Understanding(x) A Deeper Exploration of Everyday Stuff

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
―Albert Einstein
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At Cobalt, we take understanding seriously, which is why we’re pleased to introduce our Understanding(x) Series, which will take complex topics (or topics that seem deceptively simple) and, across the year, explore them substantively, fully, all with the goal of helping ordinary people like you and me understand the world around us a little bit more deeply.

It was Knut Rockne, the legendary football coach at the University of Notre Dame, who said, “Winning too often is as disastrous as losing too often. Both get the same results: the falling off of the public's enthusiasm.” It’s a wry statement, but beyond the humor, Rockne’s observation underscores the fine line between winning and losing and between winners and losers. The science of winning is interesting and has begun to illustrate that who wins and who loses is not strictly coded in our genes, nor is it God playing with dice. It’s about when and how we take risks, which does involve some hard wiring, as well as some external pressures from the environment. Keep reading to learn more about winning and winners.

Fear is a useful emotion. It can protect us from something dangerous or help us avoid things that might cause us pain. Then there’s the dark side of fear. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States every year. People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders. To break down this complex emotion, we must evaluate biology, psychology and sociology. Keep exploring to increase your understanding of fear.

Blue has always challenged human senses. It is at once astonishingly beautiful, like a cloudless enamel sky, and painfully desolate, like an ocean abyss. The Greeks didn’t even have a word for blue. Perhaps they understood, like the French artist Yves Klein, that “blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions” — an inexplicable property that cannot be psychologically tangible. And yet blue is ubiquitous in our world today. It colors well-known logos, radiates from the screens of our devices and decorates our fashion runways. Keep reading to enhance your understanding of this enigmatic color.

You might think the topic of laughter is all fun and games, but the science is compelling — and extraordinarily interesting. For example, did you know that only humans, apes and rats can laugh? And did you know that laughter is primarily a social activity, which is why you can’t tickle yourself? These are just a few of the tidbits revealed by recent research. Read on to understand the hows and whys of laughter.

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Cobalt’s Understanding(x) Series examines complex topics with the goal of increasing understanding among laypeople. At the end of each year, we hope to have a portfolio of materials about the chosen topics that will become part of the public record — a resource for teachers, students and citizens to draw upon in their quest for clarity and connection. If you have any suggestions for topics to be considered, drop us a line.