This Is Your Brain on Money
New York diagnoses the city's cash withdrawal.
New York, May 18 The cover story analyzes New York City's "withdrawal" from money. One scientist who studies the brain on money has found that having less cash to worry about makes people more generous and communal. Wealth has so fundamentally shaped New York's recent identity that its "sudden absence" will surely alter the way people think and behave. The changes are mostly for the better: a more affordable, civic-minded city with increased economic diversity. "It's possible we'll end up with the good parts of the seventies—a rich, Bohemian culture—and not the bad," says one sociologist. … An infographic presents a fascinating, albeit creepy, look at what lies beneath New York's rivers. A Columbia University river-scanning project provides the imagery, supplemented with the locations of a shipwreck, a runaway train, millions of dollars and silver bars, stripped cars, and cement-eating worms.
The New Yorker, May 18 An article explores the "science of self-control," discovering that the ability to delay gratification may be more genetic than we previously knew. Walter Mischel, the scientist who designed a classic experiment with kids and marshmallows in the 1960s, is still studying self-control. The kids who could resist the marshmallow are still "high delayers" as adults, better able to manage the "hot emotions" that are often a byproduct of ignoring strong desires. The trick, he thinks, is a kind of intentional distraction—by outsmarting their own brains, people can overcome instinctive behaviors. … An article reviews the array of odd controversies related to President Obama's commencement speaking engagements. There's Arizona State's awkward shuffling over whether to give Obama an honorary degree, as well as the loud Catholic protest against Obama's appearance at Notre Dame. Meanwhile, the midshipmen at Annapolis, Obama's third destination, have uttered "not a peep."
Atlantic, June 2009 The cover story dusts off a "longitudinal study"—a study of large amounts of data from a small sample—that has followed the lives of several male Harvard graduates for the past 70 years. The men were analyzed from "every conceivable angle," resulting in a study so colossal and complex that it soon "needed a storyteller." That man was George Vaillant, who took over the Grant Study in 1967. He hasn't uncovered a set of rules for a happy life in his subsequent 42 years on the project, but he insists that social relationships play the largest role in health and longevity. … An article argues that the United States' lenient bankruptcy rules keep the economy healthy. They "reduce the cost of failure, and people become more willing to take risks. America's business environment is much more dynamic than that of Europe or Japan, for many reasons—and our generosity to capitalism's losers is one of them."
Weekly Standard, May 18 The cover story follows radical education theorist Bill Ayers to an annual conference of the American Educational Research Association. Talks at the highly politicized event—the association moved some meetings out of a San Diego Hyatt after it learned that the hotel's owner supported Proposition 8—mostly bashed standardized testing and any sort of education that involved "right answers." They also featured ample musings on Marxism, racism, and "social justice." The author expresses amusement at the absurdity of the proceedings and wonders whether the only way to save education is to close educational schools down. … An article encourages Republicans to "be the party of 'no,' " arguing that "unbridled opposition to bad Democratic policies" led to at least five previous Republican landslides. The GOP may be hesitant to oppose the popular president, but it shouldn't be: "Opposing Obama across-the-board on his sweeping domestic initiatives makes sense on substance and politics."
Esquire, June 2009 A.J. Jacobs undergoes a scientific examination to determine whether he loves his wife. Researchers are sorting through the chemical concoction that makes up romance, attachment, and sexual attraction by performing fMRIs on subjects who are madly in love. Married for nine years and the father of three kids, Jacobs is their first non-love-crazed guinea pig, but his results prove he loves his wife "in a more complicated way," one that acknowledges trouble and risk. He finds that reducing love to biology "takes always some of the mystery—but also the fear."… An article wonders about the disappearance of "loose women," who seem to have been replaced by sophisticated, choosy women with lots of other priorities besides sex. "The post-post-feminist maelstrom that is Danica Patrick and the Real Housewives of Wherever and Secretary Clinton versus Beauty Queen Palin means that women can wield real power, but it comes at the cost of confusion—professional, social, and sexual."
David Sessions is a former Slate intern. He is currently a blogger at Politics Daily.