Tag Archives: common

Blueprint – Nicholas A. Christakis



The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Nicholas A. Christakis

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $14.99

Expected Publish Date: March 26, 2019

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.

Drawing on advances in social science, evolutionary biology, genetics, neuroscience, and network science, Blueprint shows how and why evolution has placed us on a humane path — and how we are united by our common humanity. For too long, scientists have focused on the dark side of our biological heritage: our capacity for aggression, cruelty, prejudice, and self-interest. But natural selection has given us a suite of beneficial social features, including our capacity for love, friendship, cooperation, and learning. Beneath all our inventions — our tools, farms, machines, cities, nations — we carry with us innate proclivities to make a good society. In Blueprint , Nicholas A. Christakis introduces the compelling idea that our genes affect not only our bodies and behaviors, but also the ways in which we make societies, ones that are surprisingly similar worldwide. With many vivid examples — including diverse historical and contemporary cultures, communities formed in the wake of shipwrecks, commune dwellers seeking utopia, online groups thrown together by design or involving artificially intelligent bots, and even the tender and complex social arrangements of elephants and dolphins that so resemble our own — Christakis shows that, despite a human history replete with violence, we cannot escape our social blueprint for goodness. In a world of increasing political and economic polarization, it's tempting to ignore the positive role of our evolutionary past. But by exploring the ancient roots of goodness in civilization, Blueprint shows that our genes have shaped societies for our welfare and that, in a feedback loop stretching back many thousands of years, societies have shaped, and are still shaping, our genes today.

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Blueprint – Nicholas A. Christakis

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Who’s in Charge? – Michael S. Gazzaniga


Who’s in Charge?

Free Will and the Science of the Brain

Michael S. Gazzaniga

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: November 15, 2011

Publisher: Ecco


“Big questions are Gazzaniga’s stock in trade.” —New York Times “Gazzaniga is one of the most brilliant experimental neuroscientists in the world.” —Tom Wolfe “Gazzaniga stands as a giant among neuroscientists, for both the quality of his research and his ability to communicate it to a general public with infectious enthusiasm.” —Robert Bazell, Chief Science Correspondent, NBC News The author of Human, Michael S. Gazzaniga has been called the “father of cognitive neuroscience.” In his remarkable book, Who’s in Charge?, he makes a powerful and provocative argument that counters the common wisdom that our lives are wholly determined by physical processes we cannot control. His well-reasoned case against the idea that we live in a “determined” world is fascinating and liberating, solidifying his place among the likes of Oliver Sacks, Antonio Damasio, V.S. Ramachandran, and other bestselling science authors exploring the mysteries of the human brain.

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Who’s in Charge? – Michael S. Gazzaniga

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8 Lesser-Known Medicinal Herbs You Should Add to Your Garden

Are you looking for something different to plant in your herb patch this year? Many lesser-known medicinal herbs make easy-to-grow, attractive additions to any herb garden or container. They also come with a variety of unique uses and health benefits.

The following are some under-used herbs that deserve recognition. You can generally find seeds or starter plants for these herbs at your local garden center or online.

Photo credit: Salicyna, from Wikimedia Commons

1. Ashwagandha

Scientific Name: Withania somnifera

Uses: Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to increase vitality, reduce stress and inflammation, and improve quality of sleep. Ashwagandha is what?s known as an adaptogen, a type of plant that?s said to help your body deal with stress and maintain physiological balance. The roots are typically harvested at the end of the growing season, dried, then added to food. You can also make tea out of the leaves or roots.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 9. It can be grown as an annual or indoor plant in colder climates.

Growing Tips: A mature ashwagandha plant is a small shrub that grows about 3 feet (1 meter) tall in one growing season. It can reach 6 feet (2 meters) over time in hotter climates. Ashwagandha grows well in hot and dry conditions and makes red berries you can collect for seeds to grow new plants.

Photo credit: Forest & Kim Starr, via Wikimedia Commons

2. Brahmi

Scientific Name: Bacopa monnieri

Uses: Brahmi is a Sanskrit word that roughly translates to ?that which gives knowledge of Brahmin, or supreme reality?. Traditionally, it?s used in its native India to assist with meditation, concentration, memory and overall brain health. Modern research has also proven that brahmi improves cognitive function. The plant is completely edible and can be steeped into a tea or added fresh to salad, pesto or other dishes.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 8. It can be grown as an annual or indoor plant in colder climates.

