TIME Family

Ground Zero in the Clutter Wars: My House

A stock photo of a messy room
Getty Images

It's not easy being a purger in a house of hoarders. Here's how I coped

I do not get along terribly well with clutter — and I frankly have no interest in improving our relationship. I believe shelves, closets and drawers were invented for a reason — so they can remain completely empty. My feeling is, if Ikea’s display of its stylish new Framstå system can do it, why can’t I?

But I don’t live alone. I live with a wife and two daughters — ages 14 and 12 — and they take a less antiseptic view of things. Our home, which was originally advertised as a “sun-drenched two-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s fashionable Upper East Side,” has instead become something of a longitudinal study in the second law of thermodynamics, which, if you’re like me, is your least favorite law of thermodynamics, since it’s the one that states that all closed systems move inevitably toward entropy.

By closed systems, I don’t mean such who-cares stuff as the environment or the planet or the cosmos. I mean my personal space. And by entropy, I don’t mean molecules or thermal gradients. I mean schoolbooks and empty glasses. I mean shoes and clothes, dropped mid-floor, real-time, in such perfect simulation of the body that shed them that they look less like a mess than like a preteen parade float waiting to be inflated. I mean flyers for Memorial Day sales at stores that closed in 2006, subscription cards for magazines that ceased publishing when our children were in pre-K, discount offers for a first generation TiVo.

More and more, our home is developing what can only be described as geological strata: here are the crayon traces of the preschool epoch, which lie below the glitter of the Princess epoch, which itself was buried by the fabric-and-plastic sediment of the American Girl epoch. A thick layer of Tiger Beat precipitate is now fluttering down atop that, which, given enough heat, pressure and millennia, might at least compress itself into a useful fossil fuel.

I rage, rage against the rubbish — and do what I can to reduce it. I move about the apartment, gathering things up in what feels to me like an efficient stride-and-sweep pincer movement, but which even I realize is increasingly resembling a bustle. I collect dropped belongings and put them away in any handy drawer or armoire, a behavior I call helpful and my family members — along with most trained clinicians — call passive-aggressive. And when I’ve put something somewhere its owner doesn’t want it and therefore can’t find it, my refrain is always the same:

“There is one way to ensure that things are where you want them, and that’s to put them away yourself.” This argument has the twin qualities of both unassailable logic and a perfect, 0% success rate in changing anyone’s behavior.

One answer to our family impasse is an open dialogue, a frank exchange of feelings and a willingness for collective compromise. The other answer is the one that actually works: money.

Not long ago, my wife mentioned that she’s had her eye on a new platform bed. A platform bed, of course, would go in our bedroom — a room that on any given day is just one copy of Oprah away from needing its own Chernobyl-style containment dome.

So I made a deal: we would get the bed — and two new dressers, and two new night tables, and an upright chest, and a vanity, and discard all of the existing furniture if all of the clutter went. I would also surrender our entire walk-in dressing area to my wife and confine my clothes to my new drawers. It was the marital equivalent of land for peace.

My wife, to my delight, took me up on the deal. The clutter is now slowly being peeled back and thrown away, and the furniture delivery has been scheduled. My daughters, with the gimlet eyes of bazaar merchants recognizing a sucker with a Fodor’s guide and a wad of American money, requested the same arrangement and I agreed.

I am now buying them a new bedroom set too. In return, they promised two things: to keep the room neat and — much more important — to let me think I won.

Read next: Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

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TIME psychology

Why Men Are More Narcissistic Than Women

Men sitting on bench wearing colourful socks
Noel Hendrickson—Getty Images

Narcissism has long afflicted more men than women — but that could be changing

If there’s one thing you can say for craziness, it’s that it’s not sexist. Across entire populations, males and females face a pretty equal lifetime risk of coming unhinged. Within conditions, however, there may be differences. Women are twice as likely as men, for example, to develop depression. Anxiety disorders such as OCD and phobias also hit women a bit harder.

Narcissism, however, goes the other way. Research has long suggested that if you’re looking for someone who’s preening, strutting, self-absorbed, arrogant, exhibitionistic, conceited, insensitive and entitled, you’ll find more of them in the boys’ camp than you will in the girls’. So it comes as, well, almost no news at all that a new study — hold your applause till the end, please — found exactly that!

