Things That Will Make You Smarter In 2011

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A website that tracks your moods, a pen that takes flawless notes, a thriller about Wall Street’s collapse—The Daily Beast presents the culture and technology that will boost your intelligence in 2011.

Smarter Movie

Margin Call
Myriad Pictures

If the Wall Street sequel was a guilty pleasure, Margin Call is its intellectual corollary. Premiering at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the indie financial thriller stars Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons as employees of Lehman Brothers during the firm's final 24 hours as it imploded--along with the world economy--in a puff of derivatives. The film is a raucous history lesson based on true events, and made the top 10 of 2010's Black List, an annual compendium of the best unproduced screenplays, compiled by Universal exec Franklin Leonard.

Smarter Learning

Khan Academy
At the Aspen Ideas Festival last summer, Bill Gates described this website as an 'unbelievable' resource that he uses with his kids. Created by former hedge-fund trader Sal Khan, is a nonprofit that aims to create a free online university and K-12 school. The site is home to more than 1,600 tutorial YouTube videos on topics ranging from the Haitian revolution to a 15-part series on the economic bailout. The videos are all created by Khan, who says he believes it's easier for students to learn from multimedia than from textbooks.

Smarter Reading

Zero-Sum Future by Gideon Rachman
Why the West Rules--for Now by Ian Morris

Each day brings new stories of trade deficits, natural disasters, and looming conflict. How to make sense of it all? Two new books, Gideon Rachman's Zero-Sum Future and Ian Morris' Why the West Rules-- for Now, give you an eagle-eye view of the trends and macro movements governing the world. Of course, the news isn't all good--Rachman says we're in for a major economic and political struggle between the U.S. and China while Europe founders. Morris looks back to explain how the West dominated for so long, but his sharp analysis will teach you as much about the present. You may not feel relieved, but at least you'll better understand the source of your anxiety.

Smarter App

Intelligent Life
The Economist's quarterly lifestyle and culture magazine, Intelligent Life, just got smarter: You can now purchase an iPad edition of the London-based glossy, previously only available by subscription in the U.S. Expanding its parent magazine's purview to arts, travel, food, sports, and fashion, it's something of an undiscovered gem in this country. The inaugural iPad edition includes a cover story about actor Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut, a look at the curious trend of turning nouns into verbs, and a gorgeous photo essay about surfing in Sweden.

Smarter Dressing

Wear Red
Women are more attracted to men wearing red than to men wearing other colours, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. 'Red is an aphrodisiac for women,' said the study's lead author, University of Rochester psychology professor Andrew Elliot. 'They view a guy in red as high in status.' Women also might want to invest in a scarlet number: Elliot found that men want to spend the most money on red-clad ladies.

Smarter College Saving

The Net Price Calculator
A cool online tool makes it easier than ever for families to estimate the costs of college--and make smart choices about where to apply. The Net Price Calculator, created by The College Board, a national academic nonprofit, assesses a student's eligibility for financial aid at specific schools based on their individual circumstances--and then offers a ballpark estimate of how much it would cost to attend for a year, including everything from textbooks to food. Students can input their details even before they apply to comparison shop. The federal government has mandated that the calculator be installed on most college websites by the end of this year.

Smarter Electronics

PlayStation 3
This video game console is a smart buy even for those with no interest in Grand Theft Auto IV. The $300 game system consolidates nearly every conceivable form of entertainment into a single unit: a video game system, Blu-ray DVD player, Netflix streamer, karaoke machine, and virtual fitness coach. Its built-in WiFi eliminates the need for plugs and cords, and its true stereoscopic 3-D video games create livelier-than-life effects.

Smarter Driving

Ditch Your GPS
It's been a while since road trips involved hard-to-fold maps and old-fashioned guesswork, but new research indicates that embracing your own natural navigation skills could benefit your brain. University College London researchers found that London taxi drivers have enlarged posterior hippocampi, and concluded that spatial navigation and mental mapmaking bulked them up. 'The hippocampus is a phylogenetically old part of the brain, with an intrinsic circuitry that may have evolved to deal with navigation,' reads the report. Hippocampal atrophy has been linked to Alzheimer's disease.

Smarter theatre

Coming to Broadway in the spring of 2011, Tom Stoppard's 1993 masterwork Arcadia cross-cuts deftly between the realms of 19th-century teen (and amateur chaos theorist) Thomasina Coverly and present-day scholar Hannah Jarvis, who studies hermits. Romanticism, determinism, entropy, mathematical biology, Newtonian geometry, Fermat's Last Theorem, and a curiously elusive Lord Byron figure into the hyper-intellectual interplay between order and randomness, nature and machinery, present and past.

Smarter Mental Health

Tracking your moods from day to day can be a great way to learn what triggers your blues. That's the aim of, a smart website that allows users to input data about their moods on a daily basis by playing a simple card game. The site charts your progress over time and allows you to share your results with trusted friends through social-networking tools. The site compares itself to, which uses tracking tools and social support to help people lose weight.

Keep reading about things that will make you smarter in 2011 at The Daily Beast >

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