Fresh Air: The Natural, Three-Plant Air Purifying System

fresh air systems

Get fresh air from this three plant system

Fresh Air

In today’s growing world clean, fresh air is getting harder to come by. Due to booming populations and rapidly advancing technologies there is a plethora of products on the market to help make fresh air. However, these products have repeatedly been found to contain chemicals linked to adverse health effects. In a TED talk from 2009, Kamal Meattle explains how this problem was approached in his native homeland of India, where air pollution is among the highest in the world.



The TED talk states that he was able to produce clean fresh air for one human for a whole day with a combination of three plant types. The three plants he mentions are the Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus Lutescens) , the Mother-In-Law Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), and the Money plant (Epipremnum aureum).

fresh air


The Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus Lutescens)

This plant takes carbon dioxide and turns it back into oxygen. In addition to producing oxygen and lowering carbon dioxide levels, it also removes certain pollutants from the air helping to produce clean indoor fresh air. Meattle suggests that for one person four shoulder high plants are sufficient. The Areca palm grows well in filtered light and likes to be watered often. For more information on how to take care of the Areca Palm visit SFGate’s page on special care.

Related Article: The Ugly Face of Overpopulation



Sansevieria_trifasciata_cv_GoldenHahnii_pmMother-In-Law Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)

This is a very common household plant in America. Meattle calls it “The Bedroom Plant,” because it produces oxygen at night. It’s also known as the Snake Plant. It was discovered by NASA to remove Benzene from the air and works in great combination with the other two plants mentioned in Meattle’s TED talk. The Snake plant can sit in full sun light but also does well in dim light. It doesn’t need to be watered very often since it is part of the succulent family.

This is a good plant for the first time plant owner because of its heartiness. Meattle suggests that for one person, six to eight waist high plants are sufficient. OF course just one would help if you don’t want that many. Check out Amazon for a nice selection of starter plants.

WARNING: This plant has been declared toxic to cats and dogs by the ASPCA, so if you have animals that like to eat your indoor plants, please do be careful and place this plant away from them, or find an alternative plant to help you make fresh air.


fresh air from a vine plantMoney Plant (Epipremnum aureum)

While many plants colloquially claim the name “money plant,” this one is a native to the Eastern Hemisphere. If you plan on purchasing one of these make sure to check the scientific name to be sure you’re getting the correct one. This plant has been shown by NASA (along with many others) to remove chemicals and other pollutants from the air. In the trio suggested by Meattle in his TED talk, this one does most of the pollutant removal. This plant enjoys medium, indirect sun light and regular watering. For more information about care check Princeton’s care page. This plant can be propagated from cuttings, so check with friends to see if anyone has one; but of course there’s always Amazon.

WARNING: This plant has also been declared toxic to cats, dogs and children by the ASPCA, so if you have animals or children that like to eat your indoor plants, please do be careful and place this plant away from them, or find an alternative plant to help make fresh air.


Related Article: Smelling Calmness: Aromatherapy and Essential Oils



The Ugly Face of Overpopulation

No More Red: Charge Your Phone With Wi-Fi

TED Talk: Kamal Meattle: How to Grow Fresh Air

Smelling Calmness: Aromatherapy and Essential Oils


Power Posing Can Change Your World

High power pose
Photo Credit:

Power posing is a form of body language. With just two minutes in a confident, powerful stance one can change his or her attitude and the way he or she interacts with the world around them. In this TED talk Amy Cuddy discusses a research report from Psychological Science about power posing. In the study some subjects assumed a power pose for 2 minutes while others assumed passive or neutral poses. The subjects then went through a rigorous interview process to test their interactions. The research’s findings reports:

Humans and other animals express power through open, expansive postures, and they express powerlessness through closed, contractive postures.

These power relations are complimentary, with people naturally adjusting themselves during interactions so that one person assumes a more powerful role while the other person takes on a submissive role. The research shows that the subjects who assumed high-power stances acted more confident and relaxed during their stressful interview. The report states that:

High power pose
Photo Credit:

High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that.

Cuddy gives an intriguing talk about the science behind it and her personal story of pretending to belong until she realized one day she finally did. She says of the study:

Our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves. Our bodies change our minds.

This research could have amazing implications for people who lack the confidence to confront people and/or have discussions. Just two minutes of high-power posing is all that’s required to gain the confidence needed to approach a scary boss, a bossy mom, or that obstinate roommate. Be timid no more! Go forth and achieve your dreams; awaken the power that is already within you!