The research, in fairness, was sweeping: a meta-analysis of 355 journal articles and other studies going back 31 years. In the behavioral sciences, which lack the tidy, 1+1=2 certainty of fields like chemistry and physics and math, meta-analyses are often the best way to lock down a hypothesis. The paper did that, but it did more too — not just establishing the gender disparity but explaining why it exists.

In my 2014 book, The Narcissist Next Door, I wrestled with the question of narcissism and gender, and came to the conclusion that our still patriarchal society is far likelier to tolerate — even encourage — narcissistic swagger and aggressiveness in men than it is in women. It was hardly a theory I developed de novo, but rather is one many researchers had voiced — thought not yet proved. The researchers in the new study — led by Emily Grijalva, an assistant professor of organization and human resources at the University of Buffalo School of Management — broke down their metadata in ways that highlighted three of the multiple categories of narcissistic behavior: grandiosity and exhibitionism; leadership and authority; and entitlement.

Men ran away with the entitlement category (we’re looking at you, John Edwards, Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen), and led by a narrower gap in the leadership and authority category. “Compared with women,” Grijalva said in a statement that accompanied the study, “men exhibit more assertiveness and desire for power.” That too is consistent with a culture in which men don’t merely hold more positions in government and high finance, but seek those positions more as well.

But when it comes to exhibitionism — the basic table stakes for boys and girls dreaming of growing up to achieve their true full narcissistic potential — the sexes start off pretty much equally. As happens so often in a sexist world, however, that potential — O.K., pathological potential — is squelched in girls while it’s encouraged in boys.

“Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society’s expectations,” Grijalva said. “In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for [them] to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior.”

Gender equality, of course, is a surpassing good, and the arc of history is inevitably bending its way. It will, alas, almost certainly mean narcissistic equality too. Let’s hope that the growing ranks of female narcissists conduct themselves better than the boys have.

TIME sexuality

No Ben Carson, Homosexuality Is Not a Choice

Pointing the wrong way: Carson is just plain wrong on the science
Richard Ellis; Getty Images Pointing the wrong way: Carson is just plain wrong on the science

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

A presidential hopeful (and a doctor) gets the science all wrong—and makes things worse when he tries to explain himself

If you’re a candidate dreaming of the White House with virtually no chance of actually winding up there, it sometimes helps to say something ridiculous—if only to get your name-recognition numbers up. That is the very best and most charitable explanation for comments by Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, on CNN, arguing that homosexuality is “absolutely” a choice. His evidence? Prison.

“A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay,” he said. “So did something happen while they were in there?”

Prison, of course, is the worst of all possible examples Carson could have chosen—conflating sexuality with circumstance. Men confined together for years without women remain sexual beings and may take whatever outlet is available to them. Something similar was true in a less enlightened era of gay men and women who were forced to marry people of the opposite sex, and who dutifully produced children and tried to satisfy their partners despite the fact that they were getting little satisfaction themselves.

Carson, who was blowtorched in both social and mainstream media for his remarks, quickly walked them back, issuing a statement that, in some ways, only made things worse. “I’m a doctor trained in multiple fields of medicine, who was blessed to work at perhaps the finest institution of medical knowledge in the world,” he wrote. “Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality.”

That statement could indeed have the virtue of being true—provided it was issued in 1990. But since then, there’s been a steady accumulation of evidence that sexuality—like eye color, nose size, blood type and more—is baked in long before birth. The first great breakthrough was the 1991 study by neuroscientist Simon LeVay finding that a region in the hypothalamus related to sexuality known as INAH3 is smaller in gay men and women than it is in straight men. The following year, investigators at UCLA found that another brain region associated with sexuality, the midsagittal plane of the anterior commissure, is 18% larger in gay men than in straight women and 34% larger than in straight men.

One cause of the differences could be genetic. In 1993, one small study suggested a connection between sexual orientation and a section on the X chromosome called Xq28, which could predispose men toward homosexuality. The small size of the study—only 38 pairs of gay brothers—made it less than entirely reliable. But a study released just last year expanded the sample group to 409 pairs of brothers and reached similar conclusions.

Genes are not the only biological roots for homosexuality. Womb environment is thought to play a significant role too, since part of what determines development of a fetus is the level and mix of hormones to which it is exposed during gestation. In 2006, psychologist Anthony Bogaert of Brock University in Canada looked into the never-explained phenomenon of birth order appearing to shape sexuality, with gay males tending to have more older brothers than straight males. Working with a sample group of 944 homosexual and heterosexual males, Bogaert found that indeed, a first born male has about a 3% chance of being gay, a number that goes up 1% at a time for each subsequent boy until it doubles to 6% for a fourth son.

