Monday, June 18, 2012

Your Brain: It's All In Your Head

     Did you see it the first time? Less than 10% of people in a study done with a similar video saw the hidden distraction. This is because your brain can only take so much information at a time, and counting the number of passes and making sure you are counting white instead of black is enough to shut out everything else that is not important to the task. The brain controls everything our bodies do, and some things are dubbed not important enough for us to not even see it, like the bear.
     Our brains can trick us in other ways too. A group of people showed some taekwondo teachers two videos of two people fighting, one person was wearing red protective gear, the other wearing blue. In both cases, the teachers thought red was the winner. Could this be a coincidence? No, because both videos were of the same fight, except the colors had been switched.
     Lastly, do we really taste what we taste? One man decided to test the theory that we taste what we see, not what we taste. He gave guests at a dinner a red jello, and asked them what they tasted. The majority said it tasted like cherry or another berry, but the jello was actually lemon flavored. He also had people take a wine taste test. The first wine had a label that made the bottle look cheep, the second bottle had an expensive looking label and a fancy french name. Both bottles had the same wine that you can buy for next to nothing (it came in a box), but the testers said that the second, more "expensive brand" tasted better. There is some food for thought
     Our brains are constantly judging things without giving them a chance, because there are more important things than how the wine tastes. That wine looks expensive, shouldn't it taste better? Even though our brains are amazing and wonderful, there are some things that can trick it into thinking almost anything.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lucid Dreaming: Waking in your sleep

     You may or may not have had a lucid dream. I know that I have not, but the idea of a lucid dream is very fascinating, and somewhat strange. The term Lucid dream was first coined by the Dutch psychiatrist, Fredrick Van Eeden. it is a dream in which the dreamer knows that he or she is dreaming, and can control his or her surroundings. So, you can do whatever you want in a lucid dream.
     Tibetan Buddhists were the first people to recognize lucid dreaming. They used lucid dreaming in an activity called Dream Yoga. It is used for recognizing the world for what it is, free from illusion. The goal is to achieve meta lucidity, which is when you "wake up from reality".
     Lucid dreaming itself occurs during REM, but Scientists did not believe it existed because of the lack of evidence. Steven Laverge proved the existence of lucid dreaming by using Electroencephalogram (EEGs) to measure brain activity. He then had subjects use pre-arranged eye movements to signal when they were lucid. When he got the signals, Laberge checked the EEGs to confirm that the subjects were sleeping, not faking sleep.
     Now that we have covered what exactly a lucid dream is, we can start covering what happens to you in a lucid dream. Earthly logic can get in the way in lucid dreams, because you think you are bound by physics, even though your brain allows anything in these dreams. Lucid dream actions are linked to human actions. For example, if you hold your breath in a lucid dream, then you hold your breath in your sleep. The motion sensors in the brain  are very active during lucid dreaming. That is why you remember flying and seeing things, and not aromas. Lucid dreams almost always occur in the morning.,
     So, how do you lucid dream if you don't normally do? The first step is to get enough sleep. Lucid dreaming occurs in REM, and each REM period is longer, so the longer your REM, the greater the chance you are to lucid dream. You can also keep a dream diary, which helps you recall dreams, because maybe you do lucid dream, but don't remember it when you wake up. If you want to fly in your dream, you could look at a picture of a flying person before you go to sleep, and think," I want to realize that I am in a dream, and fly in it." Steven Laberge says that you can wake up 1 hour before you normally wake up, recall your most recent dream that night, and go back to sleep, thinking that the next dream will be lucid.
     How do you know when you are dreaming? You can do reality checks many times a day. A reality check is when you make sure that you are not dreaming. You can look at a clock; if the numbers are not all jumbled up, you are not dreaming. Poke your hand; if your finger does not pass through your hand, then you are not dreaming. You must make sure that you think, "This is what it is supposed to be like in normal life, therefore I am dreaming."
     Lucid dreaming is like creating an alternate reality, with whatever and whomever you want. Anybody can accomplish this weird and wonderful thing, as long as you do the right things in order to achieve it.

All information is from the podcast, Oh the lucid dream we weave from Stuff To blow Your Mind by How Stuff Works.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Update: SpaceX Dragon

The SpaceX Dragon came down in the Pacific ocean on May 31. It was its 1st mission to the International Space Station. This is a big hurdle, because now SpaceX can begin to work off its $1.6 contract with NASA.


Cheating and Creativity

      Do you consider yourself creative? If you do, then studies show that you might be more likely to cheat than others. This study started out as finding out who cheats and who doesn’t. When given an opportunity to cheat, fifty percent of the people did. Though a very small number of people cheated a lot, the rest were still cheating. Dan Ariely, the man who conducted the experiment has a hypothesis to why we cheat. He thinks that we cheat because we know that if we do better, we will be treated better than someone who did a bad job, but we also don’t want to hurt our reputation. So, we cheat a little, so we can do a good job without being seen as a cheater not only by others, but most importantly, by ourselves. This is where Airely got the idea that creative people would cheat more. 
     He said, “It's all about telling stories, so creative people are likely to be able to tell themselves better stories, which would allow them to cheat more on the one hand, but not feel worse about it on the other." This doesn’t apply to just cheating, it can apply to any immoral action. Say someone wants to slip a piece of candy from a store. They might make up a story like, “ Well, it is just a tiny piece of candy, and anyway, who would care if a kid like stole a teeny tiny piece of chocolate?” This is how our brains work, so if you are more creative, you can make a more rational story, which could convince you to cheat, lie, or steal even more.
      Now I’m not calling every creative person a cheater, I’m just saying that creativity could be a cause of cheating.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Green Sahara?

     Everybody knows about the Sahara desert. It’s a big sand pit about the size of the U.S, but now there is a new light that has been cast on this sand box. According to the series, How the Earth was Made on the History Channel; the Sahara may have been a lush Greenland about 10,000 years ago. This just so happens to coincide with when humans just started to migrate out of Africa. It was originally thought that we crossed over a land bridge into the middle east, but now there is proof that we may have walked along the shores of mega lakes that were in the middle of the “desert”. Our proofs are human bones, fossils and settlements.
      We have found many bones from sea creatures, from shells to whales in the middle of the Sahara. We have also found human bones dating back thousands of years in the desert. Lastly, we have found whole settlements in caves, and sometimes we find proof of little teepee like houses. In these places, caves in particular, we find drawings in rock. These are drawings of people fishing and hunting, but towards the back of these rocks or caves, we find pictures of rain. We see that our ancestors were praying for rain. Those prayers were not answered, because the Sahara was beginning its shift back into a desert. These villages were forced to migrate. They had no idea where water was, so most of them died out except for those who had escaped into Eurasia and those who found lakes such as Lake Victoria.
      You may be wondering how the Sahara goes from lush grassland to sand dunes, and I have an answer for you. Every few thousand years, the earth wobbles on its axis. This makes the sunlight warm Southern Africa instead of northern Africa. This means the Monsoons move north, and voila, a green desert. Of course this wobble wont happen for quite a few years, so get used to the Sahara desert, It’s going to be here a while.