exclusives | February 11, 2016

Lavin Weekly #25: Thorne, Motley, Konnikova, & Levitin

1. Kip Thorne and LIGO Celebrate the Discovery of Gravitational Waves

Caltech theorist, famed science advisor, and bestselling author Kip Thorne has much to celebrate this week. As co-founder of LIGO—the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory—Thorne has long championed the painstaking search for gravitational waves (and by ‘long,’ we mean as far back as the mid-70s; The New York Times reports that he and his colleagues even “bet their careers” on the search). Now, as these elusive waves have been spotted for the very first time, Thorne and his team’s “great triumph” is front-page news. Of course, the confirmation of Einstein’s theories has major repercussions for further astronomical research. “We’ve seen for the first time how space time behaves in a storm. But it’s just the beginning,” Thorne tells RT News. “It’s the beginning of a whole new way to explore the universe. A way that will be a big part of 21st century astronomy and cosmology.”

2. Al Jazeera Presents the Powerful, Moving Documentary Motley’s Law

The award-winning documentary Motley’s Law—a fascinating portrait of Kimberley Motley, the first and only foreign litigator in Afghanistan—ran on Al Jazeera America television this past Sunday. Written and directed by Nicole Nielson Horanyi, Motley’s Law follows the incredible challenges and victories Motley faces as she navigates a routinely corrupt legal system, and often narrowly avoids violent retaliation simply for doing her job: fighting for justice and believing in the rule of law. “Hers is not a job without risk,” Al Jazeera reports. “Motley has been personally targeted—a grenade was thrown in her office and residence in Afghanistan. She has also been temporarily detained, accused of running a brothel and being a spy. But Motley is not one to be cowed into backing down.” In her own, courageous words, she’s called these threats “ridiculous accusations and failed attempts of intimidation.” For a talk on the state of human rights around the world, there are few speakers as informed, and inspiring, as Kim Motley.

3. What Sets Resilient People Apart? Maria Konnikova in The New Yorker

‘Resilience’ is fast becoming another buzzword, much like ‘disruption’ or ‘growth-hacking’ or ‘face time.’ But before we drain all significance from the term, we should remember to look to developmental psychology for how it might, in very real ways, improve our lives. In “How People Learn to Become Resilient,” Maria Konnikova has written an engrossing article on the how psychologists have studied resilience in children (and adults) who have succeeded regardless of personal struggles, economic hardships, abuse, and other problems. As it turns out, resilience is a definite quality we might study—and one we can cultivate in ourselves. “Resilience doesn’t have to be an empty or vague concept,” Konnikova writes. “In fact, decades of research have revealed a lot about how it works. This research shows that resilience is, ultimately, a set of skills that can be taught. In recent years, we’ve taken to using the term sloppily—but our sloppy usage doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been usefully and precisely defined. It’s time we invest the time and energy to understand what ‘resilience’ really means.” Watch the video below for Konnikova’s informed take on another often misunderstood concept: boredom.

4. Daniel Levitin Reminds Us That Music Has Communal Benefits

At work, at home, and in transit, today we tend to listen to music alone, headphones on and heads down. But is this practice preventing us from forging meaningful relationships and greater connections? In a new study, the speaker company Sonos has been working with neuroscientist and author of This Is Your Brain on Music Daniel Levitin to figure out what more communal listening does for us. Apparently, it does a lot—especially for physical and emotional connections, or what Levitin informs Fast Company is the “nexus of intimacy and togetherness” (in other words, when we listen together, we do more together—whether that’s cooking, cleaning, partying, laughing, loving, or even having sex). “The findings clustered in three general areas having to do with intimacy, happiness, and helpfulness,” Levitin tells Billboard. “On the intimacy front, people tended to spend more time and closer proximity when they had music out loud in the home compared to when they didn’t. This showed up in a number of ways. So what you see, as one family says, a week when we had no music it seemed like everybody retreated to their own corners of the house and got absorbed in their own devices.”

For more information on booking Kip Thorne, Kimberley Motley, Maria Konnikova, or Daniel Levitin as the keynote speaker of your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.