TED Talk- Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Amy Cuddy

Psychological Science- Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance

Working Knowledge- Power Posing: Fake It Until You Make It

Harvard Business Review- Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb

From Multi to Mono: The Greatness of Monotasking

For many years now, as technology has advanced, our habits as a society have shifted to accommodate multi-tasking—and this is something that is expected now. We might chuckle when older folks talk about our being plugged in all the time or how fast everything keeps being upgraded but for the most part, we shake our heads and think that they just haven’t gotten with the program yet. It seems like the natural thing to do, you have a tiny computer in your pocket and you’re wasting valuable time at a red light: why wouldn’t you check your texts? Heck, flagging isn’t just for books anymore!

We can call, cook, tweet and watch a slideshow of all the pictures we’ve ever taken all at the same time. We must be pretty close to figuring out how to be superpeople, right? Right? …Guys?

Turns out, science is shutting this party down. Productivity expert Julie Morgenstern (no, really, she’s written five six books) says in an interview by Forbes:

It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks, so you lose time. It takes four times longer to recognize new things so you’re not saving time; multitasking actually costs time. You also lose time because you often make mistakes. In addition, studies have shown that we have a much lower retention rate of what we learn when multitasking, which means you could have to redo the work or you may not do the next task well because you forgot the information you learned. Everyone’s complaining of memory issues these days—they’re symptoms of this multitasking epidemic.

That’s pretty condemning. There’s also the much-grieved etiquette argument. Incredibly enough, it’s slowly begun to be acceptable to dismiss the company of those around you in favor of others. I have had people answer calls while out at lunch with me, and, on occasion, I’ve done the same. Apologies are all good and well, but can these things really not wait at all? Paolo Cardini gives a brief TED talk on the subject of monotasking (his accent is rather heavy, it might take a few seconds to get used to, but it’s an endearing clip). He gives a personal example of how his judgment/concentration lapsed while grilling due to trying to do too much at once.

I’ll leave you with this final thought, which comes from Dr. Adam Gazzaley, who is the Director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at the University of California, San Francisco. He’s also an associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry at said institution. (This bit is from an NPR talk titled, Does Multitasking Lead to a More Productive Brain?:

Well, we’re learning a lot more. I think the advance of brain imaging and what we call functional brain imaging, seeing what your brain is doing while we challenge it, has really clarified a lot of what’s happening.

A lot of this has been suspect for a long time, but we’re learning a lot more of the details, and it certainly seems that our brains are not – you know, it’s becoming increasingly viewed that our brains are not highly adapted for multiple streams of information at the same time but rather focusing at a particular direction.

And we see that usually what happens when you demand great degrees of quality or of care […] what happens as opposed to actually doing two things at the same time, it seems that you switch between these things. And with each switch, there’s a cost, a cost in performance that occurs.

I’m going to go ahead and believe the man that requires two sentences of SCIENCE to describe what he does in any given day.


Do you take your cell phone in the bathroom? 75% of Americans admit to calling, texting on the toilet
Seinfeld: George’s Toilet Book
Julie Morgenstern Author Page
How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain (and Your Effectiveness at Work)
Paolo Cardini (TED Talk): Forget Multitasking, Try Monotasking
Does Multitasking Lead to a More Productive Brain?

Awareness and Dealing with Rejection

Raise Your Awareness

You are a buddha. Well… maybe not, but then again maybe we’re all on our way. In We Can Be Buddhas a TED talk by Bob Thurman he discusses how individuals can change their awareness. We must stop looking inward at our miseries and grow to understand others through compassion. He argues that in this way we can help to make ourselves happier too.

This is the strange paradox of life: when you’re no longer locked in yourself, and the wisdom or the intelligence, or the scientific knowledge, or the nature of the world, that enables you to let your mind spread out and empathize and enhance the basic human ability of empathizing and realizing that you are the other being. Somehow by that opening you can see the deeper nature of life…”

So let’s take a few minutes and raise our awareness about the world around us. I’ll give you a little fodder to help you along, but please take the time to explore your own feelings about this.

Human Interaction and Rejection

Everyone reading this article interacts with at least one other person everyday. Human interaction is an essential part of all our lives. We need each other, but how often do we think about the other person and what they’re going through? Human connections are important and through our desire for them we often reach out in unappreciated ways. On her blog a woman from LA talks about how men are constantly approaching her and though she politely turns them down she is constantly being called a variety of insulting names for it. And of course getting rejected, even in a polite way, is upsetting for anyone, but a negative reaction isn’t going to make it better. Unwanted advances and negative reactions to rejection are such a common occurrence that rejection hotlines (phone numbers you can give out to unwanted suitors) exist to help ease the awkwardness of the situation.

