Think Inc. Thursdays #017

Love him or hate him, Branson isn't your average septuagenarian. Not only because he's worth almost $6 billion USD, but also because he's willing to risk his life to prove he's a real action man!

Bezos, too, has skin in the game (he's planning to blast off next week), and that's more than we can say for Elon. But can these two bickering billionaires really say they've felt the satisfaction of entering space? Lucky we have Neil deGrasse Tyson to adjudicate.

Apart from the space stuff, we have some interesting news on the effect that coffee has on COVID, and how to have a psychedelic experience without taking anything illegal. 😉 See how your country fares in the 2021 World Happiness Report, and learn about why some people luck out in the height department.

As always, let us know about any interesting news you come across – we love to hear from you!

Warm regards,
Suzi

Branson beats Bezos

Massive news from this week was that the thrill-seeking billionaire, Richard Branson, has flown to space on his own rocket, SpaceShipTwo Unity, with his company Virgin Galactic!

Branson wasn’t supposed to fly until later this year but decided to bring forward the flight after hearing that his competitor, Jeff Bezos, plans to fly in his own rocket next week. Branson denies competing in a space race with Bezos, but Bezos isn't shying away from one-upmanship. Bezo's company, Blue Origin, quickly took to Twitter after the flight to list all the ways in which their flights will be better.

Blue Origin believes it’s superior because it flies above the Kármán line, the internationally recognised frontier of space at 100 km in altitude. The Virgin Galactic flight didn’t quite get there, only reaching 86 km, which invited Blue Origin to suggest that Branson’s astronauts aren’t the real deal. Is this an important detail? Or is it just another dick-measuring contest? 😂

We hate to burst Bezos' bubble, but Neil deGrasse Tyson says that neither of their flights would be considered space travel, as both are suborbital.

→ Click here to learn more.
If you look at the comments section (as always, do so at your own peril) on any of the stories reporting on Branson's flight, you’ll see a lot of negative comments arguing that now is not the right time to be spending millions on joy-rides to space, but a time to be spending that money fixing problems on Earth.

Neil deGrasse Tyson weighed in on the topic, saying that although they're not scientific missions, they're important as they advance the engineering and design of spacecraft. According to Neil, there’s no doubt that we’ll have space tourism in the near future, and this is just the beginning of a new industry.

Virgin Galactic already has more than 600 reservations from prospective space tourists, with tickets initially costing $250,000 US dollars a pop. Blue Origin is waiting for Mr Bezos's flight before announcing its ticket prices.

→ Click here to learn more.

Want to get taller? Get cold!

The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, and Iceland… what do these countries all have in common? What about Indonesia, Bolivia, the Philippines, and Peru?

The first group, on average, are countries with extremely tall people. The second group- not so much. In fact, they are populations with some of the shortest folk. So, what gives? Why are some groups so much taller than others? And why have humans gotten taller over time? Recent research shows that it has a lot to do with heat (or lack of it).

A research team led by Cambridge University and Tübingen University in Germany combined data on more than 300 human fossils of the homo genus, and found a strong link between temperature and body size. They observed that the colder the climate, the bigger the humans. A bigger body produces and retains more heat because its mass is large relative to its surface area. Any biologists out there will know this as Bergmann’s rule, and this is the reason that polar bears, for example, are bigger than brown bears who live in warmer climates. Although not surprising, it’s interesting to see that in this respect, our evolution isn’t that different from other mammals.

On the topic of our bigger-than-ever brains, however, it’s not that simple. The researchers found that brain growth was linked to stable temperatures, as stable temperatures allow for stable diets and nutrition. The real question is, is all the Tik Tokking going to reduce our brain size in the future? Only time will tell.

→ Click here to learn more.

2021 World Happiness Report

Are you happy? It can be a complex question to answer. Happiness is generally understood as having enough money to cover basic needs and wants to be able to live a comfortable life. But the most concise report on global happiness, the World Happiness Report, also considers intangible aspects, such as social support, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of government and corruption.

Recently the 2021 report was released with an understandable focus on how COVID-19 affected quality of life around the world. The report also strove to describe and evaluate how governments all over the world have dealt with the pandemic, and the Asia-Pacific region gets a good write-up for its success in suppressing COVID more than in other regions. This year the average happiness score was 5.5 (out of 8), which is a marginal improvement from the previous report, which isn’t too bad considering the pandemic. Finland came out on top again, with a massive score of 7.8.

We are pretty stoked that Australia scored well, but a bit peeved that our mates from across the Tasman scooped up the prize for the happiest country in Asia and Oceania 😤

→ Click here to learn more.
It's important to note that the report lists grit, prior social connections, exercise and having a pet all as all helpful to people's happiness levels during these trying times. The report also listed gratitude and volunteering, which is where we can help. The Think Inc. Academy is proud to announce a new course: Doing Good: An Introduction to Effective Altruism, starting this September.

Effective Altruism is single-handedly the best, most scientific approach to making a positive change in the world and one of the reasons to do it is that it makes you feel AMAZING! Especially when you realise that all proceeds from ticket sales go directly to charity 😇

→ Click here to learn more.

Coffee fights COVID?

Speaking of happiness, there’s one substance that makes a lot of people in this world happy-as-larry when they wake up in the morning. Yes, coffee is a hell of a drug that has many of us addicted without even realising it. At least that’s what Michael Pollan said in his recent appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast.

In the interview, Michael says he went off coffee for three months, and that the first coffee after that was like a psychedelic experience- he was truly high. This is nothing to scoff at when you consider this is a man who tried a horde of psychedelics for his latest book Your Mind on Plants. Michael goes on to explain the history of coffee consumption, and how it came along with the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason. Coffee imports to England also came around the time of the Industrial Revolution, when people started working more overnight shifts, and coffee “freed us from the rhythms of the sun” as he says.

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There's no doubt that coffee is addictive, but it’s also got some positives. As Michael mentions, it’s the biggest source of antioxidants for the average American (which is also a sign of how little vegetables are being eaten…), and studies have shown it has a positive effect on some types of cancer.

But something that really caught our eye this week was a study published in Nutrients journal, which shows that habitual coffee consumption of 1 or more cups per day is associated with about a 10% decrease in risk of contracting and getting sick from COVID-19. The researchers believe this is probably thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The study also found that consuming more veggies and less processed meat had an immunoprotective effect. Peter Singer would definitely be in support of that! 🥦

→ Click here to learn more.

Video of the week

Check out this prototype flying car that completed a 35-minute flight between international airports in Nitra and Bratislava, Slovakia!

The hybrid car-aircraft, AirCar, is equipped with a BMW engine and has clocked up 40 hours in the air so far. It takes two minutes and 15 seconds to transform from car into aircraft, cruising on the ground at up to 170km/h, and in the air at about 1,000km.

Is this a gimmick or a glimpse into the future?

→ Click here for more info.

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