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International Year of Light

January 23, 2015 | Jeannette | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The United Nations (UN) proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies. It is a global initiative to illustrate the importance of light and optical technologies. The opening ceremony occurred this week in Paris.

Light plays an important role in our daily lives. Through photosynthesis, light is necessary to the existence of life itself. While light-based technologies, such as optical fibres, have revolutionized society through medicine, communications, entertainment and culture. And most importantly, these technologies support sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health. The importance of light reaches far beyond life on Earth. Light has helped us to see and better understand the universe.

It’s easy to overlook the significance of light. We are so used to having light in our daily lives. We’re also often not aware of how light-based technologies affect almost everything we do. It is in consumer electronics (barcode scanners, DVD players, remote TV control), telecommunications (Internet), health (eye surgery, medical instruments), manufacturing industry (laser cutting and machining), defense and security (infrared camera, remote sensing), entertainment (holography, laser shows) and much more.

To learn more about light, take a look at these books:

Let there be light  The speed of light  Light years  Patterns of light

To learn more about photosynthesis, the process of how plants and organisms convert light energy into chemical energy, take a look at these books:

Eating the sun  Photosynthesis 3rd edition  Photosynthesis 6th edition  Photosynthesis and respiration

Energy from our sun that reaches Earth can be converted into heat and electricity. This is one of the major initiatives by scientists and governments to develop affordable and clean solar energy technologies. To learn more about sustainable energy, take a look at these books:

Lights on!  Project sunshine  Renewable  The solar revolution

The Internet changed the way we communicate. Through social media, low cost telephone calls and video conferencing we are able to stay connected with friends and family. This technology is possible because of light. These e-books look at optical communication, a light-based technology:

Fiber optic reference guide  Fundamentals of optical fiber sensors  Handbook of fiber optic data communication  Optical networks

From sunsets to rainbows, the natural world contains a wonderful range of light and colours. Take a look at these books to see light in nature:

Aurora  Color and light in nature  The optics of life  Why the sky is blue

Unfortunately, the importance of light is often unknown. We take for granted the light in our homes, the Internet we use daily to stay connected with loved ones, the vegetables we eat and much, much more. It is so great that the UN decided to declare 2015 as the Year of Light to bring awareness to the world the vital role light and light-based technologies plays in our lives. This is a great opportunity to learn and to join in on the events that are happening throughout Canada. The Canadian Association of Physicists are also hosting numerous events, including lectures.

 

Learn more about the scientists in "The Imitation Game" and "The Theory of Everything"

January 9, 2015 | Carolyn | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Holiday movie releases usually range from action-packed to family-friendly. Two of the movies I saw over this holiday season didn't fit into the usual categories; instead, they're based on the lives of two of the twentieth century's most intriguing scientists.

The Imitation Game tells the story of the British intelligence officers who cracked the German Enigma machine code during the Second World War. It focuses on the contribution of mathematician Alan Turing - in particular the machine he developed to decrypt the coded German messages. According to a BBC web page published to mark the recent centenary of Turing's birth, historians estimate the codebreakers' achievements shortened the war in Europe by two to four years and saved millions of lives.

In the movie, Turing uses a crossword challenge to recruit staff for the Enigma project. The reality was somewhat different, but crossword puzzles did play a part in the recruitment of wartime codebreakers. Try your hand at the original puzzle from January, 1942; if you can solve it in fewer than 12 minutes, you might have been a candidate.

Recontstruction of the Bombe codebreaking machine at Bletchley ParkBy Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The efforts to break enemy codes remained secret for decades after the War, but the information has been declassified in recent years and Bletchley Park, site of the codebreaking work, has been opened to visitors who can see a recontruction of the decryption machine built under Turing's direction.

Alan Turing's other claim to fame is that he is considered to be one of the fathers of computing and artifical intelligence. In fact, the name of the movie, The Imitation Game, comes from his famous 1950 paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence (PDF). Turing proposed the game as a test to determine whether machines could think. The Turing Test is still used as one measure of artificial intelligence.