Growing Tips: Brahmi is a creeping, succulent plant that only grows up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) tall. It?s easy to care for and prefers full sun and moist conditions. A healthy plant tends to grow quickly, which means you can regularly harvest branches to eat.

3. Gotu Kola

Scientific Name: Centella asiatica

Uses: Gotu kola is used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to help heal wounds, improve circulation, enhance longevity and promote mental clarity, focus and calmness. You can add the leaves to smoothies, salads, soups, sauces or even juices. Gotu kola tastes similar to parsley, so it goes well in many different dishes.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 7. It can be grown as an annual or indoor plant in colder climates.

Growing Tips: Gotu kola is an easy-to-grow creeping plant. If growing it indoors, give it a fairly shallow, wide pot to allow it some growing space. Outdoors, it can simply be left to ramble. It prefers a location with some shade and evenly moist soil. Avoid letting it dry out, as it can wilt quickly.

4. Heal-All

Scientific Name: Prunella vulgaris

Uses: Also known as self-heal, this herb has been used for a wide variety of issues for centuries. It can be applied externally to help heal cold sores and other herpes outbreaks, as well as wounds, ulcers and toe fungus. It can also be taken internally to assist with allergies, digestive disorders and even diabetes. The entire plant is edible and you can add it to foods or make it into tea. To use it on cold sores or wounds, simply crush fresh leaves and apply directly to your skin.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 3.

Growing Tips: Heal-all grows best in cool to moderate temperatures and partial shade. It can spread vigorously, so plant it along an edge of concrete or in a pot to help contain it. Heal-all blooms with attractive white or lavender spikes during summer. Keeping it deadheaded will help encourage blooming and prevent self-seeding.

5. Horehound

Scientific Name: Marrubium vulgare

Uses: Since ancient Roman times, horehound has been used as an expectorant to treat coughs, colds and other respiratory ailments, as well as a digestive aid. Today, horehound is what gives many cough candies and syrups their distinctive flavor. The leaves and stems can be dried and kept year-round to make your own teas for respiratory and digestive support.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 4.

Growing Tips: Horehound grows wild throughout most of the world. You can grow it at home from either seed or plant divisions. Horehound spreads vigorously, so make sure you plant it somewhere with lots of room, or plant it in a pot to keep it contained. Trimming off the flowers before they set seed will also prevent its spread.

6. Rhodiola

Scientific Name: Rhodiola rosea

Uses: This adaptogenic herb is native to northern regions of the world, including Tibet, Russia and China. Rhodiola is known to help combat anxiety by promoting calmness and mental stamina. It can also be used to improve sleep and boost your immune system. The roots of rhodiola are harvested for medicinal use and eaten fresh or dried, or brewed into tea.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 2.

Growing Tips: Rhodiola is an attractive, low-growing plant similar to sedum. It requires freezing temperatures during winter, so it will not grow over USDA zone 8. Rhodiola prefers full to partial sun and well-draining soil. It grows well from seed, although the seeds will need a cold period before germinating. Check the seed package for detailed germination instructions.

7. Valerian

Scientific Name: Valerian officinalis

Uses: Valerian is a traditional sleep aid and pain killer, as well as helping to calm nerves during stressful times. Also, valerian is not known to be habit-forming like many modern pharmaceutical medications for sleep and pain control. The roots are used medicinally and are typically dug up after at least two years of growth. They can be used fresh or dried in foods or tea.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 4.

Growing Tips: Valerian has tall, white flowers with a beautiful scent. They also make great cut flowers. Keeping your plants deadheaded will prevent them from spreading too much by seed. Valerian is also much-loved by dogs and cats, so you may want to put a barrier around small plants to protect them until they?re big enough to withstand your pets? attention.

8. Winter Savory

Scientific Name: Satureja montana

Uses: Winter savory has natural antiseptic properties that can help stop infections from bug bites and other wounds. Crushing the fresh leaves into a poultice and applying this to bug bites will help them heal as well as reduce itching. Winter savory tea can help sooth a sore throat or ease indigestion. Winter savory has a nice peppery flavor and goes well in cream soups, bean and vegetable dishes, and herb butters.

Hardiness: USDA Zone 5.

Growing Tips: Winter savory is a semi-evergreen perennial that grows up to 2 feet (60 centimeters) tall. It has white blossoms in summer that bees and other pollinating insects love. Winter savory can handle a variety of conditions, but does best in full sun and well-drained soil.

Before adding these or any other herbs to your diet, consult with your doctor first to make sure they do not interact with your current medications or health conditions.

