Is Religion Good For Your Brain?

When you think of religion does your body get invigorated? Do you feel your soul flutter? Does your brain reach a higher state of functioning? In answer to the last question, Jeffrey Anderson, assistant professor of nueroradiology at the University of Utah states that,

We think we have the tools now to do a study of brain activity during the really profound and deep types of emotional and social interactions associated with religion, and we’re really excited to try and understand more.

religion science god

Religion constantly falls under the close scrutiny of science.

Anderson and other researchers are launching a new study that will examine exactly how religion and spiritual rituals impact the human brain. The study will consist of participants between the age of 20 and 30 who are currently active in their faith. An MRI scan will be performed while the participants are surrounded by faith oriented activities, such as listening to spiritual music, listening to proclamations from their religion, and acting out religious rituals associated with their particular faith. Very interesting indeed, but it will take some time before the results of the study are posted. If you believe your self to be a prime candidate for the study, and of course as long as you are in the immediate area of the University of Utah, you can apply to be a participant on the Religious Brain Project website.

Related ArticleMorals or More Rails (to guide us)

The study does beg another set of questions however: can religion and belief be measured by science? Or rather, should science be used to gauge religion? Is it morally correct to accept religion over science, or vice versa? Essentially we arrive at a very pertinent question: should religion be completely replaced by science within the school system as a more viable teaching strategy?

Bill Nye (yes, the science guy) and Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis, supporting the side of religion and creationism) squared off in a debate last night about religion which addressed these issues directly. The overarching question of the debate was : Is creation a viable model of human origins in today’s modern scientific era? Both sides had their own opinions as well as evidence to back up their claims.

religion creation science

Which Religion is right? Which book do your prefer? sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com

In the debate, Ken Ham defends religion by stating that science should be split into two separate categories. The first would pertain to observational science (a science based on models). This category involves what we experience now and how the world works today. The second category involves historical science (a type of theoretical science of origin) which is used to define our origins and makes sense of the world around us from a historical perspective. He stresses the importance of separating the two to help with the confusion that children are being exposed to. He gives the example that by only teaching evolution, which to most starts with a random beginning for no reason other than “it happened,” we limit children to thinking that science is just as random. This randomness can crate incredible confusion when making conclusions about existential quandaries children are trying to work through. Ken Ham asserts that instead, children should be taught religion and to embrace the idea of God because it empowers them to think they are indeed special, as they are made in the image of God.

Related ArticleIn 1610 God Was a Binary, Fractal, Self-Replicating Algorithm

Bill Nye on the other hand focuses on accepted scientific evidence to disprove Ham’s assertions regarding religious truth. For example, he refers to the different layers in stone and snow that have been compressed to form ice which would take far longer than the amount of time Creationism allows for. He talks about the allotted four thousand years since the Great Flood and the improbability of the amount of species we see today to exist with the limited time that Creationists claim elapsed since then. He stresses the idea that we need to depend on natural law and orders, not religious or divine laws, to predict practical and accurate future theories and laws. He asserts that the basis of scientific education must be information derived through the scientific process, such as evolution, in order for children and future scientists to make reasonable scientific predictions in the future. In essence, he is claiming that one must understand and accept theories like evolution which have been supported with scientific evidence in order to understand why a fish can come to walk on land, why there are over 8.7 million different species on Earth, why layers in rocks and trees and ice exist, and so on.  He stresses that by allowing religion and Creationism to thrive in academic settings we are impeding the scientific literacy of future generations and essentially stifling the United States in future scientific breakthroughs.

Related Article: Watching Evolution Occur

The debate finished with questions and rebuttals, but the underlying theme of the debate, I fear, was lost. Instead of trying to prove why one or the other is wrong in the school system, it turned into a contest of ego and the denouncing of each others ideals.

religion science stats

Some surprising statistics about religion and science. blog.faithlife.com

I wonder, why not accept both ideas? Why not teach every child in every classroom the idea of science, and then, on your own time, teach your children your worship, your religion, and your belief. Allow for both religion and science to be taught in their own settings (in schools and at home/place of worship respectively) and allow for the child to then choose which idea they support and believe. What is with this unyielding hatred between the two schools of thought? What ever happened to being free and allowing for choice? Most importantly though: can’t we all just get along?

In the end, much of the issue is largely based on opinion, some opinions stemming from facts, others stemming from observed information. One thing is for certain, all this debate and speculation on religion is definitely causing your brain to function at an elevated level. Maybe you’ve been unintentionally participating in Anderson’s experiment this whole time!

To feed your own opinions further, or for the sake of debate itself, check out the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate on Creationism vs. science in the video below!