The Theory of Everything is based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: my life with Stephen by Jane Hawking, and tells the story of her marriage to renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking. It depicts the period from Hawking's arrival at Cambridge as a graduate physics student in 1962 until their divorce in 1995.

The film focuses more on Hawking's personal life than his work, but there are several scenes in which he discusses his theories about singularities and black holes. There was a physics advisor on set to ensure that the explanations, while simplified for the benefit of the audience, were also accurate. If, like me, you're a bit intimidated by Hawking's ideas, check out this video from The Guardian's Made Simple series. It's Stephen Hawking's big idea in 150 seconds:

 

The film depicts the early symptoms of Hawking's illness and his diagnosis with ALS, a motor-neuron disease, at the age of 21. Voice and movement coaches worked with Eddie Redmayne to ensure that his portrayal of Hawking as the illness progressed was as realistic as possible. There's a fascinating video in the movie's website that describes how he prepared for the role.

If you're interested in learning more about the lives of these two remarkable scientists - whether you've seen the movies or not - why not have a look at any of these books, available at many Toronto Public Library branches:

 

Alan Turing: the enigma by Andrew Hodges The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the invention of the computer by David Leavitt The Essential Turing: seminal writings in computing, logic, philosophy, artificial intelligence, artificial life, plus the secrets of enigma
book, eBook book, eAudiobook  

 

Travelling to Infinity: my life with Stephen My Brief History The Illustrated Theory of Everything
 book, eBook book, audiobook, talking book, eBook, eAudiobook  

 

Sports Highlights of 2014

January 5, 2015 | Aleks | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Super Bowl XLVIII

Super Bowl XLVIII

On February 2, 2014, the American football game between the American Football Conference champion and the National Football Conference champion was played. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks met on the field for a complete knock out game of 43-8 for the Seahawks. This became the first Super Bowl victory for the Seahawks with a 13-3 record. Super Bowl XLVII was held in an open-air stadium in a "cold-weather" city; the first in Super Bowl history. 

 

NFL Playoffs
2013-14 NFL Playoffs - Wikipedia

ESPN

Also available on Zinio.

Sports illustrated football's greatest You can't make this up - miracles, memories, and the perfect marriage of sports and television  Parcells: a football life 

The blind side League of denial - the NFL, concussions, and the battle for truth 

 

 Sochi winterSochi Olympics 2014

In the third largest region in Russia, the games were organised between two clusters: a coastal area for ice events in Sochi and a mountain area located in the Krasnaya Polyana Mountains.  The month of February was eclipsed with spotlights of spectacular events, historic performances and numerous records. 

 

Top 10 medals
Top 10 Countries Medal Table - Wikipedia

The Best Of Sochi 2014 Olympics - Olympics

 

Ski  International Figure Skating  Snowboarder 

             Also available on Zinio.                                   Also available on Zinio.

 Unbroken  The boys in the boat - nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Olympics  Foxcatcher - the true story of my brother's murder, John du Pont's madness, and the quest for Olympic gold 

 

  2014 Stanley Cup Finals
Stanley Cup Playoffs 2014

The National Hockey League (NHL) began the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs on April 16, 2014. With a display of heart, athleticism and skill, 16 teams opened the round of playoffs with the most leads changing hands than any other year. The finals saw the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings competing for the top spot and a chance at the cup. A best of seven series awarded the Kings with the cup with a 4-1 series. 

 

    

 NHL playoff bracket

2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Bracket - Wikipedia

 The Hockey News

Also available on Zinio.

Mr Hockey  ORR  Cornered- Hijinks, Highlights, Late Night and Insights  Crazy Game - How I Survived the Crease and Beyond

 

NBA

2014 National Basketball Association Playoffs 

The tournament took place on June 5th to the 15th as the East took on the West in the battle of basketball supremacy. The National Basketball Association's 2013-14 season ended with the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs defeating the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat 4 games to 1 in the Finals. The Toronto Raptors made their first playoff appearance since 2008. 

 

 NBA tournament

2014 NBA Playoff Bracket - Wikipedia

 Slam

Also available on Zinio.

