TIME Innovation

Why Read Hamlet When You Can Play It?

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Why read Hamlet when you can play an immersive time-traveling video game version instead?

By Jess Joho in Kill Screen

2. Here’s how to attract female engineers.

By Lina Nilsson in the New York Times

3. Everyone is losing in Yemen’s war.

By Adam Baron in Foreign Policy

4. Google and Facebook could save — or consume — journalism.

By Emily Bell in the Columbia Journalism Review

5. We know how to dramatically reduce teen pregnancies, but we don’t. Here’s why.

By Nora Caplan-Bricker in the National Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Careers & Workplace

How Steve Jobs Trained His Own Brain

Steve Jobs gestures during a conference in San Francisco on June 6, 2011.
Paul Sakuma—AP Steve Jobs gestures during a conference in San Francisco on June 6, 2011.

He was far ahead of his time in the technology of the mind

Inc. logo

Steve Jobs is one of the two or three greatest icons of high tech, rivaled only by Bill Gates and perhaps Mark Zuckerberg. He’s mostly known for his legendary ability to create innovative, groundbreaking products.

What’s less known, though, is that Steve Jobs was a pioneer in what was once a rather esoteric “mind technology”–the use of Zen mindfulness meditation to reduce his stress, gain more clarity, and enhance his creativity.

As the Financial Times recently pointed out, Jobs was quite specific about how he went about practicing this “discipline” (as he called it). Biographer Walter Isaacson quotes Jobs as saying:

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things–that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”

What Jobs described in that passage is readily identifiable as a specific type of meditation, usually called “mindfulness,” that’s taught in Zen Buddhism and its Chinese antecedent, Taoism. When Jobs was talking to Isaacson not long before he died, he had been practicing such meditation for many years.

I know that for certain because, by coincidence, in the early 1990s, I had a brief one-on-one conversation with Jobs about how Zen related to computer programming. (That’s a story for another post.)

In any case, it’s now clear that Jobs was as far ahead of his time in the technology of the mind as he was in the technology of computers. According to no less an authority than Scientific American, the latest neuroscience research proves that meditation techniques that have been around for thousands of years have beneficial effects on both your mind and your body.

The mind technology of meditation has since gone mainstream. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, companies as diverse as Target, Google, General Mills, and Ford have begun to teach their employees the same kind of mindfulness that Jobs embraced decades ago.

While the idea of corporate-sponsored meditation sessions strikes me as a bit creepy, you don’t need corporate sponsorship to get the benefits of mindfulness. I learned mindfulness meditation from world-renowned martial artist Yang, Jwing Ming. From what I can tell from Jobs’s description of his meditation, Yang’s method is either identical or closely related to Jobs’s own practice.

Here how the technique was taught to me as far as I recall it:

  1. Sit cross-legged in a quiet place, preferably on a low pillow to reduce strain on your back. Take deep breaths.
  2. Close your eyes and listen to your inner monologue, the thoughts that spin through your mind all the time: work, home, TV, whatever. Those thoughts are the chattering of your “monkey mind.” Don’t try to stop it from chattering, at least not yet. Instead just observe how it jumps from thought to thought to thought. Do this for five minutes every day for a week.
  3. After a week, without trying to silence your monkey mind, during the meditation, shift your attention to your “ox mind.” Your ox mind is the part of your brain that thinks slowly and quietly. It senses things around you. It doesn’t try to assign meaning to anything. It just sees, hears, and feels. Most people only really hear their ox mind when they experience a “breathtaking moment” that temporarily stops the monkey mind from chattering. However, even when your monkey mind is driving you crazy with rush-rush-rush and push-push-push, your ox mind is still there, thinking its slow, deep thoughts.
  4. Once you’re feeling more aware of your ox mind, ask it to start quieting your monkey mind down. What worked for me was imagining the monkey mind going to sleep due to the slow walking of the ox as it moves patiently along a road. Don’t get upset if your monkey mind keeps waking up. It’s a monkey, so it can’t help acting like one. However, you’ll find that, despite its protests, your monkey mind would rather give it rest and stop making all that tiring and tiresome noise.
  5. As your monkey mind calms down, continue to shift your attention to your ox mind. Each breath will seem to take a long time. You’ll feel the air on your skin. You may feel your blood flowing through your body. If you open your eyes, the world will look brand new and even rather strange. A window, for example, becomes just a square thing that full of light. It doesn’t need to be opened or closed or cleaned or repaired or anything else. It’s just there. You’re just there.
  6. While it can take a while to get there, you’ll know you’re doing the exercise correctly when it seems as if no time has passed at all between when you started the timer and when it goes off. When you succeed at that, gradually increase the amount of time you spend each day. Weirdly, no matter how long you practice, it will seem as if no time has passed.