Cheers!


Sources:

Religious Brain Project

Deseret News: What’s the effect of religion on the brain? U. launches new study

University of Utah

Youtube: Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham

Youtube: Bill Nye: Creationism Is Not Appropriate for Children

Youtube: Ken Ham Responds to Bill Nye “the Humanist Guy”

Answers in Genesis – Creationism

Wikipedia: Genesis flood narrative

Backreaction: Models and Theories

Models, Theories, and Laws

How many species on Earth? 8.7 million

 

Wondergressive: Watching Evolution Occur

Wondergessive: Morals or More Rails (to guide us)

Wondergressive: In 1610 God Was a Binary, Fractal, Self-Replicating Algorithm

Epigenetics: The Key to Overcoming Genetic Predisposition

epigenetic twins

No one can tell us apart in these disguises! http://www.ifc.com/

Despite epigenetics only recently gaining public awareness, it has been prevalent in society for some time. In the 1988 Hollywood classic Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito star as fraternal twins Julius and Vincent Benedict. They are the result of a secret experiment carried out at a genetics laboratory to produce the perfect child. At the time the movie premiered, the idea of twins who have drastically different appearances was farfetched and absurdist. Fast forward twenty-five years, and you will see what once was considered Hollywood fiction, is now considered a scientific reality. This reality is described through epigenetics.

Related Article: The Aging Process, Story of Telomeres

Modern science now tells us that even if you start out as a Danny DeVito, you could end up as an Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is either an upgrade or a downgrade depending on your point of view. These new findings are brought to us by the revolutionary field of science known as epigenetics. Epigenetics is defined as the study of changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA structure. In other words, it is possible that environmental factors can alter the way our genes are expressed, making even identical twins look dramatically different.

 

The Epigenetic Process

epigenetic expression

Genetic expression is dynamic, not set in stone.
http://www.resverlogix.com/

The key to understanding the basis of epigenetics is knowing that this field of study has emerged as a logical way to bridge the gap between nature and nurture. Epigenetics allows us to understand just how closely nature and nurture are linked and how this link affects us as individuals. In his book, The Biology of Belief, and Spontaneous Evolution, cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton explains how emotions can regulate genetic expression. He says that,

Each cell membrane has receptors that pick up various environmental signals such as thoughts attitudes and perceptions.  Your cells can choose to read or not read specific genes depending on the signals being received from these environmental receptors.

Epigenetic science makes it possible for us to see that just because we are genetically programmed a certain way that does not mean our body will choose to run that genetic program. The environment we expose ourselves to and the lives that we lead determine gene expression and as a result, determine the people we become physically and emotionally. For example, my mom says I have her sparkling personality. I tell her that most people say I inherited her craziness. The epigenetic theory, however, says that prolonged exposure to my mom’s craziness could signal one of my genes to switch on or off, consequently altering that aspect of my personality. In addition, this “crazy trait” is now something I am more likely to pass onto my children.  To my future husband: my apologies.

Related Article: Watching Evolution Occur

 

The Effects of Epigenetic Gene Expression 

While all of us are equally susceptible to epigenetic change, twins who are not DeVito and Schwarzenegger can provide a unique perspective on physical change due to their identical DNA structure. In her essay, “Paramutation: From Maize to Mice”, Dr. Vicki Chandler explains the reason behind this saying,

Different cells in an organism express only the genes that are necessary for their own activity.

epigenetic grandkid dna

Smoking: so bad it will affect your grandkid’s DNA whether they are born or not. learn.genetics.utah.edu

So if each twin expresses only the genes necessary for their own activity, than the way each twin looks isn’t just based on their DNA sequence, but it is also based on how each one lives their life. This is how epigenetics reveal their effect. If you have one twin born and raised in the Austrian countryside that lives a healthy and active life, that twin will look different than the twin who moves away to dwell in the sewers of Gotham City.

Related Article: Kids May Have Three Biological Parents in the Future

In addition to twins, another way we can observe epigenetic change is through fossils. While there has been debate in the scientific community over the historical significance of epigenetic change, new evidence suggests that this process has been affecting physical development for longer than we thought.  According to Dr. Andrew Feinberg, Professor of Molecular Medicine at Johns Hopkins University,

DNA extracted from the bones of a 26,000 year old bison found in the Canadian arctic shows that the environment influenced the way the animal’s genes worked, even as far back as the ice age.

By making an organism more adaptable to environmental change, epigenetic factors play a crucial role in the process of natural selection. Since only the strong survive in the face of natural selection, we can rest assured that Arnold Schwarzenager and the fruits of his womb continue to thrive thanks to epigenetic changes in their DNA.