Related on Care2

Benefits of Growing and Eating Lovage
6 Less Common Herbs and Spices for the Kitchen
9 Plants to Grow That Help Your Brain and Memory

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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8 Lesser-Known Medicinal Herbs You Should Add to Your Garden

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This Idea Is Brilliant – John Brockman


This Idea Is Brilliant

Lost, Overlooked, and Underappreciated Scientific Concepts Everyone Should Know

John Brockman

Genre: Essays

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: January 16, 2018

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Seller: HarperCollins

Brilliant but overlooked ideas you must know, as revealed by today’s most innovative minds  What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known? That is the question John Brockman, publisher of the acclaimed science salon Edge.org (“The world’s smartest website”—The Guardian), presented to 205 of the world’s most influential thinkers from across the intellectual spectrum—award-winning physicists, economists, psychologists, philosophers, novelists, artists, and more. From the origins of the universe to the order of everyday life, This Idea Is Brilliant takes readers on a tour of the bold, exciting, and underappreciated scientific concepts that will enrich every mind.  Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel JARED DIAMOND on the lost brilliance of common sense * Oxford evolutionary biologist RICHARD DAWKINS on how The Genetic Book of the Dead could reconstruct ecological history * philosopher REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN on how to extend our grasp of reality beyond what we can see and touch * author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics CARLO ROVELLI on the interconnected fabric of information * Booker Prize–winning novelist IAN McEWAN on the Navier-Stokes equations, which govern everything from weather prediction to aircraft design and blood flow * cosmologist LAWRENCE M. KRAUSS on the hidden blessings of uncertainty * psychologist STEVEN PINKER on the fight against entropy * Nobel Prize–winning economist RICHARD THALER on the visionary power of the “premortem” * Grammy Award–winning musician BRIAN ENO on confirmation bias in the Internet age * advertising guru RORY SUTHERLAND on the world-changing power of sex appeal * Harvard physicist LISA RANDALL on the power of the obvious * Wired founding editor KEVIN KELLY on how to optimize your chances at success * Nobel Prize winner FRANK WILCZEK on the creative potential of complementarity * Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter JOHN MARKOFF on the synthetic metamaterials that soon will transform industry and technology * euroscientist SAM HARRIS on the lost art of intellectual honesty *Berkeley psychologist ALISON GOPNIK on the role of life history in the human story, and many others.


This Idea Is Brilliant – John Brockman

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Hurricane Jose may be headed toward New England.

“Clearly, our environment changes all the time,” the Republican leader said after touring Irma’s devastation. “And whether that’s cycles we’re going through or whether that’s man-made, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one it is.”

It’s good to see Scott pondering those wacky ideas we’ve all heard floating around: Human-caused climate changemore intense hurricanesrising sea levels, etc. Coming to terms with climate change is a journey we all must pursue at our own pace! It’s not urgent or anything.

So what is Scott feeling sure about? Let’s hear it:

This is a catastrophic storm our state has never seen,” he warned on Saturday before Irma hit Florida.

“We ought to go solve problems. I know we have beach renourishment issues. I know we have flood-mitigation issues,” he said in the wake of Irma.

“I’m worried about another hurricane,” he shared with reporters while touring the Florida Keys this week. We feel ya, Scott.

Big ideas! Perhaps a fellow Florida Republican could illuminate their common thread.

“[I]t’s certainly not irresponsible to highlight how this storm was probably fueled — in part — by conditions that were caused by human-induced climate change,” Florida congressman and Grist 50er Carlos Curbelo said this week.

In fact, it just might be necessary.

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Hurricane Jose may be headed toward New England.

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Why Trump Has You Craving Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Chocolate Cake

Mother Jones

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This week’s political news has left me feeling panicky. The more I scroll Twitter, the more often I find myself craving my favorite snacks: chocolate chip cookies and canned Diet Coke.

I’m not alone in my attachment to specific foods for certain moods. Studies suggest that when we’re sick, tired, sad, or stressed, we often eat in aims of feeling better. And given this year’s political climate, some of us may be experiencing an extra strong hankering for a greasy slice of pepperoni pizza or fresh buttercream frosting. A Market Watch survey of food businesses on election night showed spikes in cupcakes, wine, pizza, and other junk food orders.

On a recent episode of our food politics podcast, Bite, we asked listeners to tell us what dishes they’re turning to under the Trump administration.