In my experience, daily practice of mindfulness has three valuable results:

First, it completely eliminates stress. While the stress may return, it’s starting from scratch and thus has less chance of snowballing into something unmanageable.

Second, it eliminates insomnia. When I was practicing this regularly, I was able to close my eyes and go to sleep within two or three seconds. That alone is worth the effort, in my view.

Third, and most important, it allows you to think more clearly and more creatively about everything happening in your own life. In my case, I used the sense of calm to extract myself from an unhealthy relationship and a job that made me miserable.

So, while I can’t promise that practicing mindfulness will make you as creative as Steve Jobs, I can promise from my own experience that mindfulness will create positive change in your life.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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TIME technology

This Is How Microsoft’s HoloLens Could Boost the Race to Colonize Mars

Microsoft's Lorraine Bardeen demonstrates the new Microsoft HoloLens headset in Redmond, Wash. on Jan. 21, 2015.
Elaine Thompson—AP Microsoft's Lorraine Bardeen demonstrates the new Microsoft HoloLens headset in Redmond, Wash. on Jan. 21, 2015.

The HoloLens display could allow scientists to 'work virtually' on Mars

Ever wonder what it’s like to walk on Mars? You’re not the only one.

Take billionaire futurist Elon Musk, for example. Like so many other earthlings, he wants to die on Mars, “just not on impact.” He thinks colonizing the Red Planet is humanity’s best shot at survival, which is precisely why he founded SpaceX.

Now you, and Musk, can have a better sense of what it’s like to physically walk on Mars’ surface. Enter virtual reality and high-tech holograms. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that it is teaming up with Microsoft to bring both nascent technologies and Mars exploration together to simulate what it would be like to actually walk on the planet, perhaps our future home.

Together, the two entities are developing software called OnSight that will allow scientists to “work virtually” on Mars using Microsoft’s head-mounted HoloLens display.

The HoloLens virtual reality headset is a goggles-style gizmo that makes 3-D holograms and other digitally simulated stuff appear to float in mid-air in the real-life space around you. Sounds otherworldly enough for a virtually manned mission to Mars, right? Not to mention a marked improvement over eyeballing 3-D stereo views of Martian terrain on a boring, flat computer screen, which is mainly what scientists have had to make do with up to this point.

The big idea is to provide scientists with a better means to plan and conduct Mars Curiosity-aided operations on Mars. Well, virtually. For example, instead of merely inspecting images of Martian rock from a distance via the rover, the HoloLens will enable them to crouch down and take a closer look at land formations, etc.

“OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices,” Dave Lavery, of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, said. “It fundamentally changes our perception of Mars, and how we understand the Mars environment surrounding the rover.”

Will this NASA-Microsoft cutting-edge tech collaboration help Musk and other wanna-be Martians eventually arrive and survive on Mars? While not a giant leap for mankind, it could be a small step in the right direction.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

More from Entrepreneur.com:

TIME Innovation

Social Justice and the Cellphone Camera

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Technology’s greatest gift to social justice is the mobile phone camera.

By Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic

2. How did America fall so far behind on basic scientific research?

By Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times

3. The U.S. needs a drone oversight board.

By David Medine and Eliza Sweren-Becker in Defense One

4. Here’s how citizen scientists discovered five new supernovas.

By Calla Cofield in Space.com

5. U.S. CEOs are eager to do business in Iran — but they’re not alone.

By Barbara Slavin in Al-Monitor

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Innovation

Watch a Hologram Breakthrough That Brings a Star Wars Fantasy Closer to Reality

Light-bending technology projects standing, 3-D images into the air

Researchers have developed a new holographic display that has the potential to project three-dimensional images into the air, much in the way Princess Leia first popped up in Star Wars.

Researchers at Swinburne University say that by passing lasers through a graphene mesh, a material with an “exceptional” ability to bend light, they have developed a new way of casting 3-D images vertically into the air. The images are viewable from different angles and won’t require those fussy 3-D glasses.

