The Knotted Gun

S6000450I’d seen, and photographed this bronze sculpture of a Colt Magnum revolver with a knot in the barrel a couple of times on my business trips to Sweden.

But I didn’t know what it was about – although I thought it was probably an anti-gun ownership protest, perhaps typical of a country noted for its neutrality.

It turns out that it was designed by Carl Fredrik Bengt Wilhelm Reuterswärd in response to the murder of John Lennon. Called The Knotted Gun or Non-violence it was seen as a political piece in the manner of Picasso’s Guernica.

Reuterswärd had met Lennon and Ono in Switzerland in 1969 and had discussed creating a piece that depicted the concept of peace. After Lennon’s death Ono asked him to continue.

He said “I was filled with bitterness and anger and immediately began to create a symbol for John Lennon and everyone else who had been a victim of such assassins

The work originally sat in the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park, New York across from Lennon’s apartment.

In 1988 the government of Luxembourg donated the statue to the United Nations.

More than a dozen variations exist in different locations around the world including one with two knots in the barrel in the Swedish town of Landskrona, where the sculptor latterly lived.

I only know this because of a recent obituary in the Times which described his career during which he was influenced by pop art and worked with lasers and holograms. He was a student at the Royal Art Academy in Stockholm where he later became a professor.

When he lost the use of his right hand due to a stroke he learned to use his left hand and staged an exhibition called “On the other hand“.

After his death in May this year aged 81 the Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström tweeted “His sculpture outside the UNHQ reminds us that peace is the only way”


Men with slow heartbeat may be capable of violence

patient_with_heart_trouble_1600_wht_7075It seems that men with resting heartbeats of less than 60 beats per minute at age 18 are 50% more likely to go on to commit violent crime compared with those with more than 80 beats per minute.

Crimes such as assault, murder, kidnapping and rape. They are also a third more likely to suffer unintentional injuries from causes such as traffic accidents.

Scientists speculate this is because they are more fearless (or perhaps psychopathic?)

They draw these conclusions based on a study of 700,000 Swedish men born between 1958 and 1991 who had their resting heartbeat measured when conscripted for national service.

They followed the men for up to 30 years and found a strong link between their resting heart rate and whether or not they had a criminal record or had been involved in accidents.

The findings pose a conundrum “No one wants to blame individuals for the violence they endure. They can hardly be blamed for having a low resting heart rate that puts them at risk” said psychologist Professor Raine commenting on the study.

“Yet if we accept this logic, should the legal system accept low resting heart rate as a mitigating factor for the commission of serious violence?

Perhaps more importantly girls; if your man’s heartbeat isn’t racing when you’re together it might not just be that he’s not into you!

Two ways to stave off dementia

woman_reading_book_1600_wht_7865If you’re already middle-aged then this finding may come too late for you – but you can still help your grandchildren..

1 Children who get good grades at the age of 10 are significantly less likely to develop dementia in later life.

Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden – who studied 7,500 dementia-free pensioners for at least 20 years and compared their mental health against their education and work experiences – claim that children who stretch themselves in class build up a “cognitive reserve” that makes them more resilient to memory loss in old age.

Children who scored in the top fifth at school and went into jobs that involved complex analysis had a 39% lower risk of developing dementia than the rest of the group.

In a matching study of 440 people over the age of 75 over nine years it was found that pupils with the lowest grades at school were 50% more likely to suffer dementia after the age of 75 even if they went on to study at university or had intellectually challenging jobs.

This is more evidence that low IQ scores in childhood is linked to a higher risk of dementia after a similar study in Scotland in 2008 that found that people with poor academic scores as children were at a significantly higher risk of developing vascular dementia.

It is also more evidence that challenging the brain throughout its lifetime gives you more mechanisms to deal with the symptoms of dementia. Although there are mixed views about so-called “brain training”, exercise and a healthy diet can definitely improve your brainpower as you get older.

Having a cognitive reserve doesn’t protect you from the physical damage of dementia but can help people finding ways of minimising the effects.

Dr Laura Phipps from Alzheimer Research said “With some people there’s something about their brain – the way it works, how many connections they have in the brain, how easily they form these connections – that means in the face of brain damage they can find compensatory strategies and carry on with life as normal”

A neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute said “Our findings highlight the importance of early-life cognitive performance for the late-life risk of dementia. It appears that baseline cognitive ability, even at age 10, may provide the foundation for successful cognitive ageing much later in life. Formation of cognitive reserve is a process that apparently begins early in life”

Dr Phipps was keen to stress that poor school results in childhood didn’t necessarily mean that a child was exposed to a greater risk of dementia or memory loss when they got older. More research was needed to look at other factors such as diet and genetics.

artist_mannequin_brush_1600_wht_66802 If you’re already in adulthood take up life drawing!

30 volunteers took part in an experiment at Newcastle University.