There’s some science to suggest that we’re wired to crave certain kinds of foods in times of duress. Common comfort foods usually include a salty, sweet, or fattening element. A study by University of Colorado medicine professor Richard Johnson argues that our preference for these flavors may trace back to our early development as humans. To our Paleolithic ancestors, sweetness was a sign that a fruit was ripe and safe to eat. The excess calories helped us put on weight. “Foods that were good for survival are often things that are cemented in your neural pathways as being good for you, so you want more of them,” said San Diego Miramar College anthropology professor Laura González, who has researched emotional eating and comfort foods.

The stress response is similar. The moment we feel threat or impending doom, our bodies are flooded with chemicals that can affect our appetite and metabolism. Hormones like cortisol and ghrelin flood our system and, for some people, increase appetite and caloric intake. It’s common to look for that boost in calorie-dense dishes. “Foods that we turn to in times of stress reward the pleasure centers of our brain,” González said. “So they actually produce more dopamine and more serotonin.”

In González’s research on emotional eating, she found people linked favorite foods with memories of childhood, family, and holiday traditions. She noted that people across various cultures often reach for warm food. Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham’s theorizes that once our ancestors starting using fire to cook, they used less energy to digest, leading to stronger bodies and bigger brains—in short, cooked foods is what made us human.

It’s possible that Donald Trump himself isn’t safe from the effects of stress on appetite. During a recent visit to the White House, Time reporters noted that the president was the only one to receive extra sauce on his entree and two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie.

Here are some more favorite comfort foods from the Twittersphere:


Why Trump Has You Craving Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Chocolate Cake

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Show Us the Replacement!

Mother Jones

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Hmmm. Congressional Republicans might have a problem on their hands. Here’s one of the findings of the latest Kaiser Family poll on health care:

That little orange pie slice at the bottom—the one that says 20 percent—represents the number of people who support the idea of repeal and delay. About half the respondents don’t want to repeal Obamacare at all, and another 28 percent, showing the common sense that heartland Americans are famous for, don’t want to buy a pig in a poke. They may not be thrilled with Obamacare, but they sure want to see what’s going to replace it before it’s ripped apart.

This is the mantra Democrats should be hawking every second of every day. We don’t want a white paper, we want to see the real replacement. Does it really protect people with pre-existing conditions? Does it really keep premium costs down? Does it really reduce deductibles? Is it really a better deal for most working-class folks than Obamacare? Does it really keep the Medicaid expansion in place? Does it really guarantee that no one will be worse off than they are under Obamacare? And will it really cost less than Obamacare?

Every single person in America deserves an opportunity to look at the Republican plan, compare it to Obamacare, and figure out which one is a better deal for them personally. No one should support any kind of repeal plan until they’re allowed to see this.

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Show Us the Replacement!

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Diet and Climate Change: Cooking Up a Storm

One of the most prestigious medical journals in the world editorialized that climate change represents the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Currently, chronic diseases are by far the leading cause of death. Might there be a way to combat both at the same time? For example, riding our bikes instead of driving is a win-win-win for the people, planet, and pocketbook. Are there similar win-win situations when it comes to diet?

As I discuss in my video below, the foods that create the most greenhouse gases appear to be the same foods that are contributing to many of our chronic diseases. Researchers found that meat (including fish), eggs, and dairy had the greatest negative environmental impact, whereas grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables had the least impact. And not only did the foods with the heaviest environmental impact tend to have lower nutritional quality, but they also had a higher price per pound. So, avoiding them gives us that triple win scenario.

The European Commission, the governing body of the European Union, commissioned a study on what individuals can do to help the climate. For example, if Europeans started driving electric cars, it could prevent as much as 174 million tons of carbon from getting released. We could also turn down the thermostat a bit and put on a sweater. But the most powerful action people could take is shift to a meat-free diet.

What we eat may have more of an impact on global warming than what we drive.

Just cutting out animal protein intake one day of the week could have a powerful effect. Meatless Mondays alone could beat out a whole week of working from home and not commuting.

A strictly plant-based diet may be better still: Its responsible for only about half the greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have suggested that moderate diet changes are not enough to reduce impacts from food consumption drastically. Without significant reduction in meat and dairy, changes to healthier diets may only result in rather minor reductions of environmental impacts. This is because studies have shown that the average fossil energy input for animal protein production systems is 25 calories of fossil energy input for every 1 calorie producedmore than 11 times greater than that for grain protein production, for example, which is around 2 to 1.

