of time and they’ll be gone after that much inactivity.

It’s a good idea to use Tab Wrangler even if you don’t use this feature, as it can help keep Chrome from using all your RAM.

You can always get the tabs back, but knowing that they’re going to disappear if you don’t use them can help motivate you to actually make use of the tabs that you have open.

Download: Tab Wrangler for Chrome | Firefox (Free)

8. CARROT To-Do


While Carrot To-Do doesn’t turn on the pressure as much as the time-based apps above, it will berate you when you don’t get something done, which may help you put more pressure on yourself.

Carrot is friendly when you’re productive and checking things off of the list. But she’ll get angry if you start procrastinating. And while her admonitions are very entertaining, it’s still a reminder that you’re not getting enough done.

Other Carrot apps, including Fit, Weather, and Hunger, also employ this signature sassy personality.

Download: CARROT To-Do for iOS (US$2.99)

Put the Pressure On

Deadlines and pressure might stress you out, but they can be a big help when you need to get things done. And while it might seem crazy to give yourself tight deadlines when you don’t have to, you might find that it revolutionizes your productivity.

Don’t forget to try these other productivity tactics backed by science. Or try something completely different, and give your to-do list the boot.

Top image credit: geralt/Pixabay.

[Source: Make Use Of. Top image and some links added.]

Thursday, 19 April 2018

10 DISEASES THAT PREVENT OTHER DISEASES

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10 Diseases That Prevent Other Diseases
By Ashley Hopkins,
Listverse, 19 April 2018.

Genetic disorders are passed down from generation to generation. Sometimes, only one parent passes down the faulty gene, which creates carriers of a genetic disease. Some carriers of certain genetic disorders have been proven to be more resistant to certain viral or infectious diseases. Although many genetic disorders can be very harmful, there can be some benefits to either being a carrier or showing full symptoms of a disease. Similarly, infection by certain pathogens will sometimes grant the sufferer resistance to other illnesses down the road.

The following diseases have been proven to promote some degree of resistance against other illnesses. Some of the viruses mentioned continue to be incurable, and studying factors that grant resistance to these pathogens can help researchers develop more effective treatment options. So here are ten diseases that prevent other diseases.

10. Sickle-Cell And Malaria

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People who are carriers of the sickle-cell gene have been proven to be more resistant to malaria. Sickle-cell is a condition where the red blood cells are misshapen, becoming crescent-shaped and more susceptible to clotting. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 60 percent of sickle-cell carriers survive malaria. This means that in areas of high concentration of malaria transfer (Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and the Indo-Pacific region), there are also large numbers of sickle-cell carriers.

How exactly sickle-cell prevents malaria is by a component of hemoglobin, haem. Low concentration of haem stimulates haem oxengase-1, which also breaks down haem. This allows for carbon monoxide to become more evident in the blood, because haem oxengase-1 releases carbon monoxide, which plays a critical role in the prevention of malaria.[1] A group of scientists tested this on mice and observed these results.

9. Tay-Sachs And Tuberculosis

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Photo credit: Yale Rosen

Tay-Sachs carriers have shown signs that their Tay-Sachs gene protects against Mycobacteria tuberculosis, which, you guessed it, causes tuberculosis. Tay-Sachs disease destroys neurons in the brain and spinal cord and is more common among Ashkenazi Jews, probably because of the segregation and lack of immigration in this group. There has been a proven correlation between the widespread Tay-Sachs gene and tuberculosis in this particular population.

However, Tay-Sachs carriers produce a certain subunit of the enzyme hexosamindinase. This subunit is closely associated with the prevention of tuberculosis, because it destroys the Mycobacteria and causes other bacteria on the cells’ surfaces to become less active.[2] So, despite the increased incidence of tuberculosis in Ashkenazi Jews, there are fewer deaths due to the disease.

8. Cystic Fibrosis And Cholera

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Carriers of cystic fibrosis have been shown to survive Vibrio cholerae, the lethal strain of cholera. Cystic fibrosis causes channels in the respiratory system to be blocked with thick mucus. The mucus will build up in the lungs and create a bacterial breeding ground. It also affects the digestive system by blocking the enzymes that digest the food in the small intestine. However, carriers do not experience the effects of this disease, and they may not experience the effects of cholera, either.