The Book of Basketball - The NBA According to The Sports Guy  Dream Team- How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever Michael Jordon - The life The hoop whisperer

FIFA World Cup

 


FIFA World Cup 2014

From June 12 to July 13 the world vibrate to the sounds on the soccer field as the top teams across the globe travelled to Brazil for the World Cup. As the first European team to triumph in the Americas, Germany claimed the title dethroning Spain's domination of the last 4 years. 

 

 

 FIFA World Cup 2014 - Best Moments Highlights HD - James Rodriguez

World Soccer

Also available on Zinio.

The mammoth book of the World Cup  Messi  Eight world cups - my journey through the beauty and dark side of soccer  How soccer explains the world - an unlikely theory of globalization

  MLB

Major League Baseball 2014 World Series

Two giants hit the stage as the National League champion San Francisco Giants and the American League champion Kansas City Royals faced off for a best-of-seven playoff from October 21-29. The postseason saw a fierce competition of team from both the American and National League fight for a chance at the title. The games were traded back and forth between the two teams (4-3) with ultimately the San Francisco Giants taking home the victory. Both teams ended their season with marginal differences; San Francisco Giants (88-74) and Kansas City Royals (89-73). 

MLB postseason
2014 Major League Baseball Postseason - Wikipedia

  Sports Illustrated baseball's greatest  Derek Jeter - Jeter unfiltered  The Art of Fielding   

 The Closer  Moneyball - the art of winning an unfair game   

Congratuations to our Canadian World Juniors team on their win yesterday in the gold medal match at the Air Canada Center against Russia!

New year's bucket list

January 2, 2015 | Maureen | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...

Three years ago, while having a chat about books, a colleague told me that she'd been keeping a list of the books she'd read for many years. I was fascinated! I’ve been reading for pleasure since I discovered Hugh Lofting's Doctor Dolittle series as a child, and in all these many years of happy engagement, it never occurred to me to keep a record. I've flitted from book to book like a bumblebee flitting from flower to flower. If only I'd recorded everything I've read since falling for Doctor Dolittle so many years ago! I would have had a travelogue of where I've wandered in the vast fields of human invention.

Better late than never, as they say. I started my own list three years ago. If you love reading, I suggest you do the same. It could be an easy to keep new year’s resolution  (no self denial involved.) Not only will it help you to avoid picking up a book you’ve already read (my colleague's reason for keeping a list), but when you draw a blank trying to recall the title of a book you’ve read, your list will remind you. And as your list grows, you'll have a snapshot of where your head was at during any given year. Over time, you might see interesting things emerge in this bookish mirror of yourself: passions flare up and burn out, growth or stagnation, maybe even obsession.

Ripley under groundOn the last day of 2014, I finished Ripley under ground, by Patricia Highsmith, the second in a series of five books (known as the "Ripliad") about cultured serial killer Tom Ripley. As I added the title to my list I counted the books I’d read in 2014. I compared this number to my totals for 2012 and 2013. Suddenly, a new use for the list occurred to me. Maybe the idea of mortality was suggested by Mr. Ripley’s murderous doings, or maybe it was the turning of the year – just for fun, I calculated how many books I’d be likely to read in the time remaining to me.

Here's my simple forumla: The average amount of books you read in a year multiplied by estimated years remaining in your life  =  number of books you will read in the future (if you’re lucky enough to live as long as actuarial tables say you will.) Try it yourself!

I averaged my totals for the last three years, then consulted a life expectancy calculator online to get an idea of how much time I have left to read. I will not divulge the results of my calculations here, except to say that I was shocked and appalled when I put the number beside the 130 million books published over the course of modern history. (This figure comes from an article by a Google software engineer published in 2010, called Books of the world, stand up and be counted! All 129,864,880 of you. I rounded up a bit. The total must be well past 130 million by now.)

The paltry number of books I have left to read considered against the book production of just one country in one year (309,957 by the United States in 2012) was rather deflating. Talk about a wake up call! It inspired me to start a reading "bucket list."

Excellent Women

Number 1 on my reading bucket list is the book I requested for Christmas this year: Excellent women, by Barbara Pym. I absolutely refuse to kick the bucket without reading this book, which author Alexander McCall Smith called, "one of the 20th century's most endearing and amusing novels." Pym, says Mcall Smith, covered much the same territory as Jane Austen, "the details of smallish lives led."