The explanation likely involves the mother’s immune system. Any baby, male or female, is initially treated as an invader by the mother’s body, but multiple mechanisms engage to prevent her system from rejecting the fetus. Male babies, with their male proteins, are perceived as slightly more alien than females, so the mother’s body produces more gender-specific antibodies against them. Over multiple pregnancies with male babies, the womb becomes more “feminized,” and that can shape sexuality.

A range of other physical differences among gay men and lesbians also argue against Carson’s thinking—finger length for instance. In heterosexual men, the index finger is significantly shorter than the ring finger. In straight women, the index and ring fingers are close to the same length. Lesbian finger length is often more similar to that of straight males. This, too, had been informally observed for a long time, but in 2000 a study at the University of California, Berkeley, seemed to validate it.

Lesbians also seem to have differences in the inner ear—of all unlikely places. In all people, sound not only enters the ear but leaves it, in the form of what are known as otoacoustic emissions—vibrations that are produced by the interaction of the cochlea and eardrum and can be detected by instruments. Heterosexual women tend to have higher frequency otoacoustic emissions than men, but gay women don’t. Still other studies have explored a link between homosexuality and handedness (with gays having a greater likelihood of being left-handed or ambidextrous) as well as hair whorl (with the hair at the crown of gay men’s heads tending to grow counterclockwise), though there are differing views on these last two.

Clearly, none of us choose our genetics or finger length or birth order or ear structure, and none of us choose our sexuality either. As with so many cases of politicians saying scientifically block-headed things, Carson either doesn’t know any of this (and as a doctor, he certainly should) or he does know it and is pretending he doesn’t. Neither answer reflects well on his fitness for political office.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME space

Why Leonard Nimoy Mattered

The meaning of Spock

If you cared a fig for space travel, it was easy not to care when the first episode of Star Trek aired on Sept. 8, 1966. Just four days later, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon would be lifting off for their Gemini 11 mission, which would orbit the earth 44 times in just under three days and set a then unheard-of manned-altitude record of 739 nautical miles (1,369 km). There was still one more Gemini flight to go before NASA could even think of test-flying its Apollo lunar ships—and only a little more than three years left if the U.S. was going to meet President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon before 1970.

Against that, a group of actors on a pasteboard set pretending to fly in space was pretty small beer. And as for one with the blunt-cut bangs and pointy rubber ears? Please.

But the space geeks and critics and TV execs—so many of whom sniffed at Star Trek during the brief three years it ran—were too smart and too cute by half. And the loss of Leonard Nimoy—who more than any other character captured the romance, the rocket science and the extraordinary wit of the series—is cause again to consider why the show was what it was.

Star Trek’s production values—with its wobbly doors and painted rocks and lizard-like antagonist with, as a friend of mine once put it, bicycle reflectors for eyes—were entirely beside the point. It was the largeness of the stories Star Trek sought to tell that mattered, and never mind the idea that fever dreams about dilithium crystals and warp drive seemed all wrong for an era in which metal rockets and flesh-and-blood men were actually flying, the timing of the series was perfect.

I was one of those Gemini junkies when Star Trek premiered—a 12-year-old American boy who built model rockets and learned the names of astronauts and whose very first memory was standing on the front lawn looking for Sputnik when I was only 3 years old. I breathed rocket fuel almost from birth.

And yes, I was too distracted by the real space program to pay a lot of attention to Star Trek in its original run, but as with so many others, I soon tumbled for it hard. The space program, I came to know and appreciate, was the stuff of increments, of inches (literally when Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 became the first manned American spacecraft to rendezvous in orbit). It was a thing of fixed speeds—17,500 m.p.h. (28,200 km/h) to orbit the earth and 25,000 m.p.h. (32,000 km/h) to escape its gravity. It was a thing of teeth-rattling liftoffs and bone-thumping landings and a dependence on fire—fire!, the fuel of the primitives—to get anywhere at all. And, as well, it was a thing of very real and very terrible deaths—as when some of that fire claimed three of those flesh-and-blood astronauts, or when two astronauts, who had trained hard and competed hard and made the cut and were chosen to fly, died before they ever got the chance, in a routine airplane accident.