Cholera is deadly because it will cause the patient to lose about 19 liters (5 gal) of water a day, ultimately leading to dehydration. Cystic fibrosis blocks chloride channels, keeping fluids in. As a result, even carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene who are infected with cholera will lose half the amount of fluid. This limited fluid secretion is enough to flush out the cholera toxins from the intestines without causing dehydration.[3] So, just one cystic fibrosis gene will prevent the lethal effects of cholera by preventing the dehydration associated with it.

7. Cystic Fibrosis And Tuberculosis

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According to New Scientist, cystic fibrosis does protect against cholera, but cholera doesn’t kill enough people to justify the prevalence of the cystic fibrosis gene. Between 1600 and 1900, about 20 percent of deaths in Europe were caused by tuberculosis, and that would explain why carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene are so prominent, because carriers live to maturity to pass on their genes. Those who have two genes for cystic fibrosis die before being able to pass on their DNA, and the same goes for many people who contracted tuberculosis.

However, those who only have one gene for cystic fibrosis have shown some resistance to tuberculosis, hence the gene still being prevalent among Europeans and those of European descent. The cystic fibrosis gene would have died out, but it has lasted for thousands of years, so there must be some usefulness to it.[4] That usefulness is said to be resistance to tuberculosis.

6. Cowpox And Smallpox

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Photo credit: George Henry Fox

Cowpox, a viral skin infection, is basically a mild smallpox. Although cowpox isn’t necessarily pleasant to contract, the human body will stop the progression of the infection after a certain period of time, so the infection itself is not lethal. Cowpox can prevent smallpox because they are both essentially the same infection.

By being introduced to the cowpox infection, the immune system is able to develop immunity to it. When a more deadly version of that infection is introduced, it is easier for the immune system to prevent severe effects. Famously, Edward Jenner utilized cowpox to create the smallpox vaccine in the late 1700s.[5]

5. Phenylketonuria And Mycotic Abortions

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According to an online study, “Physicians observed that women who were PKU [phenylketonuria] carriers had a much lower than average incidence of miscarriages.”[6] PKU is a genetic disease in which phenylalanine builds up in the body, which causes issues when the patient consumes a large amount of protein. The body disables the production of an enzyme that breaks down this substance, and the buildup can be lethal to the patient.

Although PKU may cause significant health issues, carriers have an advantage when it comes to protecting themselves against mycotic abortions, pregnancy losses due to fungal infection. This is most prominent in Scotland and Ireland, because the atmosphere is a prime environment for fungi, some of which can cause mycotic abortions. Phenylalanine, which causes the health issues in PKU patients, fights against the major toxin in most fungi that cause spontaneous abortions. Since PKU carriers have a large amount of phenylalanine, they are able to better fend off infectious fungi and protect their unborn offspring.

4. Myasthenia Gravis And Rabies

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There is a correlation between patients with myasthenia gravis and the prevention of rabies. Myasthenia gravis is a muscular disease in which the voluntarily moved muscles become fatigued and are weakened. This is caused by faulty connections between the nervous system and the muscular system. Rabies infects the nervous system best through the skeletal muscles, probably because rabies is usually transmitted through animal bites.

Since rabies is commonly injected into the muscular system by a bite, those afflicted with myasthenia gravis are much less susceptible to rabies because they have faulty connections between the muscles and the nerves. It is very difficult for rabies to cause harm to the nervous system when it cannot enter it in the first place.[7] Although the muscles are not the only point of entry rabies has into the central nervous system, they are a significant entry point for the peripheral nervous system. This can prevent the infection or prolong it until the patient can seek medical attention.

3. Niemann-Pick Disease And Ebola

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Photo credit: Daniel Bausch, CDC

Niemann-Pick is a disease where cholesterol abnormally accumulates within lysosomes. The cholesterol accumulates because of a shortage of a specific protein called NPC1, which will transport the cholesterol out of the lysosomes. It has been proven that the NPC1 protein is associated with the Ebola infection process. The Ebola virus has been documented to poorly infect fibroblasts of patients who have Niemann-Pick disease, while it did better in fibroblasts where NPC1 was abundant.