I only just heard of Pym in 2014 while listening to the delightful documentary Barbara Pym – an excellent woman, which aired on CBC radio's The Sunday edition. Pym started publishing in Britain, in the early 1950s, but by the 1960s her work had fallen out of fashion. Publishers (including her own) rejected her manuscripts. In 1977 The Times Literary Supplement published an article in which Pym was nominated “the most underrated writer of the 20th century." The article triggered a surge of interest in the author; she was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and found a new audience.

Commenting on Pym's sudden spectacular rise in popularity, Mcall Smith wrote, "What wonderful embarrassment for those who believed that an unmitigated diet of gritty social realism, graphically described sexual couplings and sadistic violence was what readers really wanted. The entire time the reading public, or quite a large section of it, was really yearning for the small-scale delights, the beautiful self-deprecating humour and the brilliant miniaturisation of Pym's novels." Sadly, Pym had only a few years to enjoy her success: she died of breast cancer in 1980, at the age of 66.

Consider creating your own reading bucket list. It might help you take any health related new year’s resolutions more seriously. Stay healthy, live as long as you can – you have a lot to read!

The Sweet Dove Died Some Tame Gazelle Quartet in Autumn
An Academic Question Jane and Prudence Civil to Strangers

The Best Cookbooks of 2014

December 24, 2014 | Jeannette | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

It’s that time of the year again. It’s the end of the year, the time where people pick their favourite books published in 2014. The library has compiled a few lists: best ebooks, children’s, non-fiction and best books of 2014.

Just like last year, I’m sharing the best cookbooks published this year. Here are the best cookbooks selected by various sources (click on the name of the source to view the full list and for reviews of the books):

Booklist:

The art of French pastry  Everyday Thai cooking  Melt  Provence, 1970

The Globe and Mail:

Sugar rush  The SoBo cookbook  The vegetarian flavor bible  Bitter

National Post:

Made in Quebec  Plenty more  Prune  Jewish soul food

The Toronto Star:

Thug kitchen  A modern way to eat  Street food diaries  The family cooks

Did you get an ereader or tablet for Christmas? Or already have one? Or looking to buy one during Boxing Week? Well, here are some of the favourites from this year in ebook format: (If you’re new to library e-books, get started with OverDrive.)

Craft beer for the homebrewer  Egg  A kitchen in France  J.K.
Marcus off duty  Heritage  The messy baker  Make it ahead

I hope you’ll enjoy these cookbooks over the holidays. Lots of books to inspire and just perfect for all the family gatherings. Do you have any favourites from 2014?

Free Science Events in Toronto for January 2015

December 23, 2014 | Jeannette | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The Science and Technology Department of North York Central Library compiles a monthly calendar of free science and applied science events in Toronto. Applied science includes health, gardening, pets and food; all subjects found in the department's collection. Here is the January calendar (PDF).

January's highlights include:

The Toronto Public Library also offers many free science and applied science events:

January's highlights include:

Can't attend a program or want to read more about the topics covered? Try some of these titles:

The green smoothie prescription  The science of Shakespeare  Maltreatment of patients in nursing homes  No more dirty looks

Understanding Alzheimer's disease and other dementias  The human brain  The driving dilemma  Boosting your immunity

Season's Greetings, Glacial Readings

December 22, 2014 | Ann | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

 

Biography of Roald Amundsen on coolantarctica.com
Photograph of Amundsen's successful voyage to Antarctica in 1911.  (This image has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.)

Winter Arrives

Last night at 6:03 pm, the Winter Solstice swept across Toronto to officially jumpstart the winter season. The dwindling daylight endured these past three months will return stronger and stay longer.

This week ramps up with several festive celebrations manifesting in spectacular events across the city.  Even with the gladdening news of fun-filled activities and increasing daylight hours ahead, winter holds center stage.  The season accompanies face-freezing temperatures, frost-covered roads, incessant sleet, blowing snow, and blazing winds.  Past temperatures have easily dipped down to -25 degrees Celsius or lower and this does not include the wind chill factor.

