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Mindful : April 2017
CRAZE OR CRAZY Sometimes you just can’t decide if something’s groundbreaking or totally bonkers. Our jury’s out. What’s your verdict? SPOOKY DECALS In China, drivers found a new way to deter one another from using high beams when sharing the road: reflective rear-window decals that light up when hit by light from high beams, many featuring spooky images of horror film monsters. RAGE ROOMS Bad breakup? Rough workweek? Let out your emotions the old-fashioned way: by smashing stuff with a bat. In the past few years “rage rooms” have sprouted up around the world, from Asia to Europe and North America. A CARING CAR Honda teamed up with a company called Cocoro SB to make a car equipped with an “emotion engine”—an AI-based technology that allows machines to “artificially gener- ate their own emo- tions,” according to a Honda press release. The car is part of Honda’s goal to “cre- ate new relationships between people and mobility products.” Like anybody else, health-care professionals aren’t immune to harboring implicit prejudices about people in socially stigmatized groups, whether it’s someone who is obese or from a racial minority back- ground. Unconscious biases may contribute to disparities in the quality of medical care that practitioners provide, especially when they’re stressed out from a heavy work- load. Yet solutions have been scarce. Writing in Patient Education and Counseling, University of Minnesota psychologist Diana Burgess and colleag ues have floated an idea: “ We propose that meditation training designed to increase healthcare providers’ mindfulness skills is a promising and potentially sustainable way to address this problem.” Among other positives, evidence suggests that practicing mindfulness could sharpen healthcare provid- ers’ non-judgmental awareness of when implicit preju- dices activate in their minds—and may increase their ability to control their responses. And loving-kindness meditation can foster empathy for patients, which may help reduce those biases. Reducing Biases in Medical Care Drivers of Change Good News for the Planet While the effects of climate change are frightening, bold actions around the world hint at hope for the environment. A Guiding Light Waste Not, Want Not The German parliament passed a resolution that sets the goal to eliminate all gas and diesel vehicles on the country’s roadways by 2030. The resolution, which requires ratifica- tion by the European Union as it would impact cars manufactured in EU nations, takes the “money talks” approach: Automak- ers would face significant tax burdens for failing to produce more electric- powered cars and get them out to the public faster. The US Department of Agriculture is research- ing a biodegradable—even edible—alternative to plas- tic food packaging: a film made from milk protein. Casein packaging, which department scientists says is 500 times more effec- tive at protecting food from oxygen, and dissolves in water. A liquid form of casein could be sprayed onto some foods, eliminat- ing the need for outer film altogether. Unfortunately it could be years before we see edible food packaging in the marketplace, and the subsequent reduction in our waste cycle. In Pittsburgh, stoplights controlled by artificial intelligence have cut car emissions by a fifth and idling time by 40%. Driving time overall is down by 25%. The AI uses cam- eras and radar to predict second-by-second traffic conditions, and adjusts the signals accordingly. Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor Stephen Smith, who founded the company behind the Steel City’s pilot test system, says traffic congestion in the US produces 25 billion kg of carbon dioxide emissions, and costs the economy $121 billion a year. 12 mindful April 2017 PHOTOGRAPHSCOURTESYNASA,BLENDIMAGES/ADOBESTOCK