Related Article: Mothers Who Suffer Depression Have Shorter Kids

The field of epigenetics has the power to answer a lot of questions. It can tell us why we possess certain physical traits, certain aspects of our personality, and most importantly, how Arnold Schwarzenager was able to convincingly portray a pregnant man.

 

Epigenetics and Society 

Perhaps more important than appearance, personality, and pregnant men, is our susceptibility to factors that impact our health and behavior. Addiction, for example, can be exacerbated by epigenetic changes. According to William Renthal and Eric Nestler in their article “Epigenetic Mechanisms in Drug Addiction” published in the Journal of Trends in Molecular Medicine,

Epigenetic modifications have been observed in the studies of alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines, and opiate use. These modifications increase the vulnerability of an individual to engage in repeated substance use. Increased substance use results in even greater epigenetic changes in the brain’s pleasure-reward areas.

epigenetic code

You were 1 epigenetic switch away from eating at McDonalds! orbitalteapot.blogspot.com

Pleasure-reward areas are part of what launch us into the vicious cycle of addiction, and what keep us addicted until we realize we need help. This information is important because epigenetic changes can be inherited. As a result, children could be more inclined to participate in the same risky behavior as their parents. It should be noted, however, that these effects are reversible. Epigenetic changes are a response to a stressful environment, and if that environmental stress is eliminated, then over time the DNA code will return to its original state. This means that even though my mom is a little crazy and getting crazier all of the time, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be crazy, too! On second thought, maybe I am overestimating the power of epigenetics.

Related Article: Tetrachromacy, Supervision Genes

The media isn’t done with epigenetics by the way. Last April, news broke that Universal Pictures is planning a sequel to the movie Twins. The sequel, which will be called Triplets, will revolve around DeVito and Schwarzenegger discovering that they have another long lost brother, who is set to be played by…Eddie Murphy. While this is a bit of a stretch in regards to how drastic of an effect environmental factors have on gene expression, it is clear that the field of epigenetics is set to have a major impact on our bodies and how we understand them.

Now that we have this information about epigenetics, I think I am going to go home and be nicer to my mom. You never know when your DNA will decide there is such a thing as Karma and bring a whole new meaning to the phrase, “like mother, like daughter!”

 

Sources:

https://wondergressive.com/news/epigenetics-and-altering-your-dna/

http://genesdev.cshlp.org/content/23/7/781.full

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21410-fossil-dna-has-clues-to-surviving-rapid-climate-change.html?full=true#.UqAt2PRDvgw

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17320501

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2753378/

http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v7/n1/full/nrn1832.html

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/twins-triplets-arnold-schwarzenegger-danny-devito-eddie-murphy-306026

More Hazardous Weather Patterns for World

weather patterns ice cream truck

They say the erratic weather patterns got him. Poor truck never stood a chance in this heat. http://www.mobypicture.com/user/Joseeete/view/12792610

Pollution is affecting our climates, increasing the severity of storms, and causing shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. It has been said time and time again, and yet it continues to be said, with good reason might I add! A recent study published in the scientific journal Nature, conducted by a team headed by Camilo Mora, claims that global temperatures will be drastically climbing within a generation. In less than 50 years we can see historical increases in temperatures, beating all past recorded highs for global temperatures. Imagine unbearable summers, intense heat waves, and dry times causing droughts and famine. At the same time, imagine freezing winter storms, strange weather patterns and unpredictable seasons.  This is all in response to the amount of increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the effect they have on our temperature and weather patterns.

Related Article: Costly Climate Changes

Now you may be wondering what exactly it all means, what a good comparison would be. The world’s hottest day was on July 10, 1913, clocking in at 134 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley, California. With global temperatures on the rise, and with the study predicting a drastic increase of global highs within 50 years, we can expect to see that high of 134 degrees Fahrenheit once again being reached, maybe even surpassed, sometime in the near future. Yikes. It is not only the heat we have to worry abut, but the erratic weather patterns as well, causing melting ice caps, deadly storms, intense rain; just to name a few.

Related Article: The Ugly Face of Overpopulation 

After all, weather patterns are responsible for half of our daily waking lives:

  • It rains, we cancel our sporting activity (some hardcore players may disagree).
  • It snows, well SNOW DAY of course! (Sometimes).
  • Hurricane/Tornado/Typhoon, houses damaged.
  • Humid Hot Days, stay in and blast the A/C

Anyway, you get the point. Whether you agree that weather and weather patterns are intensifying and impacting the world is up to you, but what are our preventative measures against this? Some talk of greener technology, some speak of wind power and solar power, while some encourage changes in car performance and oil usage. Some ideas even recommend taking advantage of the increasingly severe weather patterns to embrace the positive changes and avoid or harness the bad.