Despite the frosty welcome, this arctic-like weather compares little with the winter temperatures at the bottom of the world.  The December 10, 2013 Guardian article, Coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth in Antarctica: -94.7C (-135.8F), provides an eye-opening account of how people sustain themselves in such severe biting conditions.

Canada sits in the northern hemisphere and the Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories are the land masses nearest to the North Pole.  In contrast, the North Magnetic Pole currently lurks near the upper western corner of Nunavut.  Both the geographic north and south poles have corresponding north and south magnetic poles that shift in location over time.  

For more information on the Earth's magnetic poles, please read Gillian M. Turner's (2011) title, North Pole, South Pole : the epic quest to solve the great mystery of Earth's magnetism:

North Pole, South Pole: the epic quest to solve the great mystery of Earth's magnetism by Gillian M. Turner

The Geographic North and South Poles in Early Maps

One could become fascinated with the interpretations of things and events in earlier times.  The Toronto Public Library Digital Archive and The Toronto Public Library on Pinterest offer amazing digital artifacts to entertain, enlighten, and enrich our understanding of past accomplishments.

Early maps provide an intriguing view of the world.  Featured below is a map of the North Pole in 1732. As you can see, the region where the country of Canada currently resides was, "Part of America," and the area above the Arctic Circle was named, "Parts Unknown."  Clearly, little was understood on the various aspects of this northern terrain, but geographers such as Herman Moll provided the North Pole with a definitive point in space.

More digital images pertaining to the North Pole on TPL.ca
1732 Map of the North Pole by Herman Moll and courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

 

The map below was printed forty years later and sketched an outline of the South Pole.  This depiction seemed as mysterious as its polar counterpart.

A Southern or Antarctic Hemisphere map by Robert Sayer in 1732 on tpl.ca
Map of the Southern or Antarctic Hemisphere by Robert Sayer in 1773 courtesy of The Toronto Public Library

There was no indication of any land structure at the South Pole.  This visualization is a chilling reminder of the limits of human endurance in early global exploration.  The Polar Regions remained shrouded in secrecy for the next century.

Recorded for Posterity

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, travelers have endeavoured to reach the poles. The need to know was of paramount significance.  The unfinished maps of that period in time compelled explorers to fill in the gaps with new knowledge.  Other aspects included competition to reach that place first and the challenge to test their own physical, mental, and emotional limits against the harshest conditions imaginable.  Even so, some explorers paid the ultimate price for this opportunity.  These stories, too, are preserved in the historical body of knowledge as a part of that particular landscape.

In today's world, current technology in the form of satellite imagery digitally maps out these forbidden landscapes.  This information is easily accessible through print and online resources.  Explorers who want to travel to these regions (particularly the South Pole) will require the latest tech gear to arm themselves against these harsh terrains.  

For the rest of us who prefer to reside in warmer climates but want to read up on these fascinating explorations, here are some suggested cool titles:

Race to the top of the world: Richard Byrd and the first flight to the North Pole by Sheldon Bart To the end of the earth: our epic journey to the North Pole and the legend of Peary and Henson by Tom Avery Polar attack: from Canada to the North Pole, and back by Richard Weber Into the cold (2011, DVD) by Copeland, Sebastian and Heger, Keith
South with the sun: Roald Amundsen, his polar explorations, and the quest for discovery by Lynne Cox Return to Antarctica: the amazing adventure of Sir Charles Wright on Robert Scott's journey to the South Pole by Adrian Raeside 1912: the year the world discovered Antarctica by Chris Turney Photographs of Captain Scott by David M. Wilson

Enjoy the cheery warmth of the festive season while Old Man Winter pounds the Northern Hemisphere with blistering icy conditions.  The early travelers on their polar expeditions will solemnly wait until the reader chooses to pick up and continue along with them on their epic journeys.

The Neuroscience of Willpower

December 18, 2014 | Cathy | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

  Yes you can clouds
Image courtesy of smallbiztrends.com

With 2014 drawing to a close, I have been thinking about New Year's resolutions, not that I make them, officially.  I think about what I would like to change, improve and accomplish for the next year, (yes, I know--resolutions).  I recently realized that I have been thinking about making the same changes ever since I was a teen.  It's strange that I accomplish everything I want and need to for work, but cannot do the same for my personal life.  