While this is definitely one way to handle situations like these, maybe we should start learning how to handle rejection without taking it so personally. Rejection is a healthy part of a successful life. Successful people experience more rejection than unsuccessful people. Many people who are successful don’t succeed on the first try, but they don’t stop at the first rejection. Rejection is natural and needed to grow.


How to Deal with Rejection

Johns Hopkins University says “Don’t get mad, get creative.” A recent study at the university shows that rejection breeds creativity. It also strengthens independence. So when you get rejected take that energy and do something creative with it. Rejection will continue to happen no matter what.  In 100 Days of Rejection, a TED talk by Jia Jiang, he talks about what rejection is and how we can learn from it. He says:

The higher you go the more you will get rejected.”

According to Jiang there is no way to avoid rejection and if you really want to get out there and do something great; rejection will be a part of your journey to greatness. So Jiang’s solution is to practice a real life game called Rejection Therapy™.

Rejection Therapy™ is the real life game with one rule. The game is designed for anyone who wants to build confidence and overcome fear of rejection.

The game is designed to have the players practice getting rejected to help overcome the emotions that go along with it. Jiang decided to try 100 days of the game and has had some interesting experiences so far. He’s been creative about what he’s trying to get rejected for and has been surprised at the things people have said yes to. For instance he once asked to play some soccer in a stranger’s back yard. The stranger was pretty enthusiastic about it and invited him in. Another great example happened at a Krispy Kreme donut. He asked the woman to make some donuts in the shape of the Olympic rings. She did it, and even gave the donuts to him on the house.

The game has limitless possibilities and can be played in any situation. After you are accustomed to being rejected about issues that matter less it’s not as hard to approach more personal matters. The game is a great way to practice rejection and the more you practice the more comfortable you’ll feel with it. Be careful, if you don’t get rejected it doesn’t count as playing the game. So, aim high and learn to deal with your rejections gracefully.

And if you want more advice head over to reddit to check out AlexanderTheCool’s advice on How to Handle Rejection like James Bond.


Rejection is always going to happen, but it’s not always personal. Use it, learn from it, grow from it; make yourself better.



TED Talk Bob Thurman We Can Be Buddhas

UNWINONA: I Debated Whether Or Not to Share This Story

Lotus Sutra 12: Girl Buddha

US Health News: Why Loneliness Is Bad for Your Health

American Psychological Association: The Pain of Social Rejection

Rejection Hotline

Online College: 50 Famously Successful People Who Failed at First

WikiHow: How to Handle Rejection

99u: How Rejection Breeds Creativity

Rejection Therapy

TED Talk: Jia Jiang 100 Days of Rejection

Johns Hopkins Don’t Get Mad, Get Creative: Social Rejection Can Fuel Imagination, JHUCarey Researcher Finds

Reddit: How to Handle Rejection Like James Bond

Why Don’t We Eat Insects?

The world population is huge! Not as big as it could be as I’ve recently been told… but it’s still pretty big. How are we feeding all these people? Well, we have the usual assortments of unhealthy meat, nutritious plants and other foods, but what about things like noisy grasshoppers? The effects of agriculture on our planet are immense and largely overlooked. Insects could be a viable answer. 

Here’s a great TED talk with Marcel Dicke talking about eating insects.

And why not? Scientific American has the low down on entomophagist David Gracer who says that

…a bowl of grasshoppers has more vitamins than beef and is lower in fat.

He also goes on to say that

Our disgust for insects is just cultural… Afterall we eat lobsters, which are arthropods, as are insects.

So now that I’ve tempted you, I’m sure you’re ready to try pick up some sour cream and onion flavored crickets from your local ethnic food store. Or maybe you’re ready to try some recipes. I’ve taken the liberty to find a few good recipes for you.

Here’s a site for all things bug recipe related based in Florida, USA.

And here’s a site dedicated to all insect recipes all the time… There is also a huge list of other places to find insect recipes at the bottom of this site’s page.

So dig in! and try to enjoy!



TED Talks- Marcel Dicke

David Gracer  via Scientific America

Florida Pest Control

Georgia College’s Insect Recipes


What Does Light Look Like?

bullet apple 2

Throughout history humans have tried to understand how the world around us works. It’s what humans are good at. We really only have two semi-unique attributes that have helped make us as successful as we are: a brain to examine the world and opposable thumbs to manipulate it to our advantage.