Two groups either took brisk walks or did crossword puzzles or Sudoku. The third group took an art class drawing a nude male.

All the volunteers took a series of tests over eight weeks. The walking group showed the biggest improvement in physical health and a small increase in the cognitive tests, those doing increasingly difficult crosswords and sudoku became better at them and improved their mental skills.

However the art class showed the greatest enthusiasm for the task and showed the biggest improvement in the memory tests.

The art class was also the most sociable which is also an important factor in keeping the brain sharp.

The clinical psychologist who organised the tests said learning a new skill could be a benefit in maintaining brain power. “Learning something new engages the brain in ways that seem to be the key. Your brain changes in response no matter how many years you have behind you. Capturing an image on paper is not just intellectually demanding, it also involves learning how to make the muscles in your hand guide the pencil or paintbrush in the right direction.”

An additional health benefit was that the volunteers stood in the art class for three hours a week which burns calories and improves health.

NB. Recently there has been a health campaign to get more office workers to stand up during the day to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes but there has been no real evidence that it has been effective.

Women now have as much free time as men

stick_figure_mopping_floor_text_10548Gender equality at last when it comes to the time men and women in the UK spend on paid and unpaid work.

Over the last 50 years women have cut down the time they spend on domestic tasks by 90 minutes a day.

This is based on research in 14 developed nations carried out by sociologists at Oxford University. There has been a steady downward trend in the amount of time women spend cleaning, cooking and laundering since the 1960s.

Part of this can be attributed to technological advances and also the fact that we can now buy clothes relatively cheaply and need to do less sewing or knitting for example.

At the same time men have spent more time on these unpaid tasks over a week with the time increasing from 1 hr 35 minutes  a day to 2 hrs and 18 minutes.

Men and women typically spend 8 hrs and 20 mins working each day, just over 58 hours a week, but women still spend a higher proportion of time on unpaid domestic chores. They still work for 4 hrs and 20 mins a day without pay and do 66% of then unpaid work in the UK.

This puts women at a disadvantage in the job market as the more time a women spends on unpaid work the less time she can put into her job and networking.

A spokesperson at the Fawcett Society charity (currently embroiled in a debate about the £45 feminist t-shirts made by cheap labour i.e. 62p an hour) said “Women still take on a range of responsibilities from care for the elderly to childcare and it is one of the big hindrances standing in the way of economic equality”

The pay gap between the sexes is small when they are in their twenties, and in some jobs women are paid more, but the pay gap jumps to over 20% in favour of men when they reach their 40s.

This research doesn’t tell the whole story. In egalitarian Sweden women do the smallest proportion of unpaid work, 58%, but so many of them work full-time that they still end up putting in more hours than men. And in Spain, where women are putting in 74% of unpaid work, because they tend not to wok full-time they put in fewer hours overall than the men.


Day Care story not all it seemed

reading_to_children_anim_500_wht_10048The recent story about extended day-care in Sweden leading to teenage problems has been criticised since it was revealed that Jonas Himmelstrand is not a qualified scientist or academic but self-taught.

He also seems to have been using US research not Swedish data.

However research due out from the Institute for Public Policy has concluded that the overall impact of daycare on development is beneficial.

Daycare not good for young children

reading_to_children_anim_300_wht_10048The government is planning to have 40% of all 2-year olds in daycare by next year, a doubling of the 440,000 already in it.

Swedish experience suggests that it’s not necessarily a good idea.

A sociologist, Jonas Himmelstradt, has warned MPs that toddlers under the age of three shouldn’t be in daycare.

According to a report in the Times by Social Affairs correspondent Rosemary Bennett, Sweden, once seen as a model for family policy with 95% of children aged 2 to 5 in daycare, is now seeing the results of children going into daycare too early.

Those children, now teenagers, suffer serious psychological problems such as anxiety, perform badly at school, and are unmanageable outside school being dangerously attached to their peer groups according to Himmelstrand.

He says “the Swedish Utopia is a myth“. Discipline in Swedish schools is among the worst in the OECD (developed countries).

Daycare means parents lose a grip on their responsibilities and cannot set limits. Psychological disorders have tripled since the introduction of daycare and academic results have fallen from the top of the international table to average as children became unteachable and truancy levels rocket.

In addition to getting more children into daycare the government is also planning to change the rules so that child care assistants can look after more children than at present.

If the Swedish example is anything to go by the government should think carefully about its proposals.

The best looking people live in…

Best looking people live in... Sweden. According to a survey by Sunshine holidays reported in i newspaper of almost 1500 people in the UK who thought Sweden was the best looking nation (and I’m assuming they meant the people who lived there rather than the tourist attractions).

Anyway England came 6th, so at least we got in the top 10 by voting for ourselves (pity we can’t in the Eurovision song contest).

The full top 10 is: Sweden Brazil Italy Spain Australia … Read More

via Mike the Psych’s Blog with permission