None of these ideas are drastic enough to stop pollution all together, nothing drastic enough to clean up more pollution than we are generating. Maybe it is because we believe ourselves to be unbeatable and indestructible, that no matter what we do or destroy, human ingenuity will persevere.

Related Article: A Cheaper Alternative to Pollution

Actually, we humans have always adapted and something like changing weather patterns and rising temperatures would be nothing new for us. In fact, I believe it would call for new crop irrigation techniques, new ideas towards more efficient cooling systems, and maybe even force us to venture out into space to colonize planets for the sake of our survival. An extreme, yes, but with our rate of pollution, and with the way we like to live comfortably and excessively, I would not be surprised if the proposed colonization of Mars is actually a trial for the coming desperate times. Weather patterns may shift, but so will humanity.

Cheers to new methods of preventing pollution!

 

 

Research:

Study Abstract: The Projected Timing of Climate Departure From Recent Variability

Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science

Camilo Mora, Postdoctoral Employee

USA TODAY: World’s hottest day was 100 years ago in Death Valley

 

Wondergressive: I Believe in GMOs

Wondergressive: A Cheaper Alternative to Pollution

Wondergressive: The Ugly Face of Overpopulation

Wondergressive: Costly Climate Changes

Wondergressive: Sign Me up for Mars!

Mars, The First Frontier?!

In science news lately there has been quite a bustle about life on Mars. Not now, or rather, not about there being life on Mars right now, but about the likelihood of life on Earth originating from Mars. That’s right, our red brother could be responsible for the habitability of our mother Earth.

According to biochemist Steven Benner of the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in Florida, life came from a meteorite that originated from Mars. In essence, Mars has been deemed our creator. Let’s be serious for a second though, this is quite a discovery. Benner says that Earth was originally completely covered in water and that there was no room for life because of the corrosive effect water has on RNA. Why RNA you say? Without RNA there is no DNA and thus no life. So this meteorite, whether sent intentionally or sent due to a cataclysm on Mars, carried some RNA that helped spawn life on Earth. A little far-fetched, yet not all too unrealistic. To skeptics and critics Benner simply says:

Related Article: Sign Me Up For Mars!

It’s lucky that we ended up here nevertheless, as certainly Earth has been the better of the two planets for sustaining life, if our hypothetical Martian ancestors had remained on Mars, there might not have been a story to tell.

Now whether you are religious or you are completely for science in the explanation of human evolution/creation, this article still pertains to you! Is it so impossible to believe that maybe, just maybe we were created on Mars? That Mars, like Krypton, was in a state of panic and they sent out a ship to Earth to inhabit it? Or maybe we were expanding to Earth and some catastrophic events lead to the annihilation of life on Mars? Let us think about human history for a little; world wars, greed, power, resources, gain, want. We want and want and keep wanting, it is in our nature, and because of our wants and needs we destroy not only ourselves but everyone around us. Who says we aren’t just repeating some ancient history of ours that was completely forgotten due to complete, well almost complete, annihilation?

Related Article: Imminent Western Intervention in Syria

Whew. Tangent. Anyway, you get the idea. For all the time Earth has been around and our universe has been around, we shouldn’t get conceded with the idea that our four thousand years of recorded history is all the life our universe has to offer. Open your minds, there is definitely life somewhere out there. In that ever expanding universe, somewhere, someone, or something, is waiting. Cheers to intelligent life!

Related Article: Life, It’s All Over the Place

 

Research:

Wikipedia: Steven Benner

Science Now: Earth Life Likely Came from Mars, Study Suggests

Wikipedia: Krypton

The Fall of Atlantis

Wondergressive: Sign Me Up For Mars!

Wondergressive: Imminent Western Intervention in Syria

Go Go Gadget: Wearable Tech!

 

God I loved that cartoon when I was growing up (not the crummy live action movie adaptation…). I still quote “go go gadget arm” from time to time at work when I am reaching for something that is just slightly out of reach. Nerd. Yes, indeed. Then again, this is 2013 is it not?! So why do we not have those amazing gadgets that Inspector Gadget so often flaunted?! Government secrets I’m sure. Unfortunately it may still be some time yet before we are all cyborgs, but in the mean time we do have some exciting gadgets and wearable tech to play with!