“If you can change the refractive index you can create lots of optical effects,” professor Min Gu of Swinburne’s Centre for Micro-Photonics said in a public statement.

Researchers posted footage of the holograms in the current online issue of Nature Communications, including grainy images of balloons, kangaroos and human figures. It’s not quite Princess Leia-quality, and researchers say it has a long way to go before commercialization, but it’s a step.

Read more at Nature Communications.

TIME Innovation

How to Reduce Earthquake Deaths

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. We know how to reduce earthquake deaths. So why aren’t we doing it?

By Brad Plumer in Vox

2. Your next bus might be an Uber.

By Lisa Nisensen in Strong Towns

3. Here’s why a woman is twice as likely to die during childbirth here than in Saudi Arabia.

By Danielle Paquette in the Washington Post

4. You don’t own your medical data, but getting a peek could save your life.

By Niam Yaraghi and Joshua Bleiberg at Brookings

5. DARPA’s magic bullets change course to hit moving targets.

By Rich McCormick in the Verge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Humor

9 Sounds That No One Can Explain

Have you heard these sounds before?

Everyone has a favorite Wikipedia rabbit hole. Mine is “List of Unexplained Sounds.” I can’t remember how I first made my way to the page, but its array of sonic mysteries has shown me that while space is incredible, our planet is its own frontier of intrigue and unexplainable phenomena.

  • 1. Upsweep

    Upsweep is an unidentified sound that’s existed at least since the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory began recording SOSUS—an underwater sound surveillance system with listening stations around the world—in 1991. The sound “consists of a long train of narrow-band upsweeping sounds of several seconds duration each.” The source location is difficult to identify, but it’s in the Pacific, around the halfway point between Australia and South America. Upsweep changes with the seasons, becoming loudest in spring and autumn, though it isn’t clear why. The leading theory is that it’s related to volcanic activity.

  • 2. The Whistle

    The Whistle was recorded on July 7, 1997, and only one hydrophone—the underwater microphones used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—picked it up. The location is unknown and limited information has made it difficult to speculate on the source.

  • 3. Bloop

    Bloop is the big kahuna in unexplained sounds. In 1997 (a big year for auditory ocean mysteries), an extremely powerful, ultra-low-frequency sound was detected at various listening stations thousands of miles apart and traced to somewhere west of the southern tip of South America. The sound only lasted about a minute and and was heard repeatedly over the summer, but not since. Bloop is generally believed to be the sound of a massive icequake, but scientists haven’t totally ruled out the possibility that the sound originated from something “organic.”

    That’s where things get eerie. If an animal was the source of Bloop, it would have to be larger than a blue whale. The most fanciful of all theories stems from the fact that Bloop’s location is somewhat close to author H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional sunken city of R’lyeh, where the creature known as Cthulhu lies “dead but dreaming.” Cthulhu can best be described as part man, dragon, and octopus, which seems as likely a source as any for the ocean’s greatest aural anomaly.

  • 4. Julia

    Julia was recorded on March 1, 1999, lasted for roughly 15 seconds, and was loud enough to be heard by the entire Equatorial Pacific Ocean hydrophone array. An Antarctic iceberg run aground is the leading suspect for its source.

  • 5. Slow Down

    Slow Down was first recorded on May 19, 1997 and is also credited to an iceberg running aground, though some people insist it might be a giant squid. The sound, lasting about 7 minutes, gradually decreases in frequency, hence the name “slow down.” Like Upsweep, the sound has been heard periodically since it was initially detected.

  • 6. The Hum

    The Hum has been recorded on several occasions, mostly during the last 50 years or so. In these cases, there have been reports of a relentless and troubling low-frequency humming noise that can only heard by a certain portion of the population. It’s difficult to pinpoint when instances of the Hum began, but it’s been well-documented since the 1970s, and since then, cases have popped up all over the world—from Ontario, Canada to Taos, New Mexico to Bristol, England to Largs, Scotland and Auckland, New Zealand.

    In most instances, the affected group only makes up around two percent of the population, but for those individuals, the Hum is largely inescapable and impossible to track. Those affected report never having heard noises before, and say the Hum is generally heard indoors and becomes louder at night. It’s also most common in rural and suburban areas and among people between age 55 and 70.

