May 14, 2021

Weekend reads: How many friends can you have? It's a surprisingly controversial question.

Daily Briefing

    A survey spotlights the creative, clever ways vaccinated people are convincing vaccine holdouts to get inoculated, why people are suddenly interested in psychedelics again, and more.

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Why people are suddenly interested in psychedelics (again). Researchers in the 1950s and 1960s spent a lot of time looking at psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin, as potential therapeutics—but when the drugs were linked to the counterculture movements of the time, they became heavily regulated, which disrupted research. Now, however, there appears to be a renewed interest in the drugs' potential. Writing for the Washington Post and Bloomberg, Tiffany Kary outlines why researchers are interested in psychedelics, what potential they have for therapeutic treatment, and how they work.

    When vaccine politics divide families. Covid-19 vaccines have become a hot button issue for some people, with large amounts of misinformation and conspiracy theories regarding the vaccines circulating the internet. Writing for New York Magazine, Eve Peyser tells the stories of some families who have been torn apart by vaccine conspiracy theories.

    Marcelle Maginnis' reads

    How many friends is too many friends? The British anthropologist Robin Dunbar in a 1993 study concluded that humans could have no more than about 150 meaningful relationships, a total that became known as "Dunbar's number," Jenny Gross reports for the New York Times. But a new study in Biology Letters contests that number—which Dunbar based on the size of the neocortex, the part of the brain that enables conscious thought—contending that the neocortex doesn't limit the number of relationships people can maintain, and concluding that no maximum number of friendships could be proven with any precision. (Dunbar, for his part, said the new findings are "absolutely bonkers.")

    The creative, clever ways people are convincing loved ones to get the vaccine. As the main obstacle to the vaccine rollout slowly shifts from problems with supply to problems with demand, those who have been vaccinated are deploying a creative array of tactics and pleas to convince vaccine holdouts to get the shot. In an informal survey conducted by Buzzfeed, for instance, several respondents said they or their siblings had threatened to keep parents from seeing grandchildren unless they were vaccinated first, others did used "motherly guilt" to convince family members to get inoculated, and one bride went so far as to tell the groom that he wouldn't be invited to the wedding unless he was vaccinated.

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