Basically, the Ebola virus cannot efficiently infect people with Niemann-Pick disease because without the presence of NPC1, it is extremely difficult to do so.[8]

2. Niemann-Pick Disease And Marburg

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Similar to the Ebola virus, Niemann-Pick disease promotes resistance to Marburg. Marburg is a filovirus, like Ebola, and has a high mortality rate.[9] It causes hemorrhages and severe shock syndrome, mostly fatal among humans and nonhuman primates.

Much like with Ebola, Niemann-Pick disease patients resist Marburg by having a shortage of NPC1, which enables filoviruses to reproduce and spread. Because these viruses are unable to spread, it is much easier for patients with Niemann-Pick disease to fight Marburg, since it is no longer deadly if it cannot reproduce.

1. Congenital Disorder Of Glycosylation 2b And Viral Infections

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Congenital disorder of glycosylation 2b (CDG-IIb) has been shown to prevent viral infections such as HIV, influenza, herpes, and hepatitis C. This extremely rare disease causes resistance to viral infections by the presence of a “defective mannosyl-oligosaccharide glucosidase (MOGS), which is the initial enzyme in the processing phase of N-linked oligosaccharides.”[10]

This basically means that glycoprotein synthesis is not able to function properly. Viruses depend on proper cell glycosylation for reproduction, and because CDG-IIb patients do not have proper glycosylation, these viruses are unable to be maintained. Studies show that people with CDG-IIb responded normally to non-replicating viruses but did not respond to live glycosylation-dependent virus vaccines. MOGS inhibitors also prevent the replication of cells infected with enveloped viruses, and this means that the viruses are unable to spread.

Top image: Ebola virus. Credit: NIAID/Flickr.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

10 WAYS TO WEAN YOURSELF OFF SMARTPHONES AND SOCIAL MEDIA

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How to Wean Yourself Off Smartphones and Social Media
By Rob Marvin,
PCMag, 16 April 2018.

How often do you open your smartphone and suddenly find yourself having lost 30 minutes or perhaps hours of your day?

It's all too easy to get lost in our screens as we tap from app to app and scroll through social feeds. In our hyper-connected world, cutting out tech altogether is unrealistic unless you're ready to drop off the grid and move to a log cabin in the wilderness. What you can do is try consuming tech mindfully.

Whether you think you're spending too much time on social media, feel like you're becoming too attached to your smartphone, or you're suffering from a more serious tech addiction, we could all stand to be a little less wired. Here are some tips to wean yourself off compulsive smartphone and social media habits, and how to regain control over how you consume technology.

1. Change Notification Settings

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Are your push notifications still set to defaults? Are you getting a deluge of emails, messages, and alerts from Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Slack, and dozens of other apps? Cut out the noise.

Go into notification settings on all your devices - smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops - and turn everything off that's not essential. Notifications appearing as red dots next to your app icons are visual cues begging you to check them. One good rule is to turn off all notifications except for direct messages and mentions, meaning the ones coming from real people.

2. Grayscale

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The Center for Humane Technology says the "colorful icons give our brains shiny rewards every time we unlock." Setting your phone to grayscale is a way to train your mind to check your phone less. On iOS devices, go to Settings > General > Accessibility and scroll down to Accessibility Shortcut. If you check the Color Filters option, it unlocks a feature allowing you to triple-tap the home button to turn grayscale on and off. On Android, the process may vary, but check under Settings > About phone.

3. Stop Using Your Phone As An Alarm Clock

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Don't keep your smartphone within reach at night. Rather than charging it on your nightstand, your phone should charge further away from your bed or ideally be left in another room entirely so you're not tempted to pick it up if you wake up in the middle of the night. The best way to do that is to get a separate alarm clock so your wake-up isn't tied to your device.