Stanley Kubrick, with his huge, brooding 2001: A Space Odyssey, released eight months before human beings even orbited the moon, tried to combine the technology of the what-is with the wonder of what-could-be, and so gave us eternal slo-mos of thrusters firing and counter-thrusters responding and astronauts floating and space pods creeping, creeping, creeping toward mother ships. And only then, when you couldn’t take the glacial pace anymore, he blew the whole thing up in a lot of flashing lights and hallucinogenic images about, well, birth or life or death or who knew what and who, after a running time of 160 minutes, cared anymore?

Star Trek didn’t take itself nearly so seriously. It was about warp drive because regular physics is just too strict; it was about beaming up and down, because why shouldn’t the molecules that make you up be infinitely scramble-able and unscramble-able? It was about planet after planet with just the right air and just the right temperature because what’s the point of hiring good-looking actors if you can’t see them for the space helmets? And it was—pitilessly, riotously—about the lieutenant in the red shirt who was inevitably going to die on one of those planets before the first commercial because that was just plain good for the story.

MORE: How Leonard Nimoy Almost Wasn’t Spock

The genius of Star Trek was that it saw the high stakes and high price and punishingly hard science of a real space program and forgave us all that. It let us quit the real while still keeping it in sight, to live in a world in which it takes six years to fly from here to Pluto and glimpse a world in which it takes six seconds to reach Alastria, a Delta Quadrant planet that you can get to only with the help of a spatial trajector—whatever that was.

And it was Nimoy as Mr. Spock—half-human and half-Vulcan, part-brain and part-savage—who was the literal embodiment of that duality. Spock’s mind would have had no truck with the liberties the Star Trek series took. But his heart would have loved them.

We’re better, dreamier, more hopeful spacefarers for having spent time with Star Trek. And we’re better too for having had the wise corrective of Nimoy’s Spock to keep us honest while letting us dream.

TIME climate

Senator Throws Snowball! Climate Change Disproven!

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Is Sen. James Inhofe really the person we want chairing the Senate's environment committee?

What’s all this talk about global hunger? I don’t know about you, but I just tucked into a burrito and there are plenty more where that one came from. But that doesn’t mean the nation’s soaring obesity rates are anything more than a rumor. Most of the people I work with look pretty darn good, so QED right?

Something similar is true of climate change—at least if you’re Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and a man tasked with knowing a thing or two about, um, the environment and public works. The Senator, who has made something of a cottage industry out of arguing that climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” at last has drop-dead, case-closed proof that he’s been right all along. The evidence: a snowball. And not just any snowball, one right there in Washington, DC!

Inhofe brought his snowball onto the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday and declared that “we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record.” Yet in a plastic bag, right on his desk, he had the evidence to demolish that claim. “I ask the chair, you know what this is?” he said. “It’s a snowball, and that’s just from outside here, so it’s very, very cold out, very unseasonable.” Then he tossed the unexpected snowball to the unsuspecting chair and returned to his prepared text with self-satisfied, “Mm-hmm.”

Inhofe is completely correct, of course: It was very, very cold on Thursday—unseasonably so. And it was also very, very hot in Opa Loca Florida, where the temperature was 87º F (30º C)—awfully sweltering even for that part of the country, at least at this time of year. Presumably, Opa Loca’s unseasonable steam bath is equally compelling proof that climate change is real.

Look, it’s easy to take shots at Inhofe, which is why everyone is doing it today—here and here and here and here just for starters. But the implications are real. Either he really doesn’t understand that weather isn’t climate, that long-term trends are different from short-term bumps, that what happens at your house or in your town really, truly isn’t what’s happening everywhere else on the planet, or he does know and he’s pretending he doesn’t. Either way, it’s hard to argue that he’s the man you’d want as the Senate’s leading voice on climate policy.

Here’s hoping, if nothing else, that Inhofe has an easy commute home tonight. It’ll be long-awaited proof that the U.S. highway system has at last solved the problem of traffic.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Quiz: Is Your Dog Crazy?

Take this quiz and find out

A dog’s brain and your brain have very similar chemistry and many similar structures. It stands to reason they work in more or less the same way—and break down the same way too. More and more, behavioral veterinarians are diagnosing problems as diverse as depression, anger, dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder in dogs. As with humans, treatment involves behavioral therapy and sometimes even drugs. But first you have to know if a problem exists at all. Here are some of the symptoms veterinarians consider in making a diagnosis.

 

TIME space

Loving Earth Can Sometimes Require Leaving It

See the borders? That's because there aren't any.
NASA; Getty Images See the borders? That's because there aren't any.

