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Fungal Zombies;Sneaky Persuasion; Golden Silence

What We learned From Podcasts This Week

By Frank RacioppiPublished 3 months ago 6 min read

Short Wave Podcast posits fungi takeover

HBO Max has scored a hit with The Last Of Us. The post-apocalyptic nine-episode series has caused many people to worry about "clickers" attacking them and passing along a deadly fungal infection Cordyceps. Thankfully, the fungus in The Last of Us, does not currently affect humans — it affects insects.

On the February 21 episode of the Short Wave podcast, host Aaron (A-aron as Mr. Garvey would say) Scott spoke to fungal researcher Asyia Gusa about the science of fungal infections.

First, Gusa explained that fungal infections, or mycosis, are diseases caused by a fungus (yeast or mold). Fungal infections are most common on your skin or nails, but fungi (plural of fungus) can also cause infections in your mouth, throat, lungs, urinary tract, and many other parts of your body.

Then Gusa gave listeners the good news. We don't have to worry about a global fungal pandemic either killing us or transforming us into mind-controlled toadstool monsters. Fungi don't handle heat well, and our high body temperatures (97 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit) would kill any fungal infections. We're safe. For now.

Now for the bad news. While climate change deniers will not want to hear this, Gusa observes that our environment is heating up. Fungi, like bacteria and viruses, have a robust ability to adapt. What if fungi learned to survive in warmer temperatures, including our bodies?

Gusa reassures listeners that may never happen, and if it did, it would be well into the future. I personally am not taking any chances. I think I'll begin using my fitness center's sauna regularly to kill any fungi that insist upon squatting inside me.

Hidden Brain Podcast exposes how we are victims of Persuasion every single day

The January 16th episode of the Hidden Brain podcast begins this way: "We all exert pressure on each other in ways small and profound. We recommend movies or books to a friend. We convince a colleague to take a different tactic at work. We lobby a neighbor to vote for our favored political candidate. This week, we launch the first of a two-part miniseries on the science of influence, and talk with psychologist Robert Cialdini about how we can all improve our techniques for persuading others."

In part one, Cialdini explains three of the six methods of persuasion used. There are:

1.Role of scarcity

2. Norm of reciprocity

3.Effects of liking.

Cialdini explains the role of scarcity: "People want more of what they can have less of. What we mean by scarcity is entities or opportunities that are unique, are uncommon, or are dwindling in availability. I'm convinced that a major factor that lends itself to the power of scarcity is loss aversion. Loss is the ultimate form of scarcity. If you can't have it, it's gone. So because of loss aversion, which I think is deeply installed in us, things that are scarce, that are dwindling in availability that we will otherwise forego or miss, become very attractive."

Cialdini's example of scarcity as a tactic of persuasion is, which books reservations for hotels and flights for customers.

Cialdini explains: "They hit upon this particular tactic where you'll look at a hotel room online, it will be a certain price, and they will say two things. They'll say, 'Only two of these left at this price,' and 'There are five people looking at this room right now.' It's competition for scarce resources."

Cialdini went on: "The first time they did that, their marketing people sent a message to the technology people and said, 'There's something wrong because we're getting flooded with so many purchases. There's something wrong with our system.' And the technology people said, 'No, there's nothing wrong with the system, it's what you said that caused people to leap to avoid missing out on this favorable opportunity.'"

Check out Hidden Brain for its two-parter on Persuasion. Download and listen while you still a chance before the episodes are archived. See what I did there? The role of scarcity.

The Happiness Lab Podcast explains the happiness of silence

On the January 30th episode of The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos, she is joined by Leigh Marz and Justin Zorn (co-authors of Golden: The Power of Silence in a World of Noise), who discuss the benefits of silence and how we can all seek out more moments of quiet and recognize their value.

Even for people who claim they hate chatter, most humans abhor silence. Proof? A common and highly effective interviewing and interrogation technique is to ask a question of a person and just wait for a verbal response. Don't jump in to fill the void. People get uncomfortable with silence, like wearing a wool sweater with no shirt underneath.

The authors explain that because emergency vehicles have to be loud enough to break through their immediate soundscape, the volume of their sirens serves as a good proxy for the loudness of our environments. A comparison of fire engine sirens from 1912 to the present shows that sirens are nearly six times louder today, just to pierce through the din.

A range of peer-reviewed studies over the past decades has shown that auditory noise has a serious impact on cognition (especially among children) and contributes to health risks, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and depression.

The authors explain: "Of course, it’s not just about the noise in our ears—it’s the noise on our screens and in our heads. Researchers have found that most people switch between different online content every 19 seconds, and the average person spends one full hour per day working to get back on track after interruptions from phones or social media."

Then the authors switch to our internal dialogue. Negative self-talk, like rumination about the past and worry about the future, can be merciless, even debilitating.

Modern, internal dialogue is not just high volume but high velocity. As the University of Michigan’s Ethan Kross puts it, “The voice in your head is a very fast talker.” Based on findings that inner speech is condensed to a rate of about four thousand words per minute (ten times the speed of expressed speech) Kross estimates that most of us listen to roughly 320 State of the Union addresses’-worth of inner monologue daily.

Noise is an unwanted distraction—be it auditory, informational, or internal. It interferes with our ability to make sense of the world and discern what we truly want.

Marz and Zorn tell us that silence isn’t just the absence of noise. Profound silence is presence beyond external distraction and internal chatter. It’s a presence that brings clarity, connection, energy, and inspiration.

The authors note: "We’ve found silence to be a vital and necessary starting point for solving complex and seemingly intractable problems."

Okay, I'll shut up now. Let's observe a moment of silence for the sake of silence.

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About the Creator

Frank Racioppi

I am a South Jersey-based author who is a writer for the Pod-Alization podcast blog on Substack, Ear Worthy on Medium, Podcast Reports on Blogger, Auditorily on Vocal and The Listening Post on Tealfeed.

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Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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