Researchers in Italy compared seven different diets to see which one was environmentally friendliest. They compared a conventional omnivorous diet adhering to dietary guidelines; an organic omnivorous diet; a conventional vegetarian diet; an organic vegetarian diet; a conventional vegan diet; an organic vegan diet; and a diet the average person actually eats. For each dietary pattern, the researchers looked at carcinogens, air pollution, climate change, effects on the ozone layer, the ecosystem, acid rain, and land, mineral, and fossil fuel use. You can see in the video how many resources it took to feed people on their current diets, all the negative effects the diet is having on the ecosystem, and the adverse effects on human health.

If people were eating a healthier diet by conforming to the dietary recommendations, the environmental impact would be significantly less. An organic omnivorous diet would be better still, similar to a vegetarian diet of conventional foods. Those are topped by an organic vegetarian diet, followed by a conventional vegan diet. The best, however, was an organic vegan diet.

The Commission report described that the barriers to animal product reduction are largely lack of knowledge, ingrained habits, and culinary cultures. Proposed policy measures include meat or animal protein taxes, educational campaigns, and putting the greenhouse gas emissions information right on food labels.

Climate change mitigation is expensive. A global transition to even just a low-meat diet, as recommended for health reasons, could reduce these mitigation costs. A study determined that a healthier, low-meat diet would cut the cost of mitigating climate change from about 1% of GDP by more than half, a no-meat diet could cut two-thirds of the cost, and a diet free of animal products could cut 80% of the cost.

Many people arent aware of the cow in the room. It seems that very few people are aware that the livestock sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. But thats changing.

The UKs National Health Service is taking a leading role in reducing carbon emissions. Patients, visitors, and staff can look forward to healthy, low-carbon menus with much less meat, dairy, and eggs. Evidence shows that as far as the climate is concerned, meat is heat.

The Swedish government recently amended their dietary recommendations to encourage citizens to eat less meat. If we seek only to achieve the conservative objective of avoiding further long-term increases in [greenhouse gas] emissions from livestock, we are still led to rather radical recommendations such as cutting current consumption levels in half in affluent countriesan unlikely outcome if there were no direct rewards to citizens for doing so. Fortunately, there are such rewards: important health benefits… By helping the planet, we can help ourselves.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havent yet, you can subscribe to my free videoshereand watch my live, year-in-review presentations2015:Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016:How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

Never Too Late to Start Eating Healthier
Combating Common Diseases With Plants
One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Diet and Climate Change: Cooking Up a Storm

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Shonda Rhimes, Norman Lear, and Common Take Aim at Inequality in This New Documentary Series

Mother Jones

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In “America Divided,” a new five-part documentary series premiering tonight on Epix, the nation’s growing inequality—in matters economic, racial, and otherwise—takes center stage.

Headed by executive producers Shonda Rhimes, Norman Lear, and Common, the project looks into the ways inequality underlies so many modern crises, profoundly affecting our schools, our housing landscape, and our political discourse. The correspondents are all household names: Actress Rosario Dawson, for instance, takes us to Flint, Michigan, to meet families affected by lead poisoning. Actor Jesse Williams returns to the classroom to understand the school-to-prison pipeline. Comedian Amy Poehler grills well-to-do families about their relationships with struggling domestic workers.

The actors are invested, and in some cases confrontational. And while it’s a little strange to see them so out of context (especially comedians such as Poehler and Zach Galifianakis) there’s something refreshing about their earnestness. Take Dawson, who displays her humanity when she reaches out to hold the hand of a tearful woman who has been describing the toll Flint’s contaminated water has had on her family. The issues the series explores won’t be anything new to Mother Jones readers, but they are as timely as ever. So if A-list celebs and high production quality will convince you to think more about America’s more entrenched problems, and maybe even to step up and do something, then this series is for you.

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Shonda Rhimes, Norman Lear, and Common Take Aim at Inequality in This New Documentary Series

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But If You Don’t Learn Cursive, How Will You Read the Declaration of Independence in the Original?

Mother Jones

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If pen retailers and state legislators are to be believed, cursive handwriting is facing an existential threat. Since the advent of the Common Core standards—which emphasize keyboard skills over nicely shaped P’s and Q’s—it’s been common knowledge for years that teachers are abandoning cursive in droves, spending classroom time instead on new technology and typing.

But lately, fancy handwriting is having somewhat of a comeback. Louisiana’s governor signed a law in June requiring cursive instruction all the way through grade 12. Mississippi’s education department recently added script to its standards. And starting this school year, third graders in Alabama are required to write legibly in cursive under the newly passed Lexi’s Law. State Rep. Dickie Drake named the Alabama bill after his granddaughter, who told him when she was in first grade that she wanted to learn “real writing.”