Other good tips include not using smartphones for the last hour before bed and using apps like f.lux or Night Shift on iOS devices to reduce blue light stimulating your mind before sleep. But the best remedy for tech-related sleep issues is to keep your smartphone as far away at night as possible.

4. Set Social Boundaries


One key thing missing from the way many of us use technology is etiquette. When is it appropriate to have your smartphone out and when is it considered rude? If you're having a face-to-face conversation with someone, resisting the urge to pull out a device is the first step toward cutting out an unhealthy or rude behavior. One good rule is not to have devices on the table during meals, whether that's in a restaurant or at home. Especially if there are kids at the table who don't have their own devices yet, it's a bad precedent to set if you're scrolling through Instagram in one hand, eating with the other, and barely pretending to listen to the conversation.

5. Switch to a Utility-First Layout

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What are the first apps on your home screen? Do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or Reddit come up in your first few rows of apps? First off, put all your social apps in a folder and banish it to the furthest reaches of your smartphone; the last of the home screens. If you want to check them, your mind will have to work for it.

Instead, turn your smartphone back into a tool. Put the utility apps on your home screen: the camera, calendar, maps, notes, ride-hailing apps, weather, etc. For everything else - games, social apps, and even messaging apps if they’re not essential - your mind should have to put in a conscious effort to open them.

6. Launch Apps By Typing

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Modern smartphone interfaces are designed as intuitively as possible so you can use them without having to think about it. It's easy to tap into an app and start scrolling without even considering whether you opened it for a reason. Even that small change in behavioral architecture lets you pause for a moment and think about whether you're opening the app for a reason.

On iOS, swipe down from the home screen to open the search bar and type for the app you want. Another good tip is to turn off Siri Suggestions by going to Siri & Search from the Settings menu and toggling off the two options. On Android you can use the Search Box on your home screen.

7. Cut Out Distractions

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There are a number of apps out there designed to help you focus and cut out digital distractions. Thrive puts a user into Thrive Mode to block all apps, notifications, calls, and texts except for "VIPs" you've designated. Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace are designed to help you de-stress and focus your mind. Freedom temporarily blocks apps and websites for set periods of time. You can motivate yourself with gamification, too. Forest plants virtual seeds that grow into trees the longer you stay off your phone.

Extensions can also help you use sites like Facebook and YouTube in more targeted ways. Distraction Free YouTube removes recommended videos from sidebars to keep you from getting sucked in. News Feed Eradicator blurs out Facebook posts for users who want to use the app only as a utility for things like events and groups. The Facebook Demetricator extension hides like, comment, and share numbers to keep you from fixating on feedback and rewards cycles.

8. Monitor Your App Usage


Tech and social media use can often create a sense of dissociation in how much time you’ve spent looking at a screen. Monitoring your usage from app to app is a great way to identify behaviors you want to change. Apps like Moment for iOS and RescueTime for Mac and Windows help you break down exactly how much time you're spending on apps and devices. Thrive also has an app control panel to monitor your usage and set goals for how much you use specific apps.

9. Create Your Own Stopping Cues

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One of the reasons modern app and social media experiences suck you in is because there aren't built-in mechanisms that tell you to stop, like the end of a book chapter. We live in a digital world of endlessly scrolling feeds. In the streaming era, even the end of a TV episode doesn't mean much anymore when Netflix starts the next one five seconds later.

If you're concerned with how much time you're spending on your smartphone, social media, streaming video, or using your devices in general, sometimes it takes more than willpower to stop. If you only want to spend half an hour on Instagram or want to cap yourself at two Netflix episodes, schedule that time. Allot specific windows of your life for the online activities you care about. When that window is up, put the devices down. Another way to create stopping cues is to set an alarm for when it's time to stop, and put your clock or phone across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.

10. Delete the Apps

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If all else fails, you can always take the nuclear option and delete some social apps from your phone. Especially for social networks like Facebook, you can still log in from the web if there’s something you really need to check without having the urge to tap open the app at a moment's notice and get lost in your News Feed. You control your tech. Don't let it control you.

Top image: Social media addiction. Credit: TheBakaArts/DeviantArt.

[Source: PCMag. Top image added.]