Lifespan: Why We Age—and Why We Don’t Have To

28th October 2021

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

Lifespan: Why We Age—and Why We Don’t Have To, by David Sinclair with Matthew D. LaPlante. [Hat tip, Adam Trybus] This fascinating, beautifully written book explores a common—but ignored—factor in many lethal diseases.  That is, the effects of aging.  Sinclair describes why aging occurs, and gives concrete recommendations for treating aging that include exercise, get a good sleep, and don’t smoke, but also go beyond to include discussion of possible treatments such as NMN, rapamycin, and metformin. The book’s compelling descriptions of biological processes oftentimes make it a joy to read. This, for example, is the best “for the general public” explanation of epigenetics we’ve ever seen:  

“Every one of our cells has the same DNA, of course, so what differentiates a nerve cell from a skin cell is the epigenome, the collective term for the control systems and cellular structures that tell the cell which genes should be turned on and which should remain off. And this, far more than our genes, is what actually controls much of our lives. One of the best ways to visualize this is to think of our genome as a grand piano. Each gene is a key. Each key produces a note. And from instrument to instrument, depending on the maker, the materials, and the circumstances of manufacturing, each will sound a bit different, even if played the exact same way. These are our genes. We have about 20,000 of them, give or take a few thousand. Each key can also be played pianissimo (soft) or forte (with force). The notes can be tenuto (held) or allegretto (played quickly). For master pianists, there are hundreds of ways to play each individual key and endless ways to play the keys together, in chond combinations that create music we know as jazz, ragtime, rock, reggae, waltzes, whatever. The pianist that makes this happen is the epigenome. Through a process of revealing our DNA or bundling it up in tight protein packages, and by marking genes with chemical tags called methyls and acetyls composed of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, the epigenome uses our genome to make the music of our lives.”

What Kids Need to Know About Their Working Memory

We teach kids how to read, write, and do arithmetic.  But we rarely teach them how to make most effective use of their memory systems. This terrific article by Deborah Farmer Kris in Intrepid Ed News provides a first rate overview of how to teach your kids memory hacks.  What is particularly insightful are the many practical—yet novel—tips that will really help your child or your students (and you!) to use memory more effectively.  

Meet Barb in Guatemala!

Barb will be having a conversation with fans of Uncommon Sense Teaching at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on November 5th, from 4:00 to 5:30 pm.  You’ll have a chance to get to meet in a small group, and converse together related to your questions about the book and MOOC, as well as about learning in general.  If you are in Guatemala, make room in your schedule and plan to head on over to UFM, because Barb would love to meet you!  Register here!

The AI Wars: lessons from the conflict that paralyzed the field

This interesting article by David Goudet in Towards Data Science gives a great overview of how research in artificial intelligence was held up for many decades, in large part due to the erroneous conclusions of research giants Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert. As Goudet notes: “Marvin Minsky remained skeptical his whole life and even in his last years, he didn’t believe in the advances of AI. He made a lot of poor predictions even being an expert in the field.” [Hat tip: Adam Trybus.]

90-minute naps can help boost motor skills and memory

We’re often asked whether naps are helpful in learning.  This study provides powerful affirmative evidence about the value of naps.  Laying procedural links related to motor skills are consolidated in a fashion similar to the consolidation of declarative links, so this study also provides tangential impetus to the idea that naps can help with learning of all kinds.

Braver Angels

In response to last week’s email, LHTLer Paul B brings up a group called Braver Angels, whose mission is to allow the voices on each side of a topic to talk to each other civilly and constructively. Check it out!

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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