We study phenomena closely, and devise better ways of observing them, so we can recognize patterns and use new information to our advantage. The simplest and perhaps most profound example of this in human history is the development and advancement of agriculture. Starting from literally nothing, as agriculture is a decidedly foreign concept to mammals, over many generations and thousands of years, humans pieced together the information necessary to create an abundance of food, capable of sustaining billions of people. What environment do certain crops grow best in, how to till the land, when to plant, when to harvest, how to store and cure. As soon as these questions had adequate answers we thrived as a species, spreading out from our native Africa to literally ever corner of the globe.

An amazing new tool has been discovered to help further our knowledge of the world: Femto-photography. It’s an imaging system that takes a trillion frames per second. Because of it, we can now visually observe light. Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor at MIT, demonstrates the remarkable abilities of this new technology in this Ted Talk.

light slo mo

Femto-photography. It’s an imaging system that takes a trillion frames per second. Because of it, we can now visually observe light.

In Raskar’s demonstration, he discusses ways of utilizing this new observational tool. On the more mundane side, femto-photography can be used to determine the ripeness of fruit based on the way light scatters through it. He also mentions a more practical (and military grant enticing) use: the ability to see around corners. But to me, the raw discovery is what fascinates me, rather than the current or future ways to productively utilize such technology.

Humans began to understand the world in concentric circles. First we understood our immediate environment. Then we spread our knowledge to the unseen. The Greek mathematician Eratosthenes is said to have determined the circumference of the Earth with remarkable accuracy in the 3rd century BCE. Galileo and Copernicus helped us understand the Solar System. Einstein created the Theory of Relativity and described space-time. Innumerate others helped explain sub-atomic particles and quantum physics.

Now we have a way of looking at light itself.

I am thrilled for the future applications of this knowledge. I really am. But for right now, I think it’s important to simply sit back in our arm-chairs, let out a contented sigh, and take comfort in the ingenuity of humans. It’s inspiring and assuring to realize that the species can indeed, given time, accomplish anything if it puts its mind to it (to paraphrase Doc Brown).





3D Printing: The Next Revolution in Creativity

People sometimes mistakenly think that I’m an abject pessimist or even someone who actively finds joy in our oft-decrepit society. This could not be further from the truth. Despite America’s imperial overreach, a stagnant global economy and the encroaching police state (among other things that I indeed detest and fear), there are still myriad wonders all around us that point towards a future society that is more remarkable and liberating than anything the world has ever seen. The latest new technology that has got me all in a tizzy is one with near-boundless potential: 3D printing.

This fantastic development is a relatively new technological process that allows users to design objects that can then be “printed” into tangible, three-dimensional objects. Existing entities can also be scanned into a computer and replicated at will. These printers can make solid objects out of either composite plastic or metal (other mediums are also being explored), but the complexity of the fabrications are limited only by the imagination of the designer. (Size is also obviously a factor but that’s merely a problem of not having a big enough printer, rather than a limitation in the technology itself.)

Here is one of these amazing machines in action. I chose this vid because it’s short and very easy to see the process in action. As much as I love Yoda, this bust doesn’t begin to demonstrate the true potential of this technology.


Fascinating tech, this is.
Image Credit:

The complexity of some of the objects people have created is astonishing, as is the originality in their design. One of the more exciting things about these creations is how functional they can be. They can contain multiple moving parts that are printed in a fully completed state, with no assembly required. They can also be made strong enough to function as tools. In this NatGeo clip, a crescent wrench is scanned and recreated in a matter of hours. The pony-tailed host then uses it to tighten a bolt just as you would with a ‘standard’ wrench.



These creations can be as precisely intricate or as simple as the creator desires. This astonishing machine harnesses the wind and can walk along like some futuristic, 12-legged space spider.


sand beast

This thing will blow your mind.
Image Credit:


The designs can also be exceptionally subdued, such as Cobb’s totem from Inception. As happens naturally when the creative potential of humans is allowed to flourish, experimentation abounds and there truly is something for everyone in this frontier market.


Personally, I am quite drawn to this Möbius strip of the first level of Mario Bros., despite my being raised exclusively on Sega Genesis.

mobius mario

The creative process on display is a perfect example of how individualization and customization enhance our lives. Everywhere around us, our lives are constantly improving due to innovation and free markets. Amazon and Netflix have revolutionized how we consume media. Stem cells and other medical research are prolonging our lives. Smartphones, the ultimate all-in-one device, are constantly becoming cheaper, faster and more intelligent. There is plenty to be optimistic about when looking at these fantastic developments and the future fruits they will yield.