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

In a new book, astronaut Ron Garan calls for a better approach to making the world a healthier, more peaceable place

It’s a good thing you can’t see human suffering in infrared wavelengths. That kind of pain is something seen in the visible, felt in the viscera. If it showed up in the infrared it would mean that with the right instruments, you could see it from space, and that would change everything. There’s not a person who’s ever left the planet who hasn’t commented on the transcendent beauty of the blue, green, white Earth hanging in what otherwise appears to be a void. But what if Syria glowed scarlet like the open wound it is? What if West Africa went dark and cold to reflect the Ebola deaths that are still happening there?

Astronauts are spared such sights—or at least most of them are. But Ron Garan saw them anyway. Garan spent two weeks aboard the space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station in 2008, then returned to space for a five-and-a-half-month stay aboard the station in 2011. That last tour of duty included the month of August—most significantly August 24, the day Tripoli fell during the Libyan civil war. Garan happened to look out the window that day and snapped a picture that included Libya—a place that was beautiful from orbit but bleeding up close.

The experience, along with many others others like it during the collective 179 days Garan spent in space, changed a great many things for him. Life on Earth, he came to realize, is experienced two-dimensionally—with all of the distortion that that implies. The people and things close to you obscure the ones farther away; objects shrink as they approach the horizon—dwindling in both size and significance. One Ebola death in the U.S. galvanizes our attention. Ten thousand in Africa barely move us.

Such a blinkered view is impossible from orbit, where you take in whole sweeps of the borderless globe in a glance. Garan, accordingly, returned home to write a book, The Orbital Perspective, that movingly explains the impact of such a perspective shift—one that by no means occurs for every astronaut.

The late Jack Swigert, command module pilot of Apollo 13, once observed that the very things that qualify astronauts to go to space—a mission-first, get-it-done pragmatism that doesn’t allow for a lot of rhapsodic silliness—often disqualifies them to feel or describe their experiences terribly deeply. Garan was the rare exception and is now devoting himself to working for a world that functions the way it appears to function from space—as an organic whole, not a fragmented collection of continents, nations, communities and sects. The book’s foreword is written by Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace prize for pioneering the concept of microloans—making very small amounts of money available to people who would otherwise not qualify for credit so that they can start businesses or otherwise become self-sufficient.

A fair bit of the book is devoted to exploring similar kinds of work done by similar kinds of social entrepreneurs. There is Amanda Lindhout, the Canadian journalist who spent 460 days in captivity after being kidnaped by Somali extremists in 2008 and then, after being released, went home to found the Global Enrichment Foundation, in support of education in Somalia. There is Engineers Without Borders (EWB), a group dedicated to bringing solar power, food-preservation systems and other technological essentials to underserved parts of the world.

Garan, in fairness, had an inclination toward good works even before he first flew in space—founding the Manna Energy Foundation to help address the developing world’s need for fresh water, renewable energy, access to communications and other basics. He has since worked with EWB and NASA’s Johnson Space Center to further the group’s work. But his trips to space provided him a certain authority—and urgency—he lacked before.

There’s an undeniable wonk appeal to Garan’s approach to the business of saving and improving lives. He finds metaphorical power in a hunk of hardware most people have surely never heard of: the Apollo-Soyuz docking module, an ugly 4,400 lb. (2,000 kg) piece of metal that made the first joint U.S.-Soviet spaceflight possible, in 1975, allowing two incompatible spacecraft—from two incompatible cultures—to link-up in orbit. He describes the Apollo 13 rescue less as the gripping tale of survival it surely was than as the world’s “first hackathon.”

He sees, similarly, more than a feel-good story in the successful international effort to save 33 trapped Chilean miners in 2010. Instead, he sees it as a template for global cooperation, one that came complete with group cheers and team shirts to foster a feeling of mission and camaraderie among the rescuers. “There have been disasters of similar or greater scale where countries decided to go it alone,” Garan writes, “leading to less desirable outcomes.”

Astronauts have a long tradition of going to space and then coming home to write about their adventures. But in those cases, the books generally explore what the astronauts themselves saw and felt and did and how they put those lessons to use later in life. In Garan’s case—and perhaps Garan’s alone—the message is how the rest of us can put his lessons to use. The Orbital Perspective may not be the most cinematic tale ever told from space, but it could wind up being the most important.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME weather

7 Reasons to Love This Freezing Weather

Because there's always a bright side

It was 1º F in New York City on Friday—one frigging degree. That’s a keep-the-penny, why-bother, rounding error on the Fahrenheit scale. Convert it to Centigrade and it gets even worse, a brisk -17.22º, which may help explain why America never went metric.