Misfit Shine and Hot Watch are both wearable tech that blend new age technology with a sense of style! But of course, I am getting ahead of myself, they aren’t as impressive as a hand that reaches out of a detective hat. They do however each have their own purpose and are definitely pieces of technology that should not be overlooked.

Related Article: Robotic Sense and Feel

The Misfit Shine is a little metal UFO looking coin, that, much like a UFO, lights up in response to touch. This little wonder is not equipped with a touch screen of any sort, but it is a pedometer that is able to track your fitness throughout the day. This stylish coin is waterproof so you can even take it with you on your morning swim or your afternoon bike ride where you are likely to sweat all over everything in your pockets.

Equipped with a touch response, the Misfit Shine may be a bit complicated with a unique way of showing time of day, although it does sport a sleek and stylish look. In fact, the best part about this little tracker is that it resembles jewelry! For all you style fashionistas, think fitness, health, with a twist of chic. Misfit Shine comes with a armband that it fits into snugly, resembling a watch, or a small strap that has a magnet attached to the end of it, acting as a clip-on. But for everyone else, just pop it into your pocket and set out on your athletic adventure. Pricing for Misfit Shine is just under 100$. Make sure you have an iOS device such as an iPhone or Apple computer, as Misfit Shine is currently only compatible with iOS. Compatibility with Android and other operating systems is expected sometime next year.

Related Article: Biggest Wastes Of Money That We Continue To Pay For!

Now the next one I am really excited about. The Hot Watch is the closest to a James Bond watch accessory that I have seen thus far. It resembles a watch with a LCD touch screen that may just be too small for my fingers. The screen isn’t exactly meant for texting or reading blogs, rather it provides you with updates of your Facebook and other social media outlets. Swipes and patterns bring up different menus that access your updates and alerts from emails and such.

The coolest thing about this Hot Watch is that it can be used as a substitute for a hands free Bluetooth headset. By cupping your hand around your ear the watch receives the calls and runs the speaker up your hand to your ear for private calls. A simple “good bye” wave hangs up the phone. Cool. The watch connects directly to your cell phone via Android or iOS apps and even alerts you when you are too far from your smart phone, reminding you that you are most likely losing it or forgetting it. Stylish and Smart. Bingo. Pricing starts at $169 for the Hot Watch and it will be released in December 2013.

Related Article: Facebook: Glorifying and Depressing

Technology tickles my fancy, especially with the prospect for newer and more innovative pieces that may be released because of current tech that is being developed. Now I won’t lie, during the construction of this whole article I was either humming or singing the Inspector Gadget song. I may just have to watch a couple episodes on YouTube now. GO. Gadget. GO!

Cheers to nostalgia!

Research:

CNET: Sleek Hot Watch Makes Hands-Free Calls With Style

CNET: Fitness Tracker As Futuristic Jewelry 

Wondergressive: Robotic Sense and Feel

Wondergressive: Biggest Wastes Of Money That We All Continue To Pay For: Part 1

Wondergressive: Facebook: Glorifying and Depressing

Homemade Coilgun Excites Sci-Fans, Frightens Politicians

Let the pearl clutching re-commence!

Several months ago a group called Defense Distributed made headlines by using 3-D printers to create high-capacity magazines for firearms. They then went one step further and created a weapon called The Liberator, the first operational 3-D printed gun. Predictably, the reaction from Washington was characterized by an intense desire to shut down or ban the new, as-of-yet uncontrolled technology.

I have frequently written about guns and many people’s irrational fear of them for Wondergressive, and I believe that Washington may soon have another aneurysm over the latest breakthrough in do-it-yourself frontier firearm technology.

The latest development comes from Jason Murray of Delta-V Engineering. He has designed a device that is sure to make sci-fi and military enthusiasts lustily drool in anticipation: A homemade gauss machine gun. Murray has posted the weapon’s specifications, schematics detailing its construction, and also explanations of the mathematics and engineering involved in constructing the device.

The fully automatic weapon, also known as a homemade coilgun, is named the CG-42. Coilguns operate by wrapping a series of electromagnets around the barrel and function similarly to railguns, another sci-fi staple. By sequentially activating these magnets, they pull a metal object along the barrel at considerable speeds, the exact velocity depending on the strength of the magnets themselves. According to Murray’s specs, the current CG-42 can shoot nail-like projectiles out of the barrel at a speed of 40.03 meters per second. Judging from the (incredibly badass) video below, this speed is probably not enough to kill a human being, but I still certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to donate my body for that experiment.