I am hoping to change that by going to a presentation, The Neuroscience of Willpower at North York Central Library at 7 p.m. on January 6, 2015.  Uri Galimidi will share simple, yet effective, neuroscience-based interventions that will help strengthen willpower, conquer undesirable habits, adopt new beneficial habits, increase the rate of success of meeting your goals, and help you become the best possible version of yourself.  In a nutshell: boost your willpower, change your life.

In the meantime, I might do some reading on increasing my willpower... or I might not.

  

 

  Neuroscience of everyday life
Willpower: rediscovering the greatest human strength by Roy F. Baumeister The willpower instinct: how self-control works, why it matters and what you can do to get more of it by Kelly McGonigal The neuroscience of everyday life by Sam Wang (DVD)
     
On second thought: outsmarting your mind's hard-wired habits by Wray Herbert This will make you smarter: new scientific concepts to improve your thinking by John Brockman Beyond IQ by Garth Sundem (eBook)

 

Calling all amateur scientists

December 12, 2014 | Carolyn | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Traité de la sphère
Public domain image. From Nicole Oresme's "Traité de la sphère".

For most of human history, all scientists were amateurs...

Are you among the many people who attend our science programs or pick up our monthly Free Science Events (PDF) calendars? If so, why not take your interest in science to the next level by becoming a citizen scientist?

What is citizen science, you ask? Here's a simple definition from " Lab Coats for All! A Layperson's Guide to Citizen Science ":

Citizen Science (CS) is a data-gathering technique that allows anyone to volunteer their time in support of scientific research projects.       

In other words, citizen science projects harness the power of the internet to allow non-scientists to participate in research. You can think of it as crowd-sourced science.

The Zooniverse, sponsored by the Citizen Science Alliance, is one of the largest and most popular web portals for research projects. Over 1.2 million people have registered to participate in projects such as:

  • Moon Zoo participants will use images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to study the lunar surface
  • Planet Hunters monitor light curves recorded by the Kepler spacecraft to search for exoplanets
  • Penguin Watch volunteers study images of penguins  taken in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to help scientists understand their lives and environment
  • Cell Slider participants contribute to cancer research by analyzing slides and classifying cancer cells

NOVA Labs is another citizen science portal. It's projects include:

  • Cloud Lab, in which participants classify clouds and investigate their role in tropical storms
  • RNA VirtuaLab volunteers start by practicing RNA folding and can go on to design RNA molecules that could potentially be used in future therapies

 

Would you like to learn more about the citizen science movement? 

The Incidental Steward: reflections on citizen science Citizen Science: public participation in environmental research   
Inspired by her involvement in environmental studies, the author celebrates the volunteerism that fuels the citizen science movement and urges others to become involved. This highly recommended book describes several popular citizen science projects and their impact both on research and on the general public.  

Would you like to learn more about the contributions made by amateur scientists?

It Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist: great amateurs of science Bunch of Amateurs: a search for the American character The Species Seekers: heroes, fools and the mad pursuit of life on Earth
Be inspired by these tales of ordinary people who were responsible for some of our greatest scientific discoveries.    

available as a book, eBook and eAudiobook

Hitt examines the American love of innovation through the stories of contemporary amateur scientists.

The story of the amateur naturalists who discovered, collected and classified much of the Earth's biodiversity.

More Proof Extroverts Rule the World

December 5, 2014 | Maureen | Comments (10) Facebook Twitter More...

MistletoeNetworking as a path to success, open concept offices, the emphasis on group work at all levels of education – need more proof that extroverts rule the world? The restaurant chain TGI Friday’s in the UK has unleashed an introvert’s nightmare: mistletoe drones with cameras. The noisy drone zips around like a giant bug clutching a bedraggled bit of greenery, on a mission to make people kiss under the mistletoe, an age old Christmas tradition. Once a target couple is selected, the drone hovers over them, blasting them with a mighty, hair disheveling wind, while restaurant customers gawk and yell, bullying the couple into smooching. The whole thing is recorded on a "kiss cam" which is attached to the drone. I won’t be at all surprised if someone (possibly an inebriated introvert) knocks one of these snoops out of the air with their dinner plate before the end of the holiday season!