But cold weather isn’t so bad. OK, it is, but here are seven things to like about the current deep freeze:

Less crime!

Criminals may be fools but they’re not stupid. If you’re going to heist a flat-screen TV or knock over a convenience store, would you rather do it when it’s 7oº and clear or when it’s 12-below and the wind chill factor is freezing your eyeballs? Crime historically drops during winter, and when it’s a brutal winter, things get even more peaceful. New York just earned applause after setting an all-time record for consecutive days without a homicide—at 12. (We do get graded on a curve.) Boston—which is just one woolly mammoth away from the next Ice Age—saw a 32% drop in larcenies, 35% in burglaries and 70% in homicides from Jan. 1 to Feb. 8, compared to the same period last year. But cold weather can increase auto thefts, thanks to what are known as puffers, cars left running in driveways while owners wait inside for them to warm up.

More sex!

Maybe it’s the cuddling under blankets, or the body heat generated when you’re active, or the belief that one more day of this flipping cold and you’re going to die so you and your squeeze might as well go out happy. But whatever it is, when things freeze, humans steam. Last summer, the Pittsburgh area saw a spike in s0-called “polar vortex babies,” with increases in births of 27.8% and 15.9% at two area hospitals compared to the same period a year earlier, following a bitter stretch that occurred nine months earlier. Cold weather amorousness may also be attributable to the mere fact that it gets dark earlier in the winter—putting people in mind of nighttime activities—or that bundling up in the winter means we see less skin during the day so even a glimpse of a partner’s elbow or ankle might be enough to light the engines.

Lose Weight!

Snowmen may never be anything but round, but the rest of us can slim down naturally in cold weather. That’s mostly because of the simple business of shivering. The whole purpose of shivering is to keep you moving, which generates heat—and uses calories. The very good news is, it doesn’t even take active shivering to burn at least some fat. A phenomenon called non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) may raise your thermostat and lower your weight when it’s as warm as 64º F (17.8º C). Caveat: NST helps only so much. Waiting out winter by huddling under a blanket, binge-watching TV and hoovering up Doritos is still going to have the expected effect.

Fewer bugs!

Nothing like the buzz of flies, the bite of mosquitos and the sting of bees to make summer the idyll it is—not. One of the few advantages of winter is that it’s murder on insects. All of them make provisions before the freeze hits, of course—either burrowing underground and hunkering down until spring or leaving behind a fresh clutch of eggs that can turn into a fresh swarm of bugs next summer. But if the thermometer drops far enough, those eggs may be finished too. The gypsy moth, the emerald ash borer and the pests that feed on honey locust trees all leave fewer heirs when the thermometer falls below zero. That means an easier season for the trees, and far fewer things for you to swat with a rolled up newspaper.

Live longer!

Alright, this one might be a stretch. Studies have absolutely, positively shown that colder temperatures activate genes that increase longevity—provided you’re a worm. Which you’re probably not. But another study shows that reducing core body temperature can increase lifespans by as much as 20%—provided you’re a mouse. Or a mussel. Still, it’s breakthroughs in animal studies that often lead to breakthroughs in human studies, so there’s reason to hope. Meantime, go mussels!

Feel no pain!

Or at least feel less. All that stuff you hear about cold weather making arthritis and other joint pain worse is true enough. But in at least one study in Finland, a plunge into icy water was found to increase norepinephrine levels in the blood as much as two- or three-fold. One of the many jobs neuropinephrine does is reduce overall pain. That’s a good thing. But plunging into icy water to get that effect? Not so much. So this one too may need a little work.

Fewer wars!

Napoleon didn’t leave a whole lot of valuable lessons behind. But one thing history’s bad boy did teach us was that on the list of truly bad ideas, attacking Russia in the winter ranks pretty much No. 1. It’s not just that wars bog down in cold weather, it’s that we tend to be less moved to fight them. Part of this is the same phenomenon that keeps crime down in the cold. Part is something much newer that was revealed in a 2011 study, which showed that higher temperatures have historically meant higher levels of armed conflict. The Cold War, it turns out, may have been an oxymoron.