The sheer uncontrollability of 3-D guns was one of the factors that led to the bed-wetting from Washington. Whenever politicians discover something that they can’t regulate by current law, they almost universally either create new laws that allow them to, or rework and “reinterpret” old laws to the same end. A perfectly impotent example of this was the hysteria around Sudafed and other cold medicines that contained pseudo-ephedrine. Once lawmakers discovered that people could be using these drugs to create methamphetamine (a technique that—as Walter White has engrained in all of us— creates an INFERIOR product!), they created regulations that required buyers to be ID’d and to be put on a list so that officials could keep track of their potential meth-cook status…or to keep an accurate record of just how bad their allergies really are.

Expect the same treatment for Murray and his homemade badassery. However, this instance is quite beautiful because what can the politicians really do to quell people from creating things like this? Create a national registry of magnet owners?

I jest, but Washington has proven itself to have a perverted and profoundly deleterious view of the effects of their actions. In contrast to the famous proverb, the government proudly flaunts its own Bizarro World maxim: “If it ain’t workin’, don’t fix it.”

The consequences that would arise from regulations concerning 3-D printing or homemade gauss guns are eminently predictable, as regulations controlling popular things always have the same outcome. Banning alcohol led to black markets, increased gang violence, and inferior hooch that was inherently more dangerous than the original product. Ditto for the War on Drugs, which I maintain is a frontrunner (if not the outright Usain Bolt of contenders) for the worst and most damaging domestic policy since slavery.

Neither policy did anything to curb usage rates, nor will new ones suppress innovative and motivated people from creating homemade weapons. The trick to understanding the situation is to step back and look at the big picture. Rather than freak out about what a few rogue individuals can make in their garages, people should focus their concern on a government that continues to coercively erode the civil rights of all citizens, a government that sees every problem as a nail and the only tool on its belt is indiscriminate force.

More than anything else, Murray’s CG-42 is a testament to his skills as an engineer and fabricator. He says on his site that the gauss gun and other projects are “about making concepts from science fiction become reality.” I heartily applaud his creation and urge that he continues to explore the possibilities of ballistic science, as I equally enjoy both rad futuristic weapons and fundamentally pissing off politicians.

Having said that, I sadly predict that his work will likely blip on the Washington’s radar in the near-future. Hopefully the CG-42 won’t further tempt them to regulate things they can’t possibly understand or control, however, looking at their past record that seems to be excessively optimistic.

I hope that Murray doesn’t get a stern knock on his door from the Feds any time soon. Although to be fair, a knock would certainly be preferable compared to all the times when the state doesn’t even bother to do that.

 

*BONUS FUN: Here’s a video of the military testing a railgun in 2010.

Sources:

http://www.deltaveng.com/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/01/14/gunsmiths-3d-print-high-capacity-ammo-clips-to-thwart-proposed-gun-laws/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/05/05/meet-the-liberator-test-firing-the-worlds-first-fully-3d-printed-gun/

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/churning_senator_charles_schumer_aFG4KkMe1AQkorhTVKt3cJ

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2013/05/09/plans-for-3d-printed-gun-downloaded-100000-times-state-department-in-contact-with-defense-distributed/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidwhelan/2012/05/23/losing-the-war-on-meth-and-sudafed-at-the-same-time/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/01/17/another-casualty-of-the-paramilitary-state/

Oculus Rift and Omni Treadmill, Gaming of the Future!

Friends, Wondergressivers, Gamers. The future looks very bright for us all! 720p virtual reality bright. Oculus Rift and Omni Treadmill are paving the way for exciting future developments in games and virtual reality.

Both Oculus Rift and Omni Treadmill started on Kickstarter where the projects were eagerly accepted! The gaming community said YES and the projects exceeded the funding that the companies expected, allowing for the projects to fly into full development. I am getting ahead of myself though, let us explore each individual item before we begin to experience both together!

Related Article: 3D? Let’s Go One More! 4D!

Before we can begin to walk, let us open up our eyes and experience the world around us. Oculus Rift consists of virtual reality goggles that will bring high definition sight to your gamer eyes! Yes,they will open the door to that which we have dreamed of since we first played pong. It is finally coming, the gaming era we have all been waiting for. Although it is still in its beta (testing) stages, and mostly useful to developers, the Oculus Rift can be expected to fully open up the role playing world of Skyrim, enhance your first person shooter sensations when playing Call of Duty, and immerse you in your strategy as you micro manage your troops in Starcraft. Units misbehaving? Get up close and in their face as you dictate new commands. Characters need resurrecting? Finally a way to spot the corpse without trying to click on the pixel stuck between the mountain of characters destroyed in a raid. You know it well WoW players.