The spoilsport in me focuses on the most illiberal facets of society. The innovation and incredible experimentation in a field like 3D printing helps to illustrate how the worst aspects of our lives are things and institutions devoid of customization and individual control. Public education, health care systems, political and police corruption, military overreach, etc., are all failing institutions that are heavily centralized and largely outside public purview.

These institutions fail precisely because they are antiquated, top-down systems. They simply cannot compete in our largely liberal and diffuse world of information and talent. They only way they can compete with the spontaneous order of markets and collaborative efforts like Wikipedia is through brute force.

This technological movement is expanding into fields the government is fearful of. A chemist named Lee Cronin from the University of Glasgow has been able to print ibuprofen and wants to replicate other drugs. A group from Texas called Defense Distributed is attempting to design a printable firearm and has succeeded in producing gun components, most notably high-capacity magazines.

Predictably, the government is wary of such developments that would fundamentally undermine its presumed authority in controlling firearms and illicit substances. Congressman Steve Israel (NY-D) wants to include 3D-printed gun components in the Undetectable Firearms Act, which is up for reauthorization in December 2013. And although it’s fun to imagine the collective brains of Washington imploding from the shock, it’s difficult to fathom how severely the hammer of government retribution would strike if people could get around onerous drug laws with a simple ctrl+p command.

It's pretty much the exact same thing.

It’s pretty much the exact same thing.
Image Credit:

It is almost impossible to see how 3D printing won’t completely transform human society. Among its other sci-fi credentials, it has legitimate potential to fundamentally change the concept of scarcity, and in the future might eliminate the term entirely. It’s also eminently foreseeable that the government will attempt to control and curtail this technology, which politicians fear will make obsolete the type of authority they’ve grown accustomed to wielding.

The world is better off with individuals free to utilize technology to their benefit. Let’s just hope Washington realizes the detriments and futility of attempting to neuter such an impressive revolution in the way we live our lives. However, if history is any guide, I certainly wouldn’t bet on their quietly acquiescing to such dynamic transformational change.



Sources and Additional Resources:

Youtube: 3D Printing Time Lapse Photography – Yoda

Youtube: National Geographic Known Universe S03E06 Print Tools

Youtube: Super Mario Mobius Strip

CBS: Stanford Researchers Create HIV-Resistant Cells, May Lead To Gene Therapy

BBC: 3D printing: The desktop drugstore

Nature: Integrated 3D-printed reactionware for chemical synthesis and analysis

TED Talk- A 3D printer for molecules: Lee Cronin 

TED Talk- Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney






You Might be a Psychopath; Psychological Catch 22

In this TED talk from Jon Ronson the destruction of the field of psychology and strange answers to the psychopath test are discussed. Set to eerie music and unsettling visuals this talk is intriguing to say the least. It also brings up many important questions. Is the psychopath test a catch 22? Is everyone a psychopath?

Ronson says that Scientologists are trying to destroy psychology. Scientologists claim it is a pseudo-science that can’t be trusted. Their evidence? A man, Tony, who feigned insanity at his criminal trial to be placed in a lush cozy hospital for the mentally ill instead of jail. Their assertion is that he faked too well, and now can’t get out. It’s an incredibly insteresting look at mental illness and the abnormal behaviors of the human race.

“Tony said that it’s a lot harder to convince people that you’re sane than you’re crazy”

“You know they’re always looking for nonverbal cues to my mental state. But how do you sit in a sane way? How do you cross your legs in a sane way? It’s just impossible!” Tony says that one of the points on the psychopath check list is not feeling remorse, but if you say you feel regret and remorse, the psychologists claim you are being cunning and manipulative, which is another one of the points on the psychopath check list. He was caught in this catch 22 for fourteen years before the psychologists decided it was safe to release him into society, decidedly still a psychopath.

Ronson goes on to discuss capitalism and the characteristics presented in successful capitalists.

“The reason why is because capitalism at its most ruthless rewards psychopathic behavior. The lack of empathy, the glibness, cunning, manipulative. In fact capitalism perhaps at its most remorseless, is a physical manifestation of psychopathy.”

This video may get you worrying about your mental state, but I wouldn’t fret too much about it. All human behavior is relative.