TIME health

Facebook Must Shut Down the Anti-Vaxxers

Prove it: Silencing the anti-vaccine crowd can save a lot of lives
Justin Sullivan; Getty Images Prove it: Silencing the anti-vaccine crowd can save a lot of lives

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Mark Zuckerberg should unfriend the crazies before more people get hurt

Mark Zuckerberg has never been famous for his reading choices. No one knows or cares if the founder of Facebook got around to Moby Dick when he was at Harvard. But in January, Zuckerberg launched an online book club, offering reading recommendations to members every two weeks. Earlier suggestions included such important works as Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature and Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day.

But Zuckerberg dropped something of a small bombshell with his most recent—and most excellent—choice, On Immunity by Eula Biss. It’s a thoughtful exploration of what’s behind the irrational fear and suspicion in the anti-vaccine community, as well as a full-throated call for parents to heed medical wisdom and get their kids vaccinated. “The science is completely clear,” Zuckerberg writes, “vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community.”

So kudos to Zuckerberg for getting the truth out and challenging the lies.

And shame on Zuckerberg for enabling those lies, too.

Social media sites can do an exceedingly good job of keeping people connected and, more important, spreading the word about important social issues. (Think the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge would have raised the $100 million it did for research into Lou Gehrig’s disease if people couldn’t post the videos of themselves being heroically doused?) But it’s long been clear the sites can be used perniciously too.

Want to spend some time in the birther swamp, trading conspiracy theories with people who absolutely, positively can tell you the Kenyan hospital in which President Obama was born? You can find them online. Ditto the climate-denying cranks and the 9/11 truthers.

But the anti-vaxxers have a particular power. People who buy the nonsense on a birther or truther page can’t do much more than join that loony community and howl nonsense into the online wind. Climate change denial is a little more dangerous because every person who comes to believe that global warming is a massive hoax makes it a tiny, incremental bit harder to enact sensible climate policy.

Anti-vaxxers, however, do their work at the grass-roots, retail, one-on-one level. Convince Mother A of the fake dangers of vaccines and you increase the odds that she won’t vaccinate Child B—and perhaps Children C, D or E either. And every unvaccinated child in her brood increases the risk to the neighborhood, the school, the community—the entire herd, as the epidemiologists put it. The multi-state measles outbreak that began in Disneyland, along with the epidemics of mumps and whooping cough in Columbus, Ohio and throughout California, have all been fueled by falling vaccine rates.

One thing that would help—something Zuckerberg could do with little more than a flick of the switch, as could Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and the other bosses of other sites—is simply shut the anti-vaxxers down. Really. Pull their pages, block their posts, twist the spigot of misinformation before more people get hurt.

The very idea of muzzling any information—even misinformation—will surely send libertarians to their fainting couches. Similarly, people who believe they understand the Constitution but actually don’t will immediately invoke the First Amendment. But of course they’re misguided. Is Facebook a government agency? No, it’s not. Is Zuckerberg a government official? No, he’s not. Then this is not a First Amendment issue. Read your Constitution.

It’s not as if the folks at Facebook aren’t clear about the kinds of things they will and won’t allow on the site, providing a brief listing and a detailed description of what are considered no-go areas. “You may not credibly threaten others, or organize acts of real-world violence,” is one rule, so nobody would get away with posting instructions for, say, how to build a pressure cooker bomb. There is nothing in the regulations that specifically prohibits trafficking in bogus medical information, but the first section of the policy statement begins, “Safety is Facebook’s top priority,” and then goes on to say “We remove content and may escalate to law enforcement when we perceive a genuine risk of physical harm, or a direct threat to public safety.” (Emphasis added.)

It’s worth wondering if Facebook would consider a page arguing that HIV does not cause AIDS and that therefore condoms are not necessary a threat to public safety. What about one that told teens that bogus research shows it’s OK to drive drunk if you’ve had no more than, say, three beers? If the site managers didn’t block these pages and a multi-car crack-up or a cluster of HIV infections occurred as a result, would they wish they they’d made a different decision? It’s hard to know. (As of publication time, Facebook had not responded to TIME’s request for a comment on, or further statement about, its policies.)

Facebook is equal parts town square, medium of communication and commercial bazaar—complete with ads. And it does all of those jobs well. What the site shouldn’t be is a vector for lies—especially lies that can harm children. Free speech is not in play here. This should be an easy call.

Read next: Doctors Who Minimize Measles Should Lose Their Licenses

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