Kudos to comedienne Elvira Kurt for inducting these festive pests into her Cultural Hall of Shame (a segment on the CBC arts and culture radio program, Q). In light of recent events surrounding the former host of Q, Jian Ghomeshi, Elvira made the darkly comic suggestion that diners should be provided with an "air horn of consent" to blow, in order to fend off this high tech holiday harassment.

In the good old days, introverts could reconnoiter the territory at seasonal parties and plot mistletoe-free routes to the holiday eats, but thanks to an idea floated, no doubt, by an extrovert, mistletoe drones may become the must-have holiday party ice breaker. Imagine all the ways novelty drones can give grief to introverts in the brave new world of the future. What’s a poor introvert to do?

Quiet - the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talkingOne answer to that question: fake it. Many introverts mimic extroversion, putting on their party face when the situation calls for it. In her popular book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, Susan Cain argues that modern western culture prizes the extrovert ideal, and sees introversion as pathology, something that needs to be fixed. No wonder introverts fake it! Psychologist Brian Little calls this coping mechanism “pseudo extroversion” in his new book, Me, myself and us: the science of personality and the art of well-being. Little, who calls himself an “off the charts” introvert, delivers highly engaging lectures to his students in full-on pseudo extrovert mode.

If you liked Susan Cain's book, you’ll find much to interest you in Me, myself and us. (Little's focus is wider than the introvert/ambivert/extrovert spectrum.) Especially intriguing is his discussion of “neocortical arousal.” Introverts sometimes get a bad rap for being antisocial, but Little points to a theory that could explain their behaviour. According to the theory, introverts experience high levels of arousal in the neocortex zone of their brains when they are in certain situations. An environment in which an extrovert would thrive – let’s say a crowded restaurant where the air space is patrolled by pesky drones that peer pressure diners into seasonal snogging -- could send the introvert’s neocortical arousal levels through the roof.  

Me, myself, and usIntroverts can play at being extroverts, but it’s only a matter of time before the strain of acting out of character sends them running for cover. Faking extroversion too often can have a negative impact on an introvert’s health, Professor Little warns. To cope, he retreats to what he calls “a restorative niche.” He describes using the last stall in the men’s room as a “restorative niche” in between lectures at a military college in Quebec. He was quietly engaged in “arousal reduction” when the “loudest hummer” he'd ever heard burst into the men’s room, took the stall next to his, and started a conversation: “Hey, is that Dr. Little?” After the chatty extrovert discovered him, an extended “interstall” conversation followed, and the professor’s afternoon lecture suffered in quality because he was deprived of his quiet recovery time. Now Professor Little makes sure to pull his feet up when he uses a bathroom stall as restorative niche.

Yet more proof that extroverts rule the world: if introverts ruled, Dr. Little wouldn’t have to manage his neocortical arousal levels in bathroom stalls. Urban planners would make sure there were restorative niches available throughout the city.

To Professor Little and the one third to one half of the population who are introverts, may I offer this piece of advice: the next time you are pushed to the arousal brink, consider the library as a restorative niche -- it's one of the only indoor public spaces where you aren't pressured to buy, join in, or perform. Grab a book, magazine or newspaper, find a cozy corner, and let your neocortical arousal levels gently descend.

A final note: did you know the Norse god Baldr was killed with mistletoe? I'd avoid it, even if it isn't airborne. Take a look at these book titles and you'll see what I mean!

     
     
     
     

All books above except Blood and mistletoe: the history of the Druids in Britain are available in both ebook and book.

Me, myself and us: the science of personality and the art of well-being.

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking.

Mistletoe image: Creative Commons


Welcome to North York Central Library. We're one of the City's most welcoming spaces, open to all for study, research, relaxation and fun.

Our extensive digital and print collections, programs and services are yours to use, borrow and explore. Expert staff are always on hand to help. Meet us in person or join us online.