    Scientists have long investigated the cause of the drone, occasionally tracing it to industrial equipment emitting particular frequencies. For the most part, though, the sound has left the world completely puzzled. The list of other possible culprits is long and wide-ranging—wireless communication devices, power or gas lines, electromagnetic radiation, radio waves, or earth tremors are all suspects. Because the Hum appears and disappears and because the cause may vary from case to case, the phenomenon still baffles researchers. At this point, a few things are clear: The Hum is real and likely a byproduct of 21st-century living.

  • 7. Skyquakes

    Skyquakes, or unexplained sonic booms, have been heard around the world for the last 200 years or so, usually near bodies of water. These headscratchers have been reported on the Ganges in India, the East Coast and inland Finger Lakes of the U.S., near the North Sea, as well as in Australia, Japan, and Italy. The sound—which has been described as mimicking massive thunder or cannon fire—has been chalked up to everything from meteors entering the atmosphere to gas escaping from vents in the Earth’s surface (or the gas exploding after being trapped underwater as a result of biological decay) to earthquakes, military aircraft, underwater caves collapsing, and even a possible byproduct of solar and/or earth magnetic activity.

  • 8. UVB-76

    UVB-76, also known as “The Buzzer,” has been showing up on shortwave radios for decades. It broadcasts at 4625 kHz and after repeated buzzing noises, a voice occasionally reads numbers and names in Russian. The source and purpose has never been determined.

  • 9. 52-Hertz Whale

    This animal, also known as the loneliest whale in the world, calls at a highly unusual 52-hertz, well above the normal frequency. Scientists have been listening to 52-Hertz for decades, and recently, filmmakers raised $400,000 on Kickstarter to seek the mammal out. It should be noted that the fundraiser reached its goal through the help of Leonardo DiCaprio, another mysterious beast.

    This article originally appeared on Mental Floss.

    More from Mental Floss:

TIME Innovation

Watch This Unnerving Video of Defense Department’s Self-Steering Bullets

Even a novice shooter scored a direct hit with the course-correcting bullet

The U.S. military has developed a self-steering bullet that can change direction midair to hit a moving target, and now you can see it in action.

The Department of Defense’s research agency, DARPA, released footage on Monday showing the bullet, after completing a prototype in February, as part of DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program. Footage posted to DARPA’s official YouTube channel shows live-fire tests by an expert sniper and a first-time sniper. In both cases, the bullet course corrects in midair, speeding toward a target even if it’s not centered in the crosshairs. An optical guidance system enables the bullet to compensate for weather, wind and other factors that might push it off course.

DARPA hailed the results as the “most successful” live-fire test of the technology to date.

TIME Innovation

What Happens After Assad

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Assad might be on his way out. But things will get worse before they get better.

By Walter Russell Mead in the American Interest

2. You could rent a Tesla battery to power your house during a blackout.

By Benjamin Preston in the Guardian

3. It’s really going to happen: A Greek exit from the Euro is almost inevitable.

By the Economist

4. Inmates are having burner phones and marijuana delivered by drones.

By Michael S. Schmidt in the New York Times

5. Can we reinvent elite education at half the cost?

By Jeff Selingo at LinkedIn

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Web

Now Google Can Tell You Whether Your Fashion Sense is Trending

The company's inaugural fashion report details what styles and garments are growing in popularity, based on search queries

Google really does know everything—including how fashionable your outfit is.

A new report by the search giant claims to reveal the fashion trend du jour by tracking how often different styles or garments are entered into search queries.

This year, for example, Tulle skirts have grown in popularity according to trending Google apparel searches by 34% from January 2014 to January 2015, and jogger pants are also apparently increasingly ubiquitous, according to the report.

Google distinguishes in the report between “sustained growth” and “seasonal growth” trends, like emoji shirts and kale sweatshirts. According to the report, peplum dresses and string bikinis are on their way out for good, while skinny jeans and corset dresses are just seasonally on the down-and-out. Jumpsuits and rompers are seeing a renaissance this spring.

Google’s insight into fashion trends has allowed it to begin consulting for major retailers including Calvin Klein, which use Google search data in fashion planning.

“We’re interested in being powerful digital consultants for our brands, not just somebody they can talk to about what ads they can buy online,” said Lisa Green, who heads Google’s fashion and luxury team, told the New York Times.

You can check out the report here.

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