While still in development stages, it comes compatible with only a few games and is specifically dedicated to a computer. The price tag is set at $300 which isn’t too steep, but since it is still in developmental stages it may drop or rise depending on demand and how much more it is augmented.

Related Article: Substitutional Reality Helmet

Now that we are used to the light and we understand the world, let us begin crawling. Or rather, let’s skip the crawling and begin walking in virtual reality! Omni Treadmill helps take the virtual reality experience one step further by giving gamers the ability to not only percieve the virtual world, but also the ability to roam in it!

Let us suppose that you are playing a competitive first person shooter. Wouldn’t that shooter become more intense and more fun if you were able to walk and run in the game by the use of your feet rather than by the use of a gamepad? Of course it would! We gamers thrive off of the competitive edge, the rush of the kill streak, the rhythmic pulse of our heartbeats syncing up with the beat of the rat-tat-tat of our semi automatic as we spray and pray our bullets onto incoming bogies. A treadmill to release the intense rush and to fuel the competitive strategic play. Oh what fun!

What’s more, the developers behind this are very gaming community minded! I simply love developers like this. Their goals are to make the gaming world better, to create a new idea that will explode into a million other new ideas. Reference Omni’s motto:

The Omni is the first omni treadmill that is focused on the household consumer and achieves three objectives: being affordable to household consumers, fitting in a living room, and above all, enabling the user to walk freely and naturally, as he or she would in real life.

For $500 you can purchase the Omni Treadmill, packaged with the shoes, the belt, and hardware/software needed, all of which is set to be released March 2014.

For more on Omni, check out the video below! I am sure that this will one day be standing in my living room. I am willing to accumulate much debt for something like this!

 

Related Article: Augmented Reality Blows My Mind – Twice

What endless possibilities, what endless worlds to explore, what endless things to experience. And why not, there is a lot of good that can come from these developments as well! Terminal cancer patients can travel the world in their household, people in wheelchairs can walk again even if only virtually, and most importantly, those disabled may now have a chance to experience the world as others do! Apart from all the different benefits, it still is amazing and super exciting the direction the gaming world is heading in!

Cheers to the future!

Research:
Oculus Rift

Omni Treadmill

Kickstarter

Skyrim

Starcraft 2

Call of Duty

World of Warcraft

Wondergressive: Substitutional Reality Helmet

Wondergressive: 3D? Let’s Go One More! 4D!

Wondergressive: Augmented Reality Blows My Mind – Twice

Black Hole Spin Could Be Key in Understanding How Galaxies Expand

http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/black%20hole%20spin%20courtesy%20of%20nasa-jpl-caltech.jpg

Black Hole Spin

Scientists at Durham University (UK) have discovered a new way to measure the spin of ginormous black holes. According to the study, this could improve our understanding of how our galaxies are getting bigger; I have always wondered why a lot of the galaxies swirl and grow.  A team of astronomers found a black hole that is ten million times the size of our Sun in the center of a spiral galaxy that is about 500 million light years away from Earth. This black hole has been feeding off the materials in the disc of the galaxy which may explain its enormous size.

The data collected allowed the astronomers to measure the distance of the disc from the black hole. Distance depends on how fast the black hole’s spin is, a faster black hole’s spin pulls the disc closer, and by measuring the distance of the disc, they are able to predict the speed of the spin. The scientists agree that this could help in understanding how galaxies grow over a span of billions of years.

(Two New Blue Developments in Our Galaxy)

Almost all galaxies contain black holes. They shoot out extremely hot particles that prevent gases in the galaxy itself from cooling, therefore inhibiting the growth of new stars. The jets of energy that black holes shoot out could be linked to why black holes spin. Unless the matter is close to the black hole, it is difficult to measure spin, since the power of the black hole does not reach to further matter. The odd thing about black holes, according to Professor Chris Done, is that the black hole spin may affect the nature of the whole galaxy.

We know the black hole in the centre of each galaxy is linked to the galaxy as a whole, which is strange because black holes are tiny in relation to the size of a galaxy. This would be like something the size of a large boulder (10m), influencing something the size of the Earth.

When a black hole spins, it drags particles from the accretion disc. The more particles it drags, the faster it is able to spin. Measuring the distance between the two leads to the possibility of measuring a black hole’s spin.

