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Taking success from failure

businessman in panic (Credit: Konstantin Yuganov via fotolia)Why do some people keep going when others stop? Why do some people persevere through struggles when others give up? Why do some grow from their mistakes when others wilt? These are questions that people have struggled to answer, or at least answer well, for quite some time. Countless studies and tests have been done in an effort to determine not only why people react differently when they run up against the proverbial wall but how others can learn from their example. Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has an interesting take on that question.

She calls her answer "grit," and it's a pretty simple concept at its most basic level. She defines it as "perseverance plus the exclusive pursuit of a single passion" and believes that it is an underrated and often misunderstood element of why some people are more successful than others.

Duckworth developed her understanding of the term by talking with accomplished people in a variety of fields, looking for traits that they shared. Ultimately, she concluded that what distinguishes high performers from others is the way they processed emotions like frustration, disappointment, and boredom. In short, the high achievers "had been conditioned to believe that struggle was not a signal for alarm," and thus cause to move on to some simpler task.

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Does taking medicine show a lack of faith?

She can't live without pills (Credit: Photographee.eu via fotolia)"Yes, I would like to see my parents prosecuted." So said Mariah Walton, a 20-year-old Idaho woman who suffers from lifelong disabilities. This is because her parents didn't seek medical treatment when she was an infant for a heart problem. Her parents refused medical care because their religion prohibited them from such care. They believed that prayer was sufficient to heal.

Unfortunately, it was not.

Now, Mrs. Mariah believes it is time for her parents and the other members of Followers of Christ church to own up to their mistakes. Currently, Idaho state law protects parents from such prosecution if their religion prohibits them from seeking medical care.

Idaho's religious exemption law describes prayer as a spiritual "treatment" that can act as a legal substitute for medical care. As such, parents can refuse medical treatment if they so please and be immune to prosecution. Currently, Idaho is one of thirty-two states that provide a religious defense from felony or misdemeanor crimes.

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A subject I never expected to address

Credit: micaelacampagna via FlickrNote: The subject matter below is disturbing. It deals with "zoophilia," sexual relations between people and animals. While I avoid graphic language and descriptions, the issue itself is tragic.

"My name is Malcolm J. Brenner and this is the story of how I fell in love with Dolly the dolphin." The story that follows is one of the most disturbing and shocking cultural phenomena of our day.

Let's begin with Dolphin Lover, the documentary that is making global headlines. Then we'll look at the larger movement it represents and the tragic way our culture seems to be accepting that movement.

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Is laughter the best weapon for skeptical world?

Young woman laughing (Credit: pathdoc via fotolia)According to Mark Twain, laughter is the only effective weapon we have against the world. George R. R. Martin found that laughter is a poison to fear. Charles Dickens noted it was the most contagious element in the world. And were it not for laughter, Robert Frost said, we would all go insane.

Laughter is good for the soul and great for the comedian. It is bad for the brooder and awful for the poker player.

And in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that laughter with friends sounds different than with strangers. Drawing from twenty-four different societies, they were able to significantly differentiate the sound between friends and strangers. With friends, the laughter tended to be more sporadic, whereas the stranger produced a more volitional sound.

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Sean Parker's $250 million quest to cure cancer

Sean Parker, Chairman of of Causes and a Managing Partner, Founder's Fund, speaks at Web. 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. Parker was co-founder of Napster. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)Billionaire Sean Parker has earned a reputation, and a vast fortune, for thinking outside the box. Helping to launch Napster and Facebook, however, will be mere footnotes in his biography if his latest endeavor proves successful. From his foundation, Parker is investing $250 million in order to start the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy—an effort to bring together at least three hundred scientists from forty labs at six prestigious research institutions in order to find a cure for cancer.

By increasing collaboration and decreasing competition, the new venture hopes to make it easier for those working towards the same goal to eventually reach it. The group will focus on immunotherapy treatments—a relatively new yet promising branch of cancer research that uses the body's own defense systems to attack cancer cells. While early tests have shown that the treatment all but eliminated the presence of cancer in some patients, it was ineffectual or counterproductive in others.

Still, while researchers don't fully understand why it only works for certain patients, the field has demonstrated enough potential to warrant further study. One of the primary obstacles to improving on our understanding in this area, however, is the notorious difficulty and expense of getting the new treatments from development to clinical trials. That's where the Parker Institute hopes to help the most.

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