The jury is still out on whether learning script, not just print, improves children’s cognition. (There’s little proof to date that it does.) Meanwhile, scientists are inching closer to handwriting’s true existential threat: a mind-reading machine that turns thoughts into written language via a “brain to text” interface. Here’s a primer on how the technology and culture of handwriting has evolved over time.

3200 B.C.

With stylus and clay tablets, ancient Mesopotamians create abstract symbols to represent syllables of their spoken language.


Quill pens and parchment paper take hold in Europe. Drippy ink discourages pen lifting, hence cursive.


Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press forces scribes to pivot to teaching penmanship.

c. 1712

A popular copybook by George Bickham teaches farmers and merchants to write in a “round” hand. Gentlemen of the era employ an italic script, while accomplished women practice “ladies’ roman.” (In general, only fairly well-off white males are taught to write.)


South Carolina’s Negro Act makes it a crime to teach slaves to write: “Suffering them to be employed in writing may be attended with great inconveniences.” Other colonies (and later, states) follow suit.


John Hancock’s “John Hancock” appears prominently on the Declaration of Independence.


Educator Platt Rogers Spencer urges pupils to contemplate nature’s curves while learning his ornate script, soon to be the hand of choice for merchants (including Ford and Coca-Cola) and schools in most states.


Denmark’s Rasmus Malling-Hansen introduces the first commercial typewriter, the Hansen Writing Ball.

Malling-Hansen Society


Alonzo Cross’ patented “stylographic pen” holds its own ink.


Irish immigrant John Robert Gregg invents a shorthand method that will eventually be taught in countless US high schools.


With handwriting under threat by typewriters, Austin Palmer introduces a smaller, faster writing style, taught via militaristic “drills.” His 1912 textbook on the Palmer Method sells more than 1 million copies. (Spen­cerian script is history.)


French psychologist Alfred Binet popularizes handwriting analysis as a window into the writer’s traits. He goes on to invent the IQ test.


Congress greenlights the use of handwriting as forensic evidence in court.



The man convicted (and later executed) based on ransom notes for kidnapping the Lindbergh baby laments, “Dat handwriting is the worstest thing against me.”


László József Bíró markets the first ballpoint pen.


The Bic ballpoint hits US stores, turning pens—once luxury goods—into a cheap commodity.


The signature of US Treasurer Elizabeth Rudel Smith on paper currency invites public scorn: Her “t”s are “crossed belatedly, like a feminine afterthought,” snarks a Chicago Tribune writer. The New York Times seizes on the occasion to bemoan the “lost art of handwriting.”


From a Louisiana poll test: “Write every other word in this first line and print every third word in same line (original type smaller and first line ended at comma) but capitalize the fifth word that you write.”


A pen makers’ trade group launches National Handwriting Day even as PC makers including Apple and Commodore begin selling the computer keyboards that presage handwriting’s slow, inevitable decline.


The National Council of Teachers of English condemns the practice of making naughty kids write lines, because it “causes students to dislike an activity necessary to their intellectual development and career success.”



Researchers claim they’ve debunked the “conventional wisdom” that doctors have worse handwriting than other health professionals do.


Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles urges “handwriting-challenged” MDs to take a penmanship class, even as a key medical journal blasts handwritten case notes as “a dinosaur long overdue for extinction.”


First-class mail usage hits its peak—only to plummet 40 percent by 2015.


Common Core standards, soon to be adopted by most states, emphasize early typing skills but make no mention of cursive. Parents and educators flip out. “They’re not teaching cursive writing,” conservative TV host Glenn Beck thunders, “because the easiest way to make somebody a slave is dumb them down.”


Scientists find that the brains of preliterate kids respond like a reader’s brain when they write their ABCs, but not when they type or trace the letters; another research team reports that college students who transcribed lectures on their laptops recalled more information than those who took notes by hand.


Bic launches a “Fight For Your Write” campaign—”because writing makes us all awesome!”

Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama mandate instruction of handwriting in public schools. Without it, supporters argue, kids wouldn’t be able to sign their names or read the Constitution. Over at Motherboard, Kaleigh Rogers counters that cursive needs to “join its former companion—the quill and inkwell—in the annals of history where it belongs.”

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But If You Don’t Learn Cursive, How Will You Read the Declaration of Independence in the Original?

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