(New Plausible Theory of Black Holes: Gateways to Other Universes)

 

Sources:

http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/224-news-2013/2320-capturing-black-hole-spin-could-further-understanding-of-galaxy-growth

http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accretion_disc

Wondergressive: Two New Blue Developments in Our Galaxy

Wondergressive: New Plausible Theory of Black Holes

Why Humans Have the Unique Ability to Learn New Words

 

Scientists have found a pathway in our brains that is responsible for the acquisition of new words, an ability unmatched by any other species; chimps coming in second place with a limit of no more than a hundred words. This could be exciting news for those who are polyglots or who are learning a new language for either travel, school, or the workplace.

The common notion is that we learn new words through hearing them first and then spitting them back out, in other words, input and output, or recognition and recall. Very little is known about what happens inside the brain itself within the intricate neural mechanisms.

https://i0.wp.com/thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_10/d_10_cr/d_10_cr_lan/d_10_cr_lan_1e.jpg

Researchers from King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry have been able to draw out the pathways in the brain which are activated when learning new words. What the researchers found was that a collection of nerve fibers called the arcuate fasciculus connect the auditory and motor regions and is responsible for our ability to articulate new words. Depending on how this region is developed, everybody’s ability to acquire new words and languages will vary.

Related Article: Neocortex: How Human Memory Works and How We Learn

The researchers have also concluded that this pathway does not exist in other species, and that it is unique to humans. Yes, chimps can learn new words, however, their vocabulary is limited to double digits on average. Also, consider how many species you know that are bilingual or trilingual? We are pretty awesome if you take that into consideration. This newfound research could have implications on how new words are taught in language courses across schools and how quickly we can discover language disorders in individuals.

Related Article: Rosetta Stone’s Possible False Claim

The study was composed of twenty-seven volunteers. The individuals’ brain structures were imaged before a word learning task and MRI was used to detect regions of the brain that were most active.

They found a strong relationship between the ability to remember words and the structure of arcuate fasciculus, which connects two brain areas: the territory of Wernicke, related to auditory language decoding, and Broca’s area, which coordinates the movements associated with speech and the language processing.

Participants who had higher success in learning new words had one thing in common: their arcuate fasciculus was more myelinated, which basically means that electrical signals moved more quickly back and forth than they did in other participants. You can think of it as a faster data transfer rate like (or unlike, depending on your provider) your internet.

All this means is that in order for our kids to learn new words and to continue to acquire new language skills, it is important that we speak to them orally rather than through text messages and Skype, unless you’re voice chatting that is.

Sources:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-07/kcl-sik072213.php

http://carta.anthropogeny.org/moca/topics/arcuate-fasciculus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myelin

Did You Know That Certain Plants Do Division?

Plants Do Division

Plants Do Division http://news.jic.ac.uk/

 

I thought that only humans can do arithmetic, but plants do division as well. I guess a brain with a neocortex is not required. New research shows that arabidopsis plants perform an arithmetic feat to know how to distribute stored energy during the night when there is no light, preventing starvation.

Plants get their energy from light through a process called photosynthesis. This involves breaking down carbon dioxide compounds into sugars. And we all know what awesome byproduct that gives us; oxygen! So during the day they store sugars, and during the night plants do division in order to distribute the sugars at a steady rate. This insight comes from new research done by the scientists at the John Innes Centre and found through the open access journal eLife.

It is vital that plants do division in order to be able to grow properly. Learning more about this process has some implications, such as possible plant hacking in order to achieve higher crop yields. This is already being done with GMOs.

Plants do division during night time. There are certain “mechanisms” in the leaves that measure how much of the starch is stored and how much time will pass until the sun rises. Plants also have a sort of an internal “biological clock” which allows them to guess when dawn will come. There are three clock genes that work together like a seesaw. When dawn comes, these genes instruct the plant to make two proteins, CCA1 and LHY. These proteins tell the plant that it is daytime. During the day these are destroyed, which allows for the third protein, TOC1, to be made. This tells the plant that it is night time. That last protein also tells the plant that it’s time to make the first two, so the whole process cycles again.

According to Professor Alison Smith,

the calculations are so precise so that plants prevent starvation but also make most efficient use of their food.

Using up the starch too fast will induce starvation, while using it up too slow will waste the unused starch. Scientists predict that there are two molecules that encode the information about how much starch is stored at a given time and time until dawn breaks. Let’s call these molecules S and T for the time being. The rate at which starch is consumed is set by the ratio of S molecules to T molecules. Because a ratio is actually a fancy way to say division, scientists are confident in the claim that plants are division experts.

Sources:

http://elife.elifesciences.org/content/2/e00669

http://news.jic.ac.uk/2013/06/plants-do-sums-to-get-through-the-night/

http://arabidopsis.info/InfoPages?template=arabidopsis;web_section=arabidopsis

http://www.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/research/webb/plantTime/clock.html