Saturday, November 30, 2013

How Your Working Memory Makes Sense of The World

This post is on Psychologist Peter Doolittle's TED Talk, "How Your "Working Memory" Makes Sense of The World." If you'd like to watch the video yet are unable to view it above, click here.

Knowledge Nuggets:

Image from "Brain Leaders and Learners"

What is working memory?

Working memory is the part of consciousness that we're aware of. We can't turn it off. It's used to store immediate experiences along with a bits of knowledge taken from those moments. Working memory reaches back to grab things we stored earlier in long term memory to reach a current mundane goal.

Working memory allows us to do things like have a logical conversation, problem solve, think critically, or listen to someone speak and ask follow-up questions. When it fails, we forget things or get distracted and stop paying attention to what's important.

People with high memory capacity tend to be good story tellers, writers, and problem solvers. They also do well on tests and can reason at high levels.

To "test" someones working memory:
Say aloud five (non-related) words and ask them to remember them. Doolittle used "tree, highway, mirror, Saturn, electrode". Then ask the person to do three things. He used the following: Solve 23x8. Count to ten on one hand. Recite the last five letters of the alphabet (backwards). Typically, less than half of people remember the five words after this, or are in some range of remembering all, none, or a few of them.

How can we better remember information we're interested in?
Unless we do something with information, we can typically only remember four things for 10-20 seconds. To hold onto it we must process the immediate experience the moment it happens. You then need apply it to your life, process it, write it down, practice it, and/or talk to someone about it. Instead of applying it to old knowledge, wrap everything around the new knowledge, making new connections, making it meaningful. It's very helpful to think of it in images as well, as our brains are built for that.

Doolittle's take-home message: 
"What we process, we learn. If we don't process life, we're not living it. Live life."

My Thoughts:

If you're reading this blog, then you're likely the type that reads a lot of articles and subscribes to all sorts of knowledge bits. You may enjoy flooding your mind with information and learning everything you can. Thanks to the internet, there's an enormous amount of easy knowledge out there. If you're like me, you have fifteen or more tabs open with articles you've come across on social media that you're going to read later, and you honestly do. I thought this post may be a good one for those of you struggling to manage this flood of information. Below, in the "Further Reading section, there are even more tools linked to help (I realize my contribution to the "problem" of information overload here).

In the same light, this video seemed quite relevant as it's partly why I created Boiled Down. A good chunk of the reason was to share knowledge, something I enjoy, but I also know that I can listen to many interesting videos and forget what was said by the end of the day, or at least the end of the week. This bothers me. I've been one to keep a notebook by my side while reading to take down interesting bits of information that I'd like to remember, but I'm typically listening to videos while I get ready for work, when doing chores, or even driving if I have a good signal. These situations obviously aren't the best for jotting down knowledge nuggets. I can tell you with assurance that listening to the chosen videos at least twice, extracting the info given, understanding and writing the information, then boiling it down to a minimum has certainly made it all stick, exactly as Doolittle states. In creating a post for this blog, the info poured over and processed is mine to use for a good long time.

As a side note, my working memory must be fan-freaking-tastic. A week after I watched this video, I remembered three of the words, and two I was very close on. I probably "cheated" though. One of my majors in college was psychology, so I knew to use imagery, creating a single picture in my head that related each object to one another. It really does work, folks. Cheat away. I apparently have ADHD by the way, which should make my working memory kinda stink, but it generally doesn't. I suppose I've picked-up a lot of the strategies Doolittle stated in my college psychology classes so I don't suck so much. Usually. I'm still the absolute golden child for forgetting where I put things though. Stopping to make mental images of where you place items is really helpful, but I don't always remember to do that. In fact, soon I have to find the charger for the iPad I'm typing on. No clue at the moment where that may be. Wish me luck.

Further Reading: 

More Basic Information on Working Memory
How We Can Enhance Working Memory?
Working Memory Treatment for those with ADHD
Does Brain Training Really Work?

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Astronaut Mike Massimino on the film, "Gravity."

Popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson,  two-time veteran astronaut Mike Massimino, and comedian Chuck Nice answer listener questions, talk about what it's really like to be in space, and discuss the scientific inaccuracies in the film "Gravity". Gravity, the 3D film by  Alfonso CuarĂ³n, has globally become the highest grossing live action October film of all time. Tyson (quite hilariously) *tweeted about the inaccuracies in the film soon after its release, and caught much more attention for it than he expected. While Both Tyson and Massimino agree that the film got a lot right, Tyson uses his radio show, Star Talk Radio, to address these errors a bit further. Massimino's experiences in space are very instrumental in this discussion, as well as generally interesting.  

To listen to this show,  click here. I paraphrase and provide accurate information given by all parties to allow you to obtain the information faster than listening to the 45 minute show.They also talk fast at times, so reading this allows you to learn at your own speed, especially if not familair with physics.  What I have written is not often an exact transcription of what was stated.

Knowledge Nuggets: 

Tyson stated that there were a dozen or more inaccuracies in the film. Massimino and Tyson agree that the film was well grounded with accuracy; they got a lot of the science right.  Some liberties were taken as expected with a film, but because of how grounded it was, it actually merits being criticized. 

Massimino:  Two thumbs up for capturing the feel of what it's like to be in space. The tools used to repair the Hubble were also accurate.

If in a situation with debris etc, do you save the machine or save yourself?
Massimino: You save the telescope. There are other astronauts up there. Events like a micro-meteor impact are also practiced before you go in space. 

What was the most egregious thing about the movie? 
Massimino : The way they could go from place to place in space so easily with their little jet packs. They had to take some liberties to make the ISS (International Space Station) be right there. Also, for his last trip, there was a shuttle and crew in quarantine ready to rescue them, unlike in the film.   

Tyson: There is gravity in space. Astronauts, satellites, etc. are in orbit between the moon and earth, constantly falling towards earth. He used an example from Isaac Newton, a thought experiment about firing a canon from a mountain top. Fire it slowly and it will soon fall and hit the ground. The faster you fire it, the farther it will go. If you shoot it so fast that it goes all the way around the earth, it will hit you in the back of the head...but if you duck, (it doesn't hit anything), it will continue to orbit. It's going to keep going rather than hitting the ground because curvature of earth. To orbit is to be a continuously falling object, but the planet curves away from it so the object never hits the ground, even though the object tries. To orbit is to be in free fall, and when you're in free fall, you're weightless. 

Massimino: Weightlessness is fun (after the nausea passes). We kinda experience it on earth with some theme park rides or when you're driving and hit a big bump in road where your stomach comes up, or when you're floating in water (not on top) like a scuba diver, that buoyancy. Tyson also added that if you cut the cable on elevator and free fall, you'd be weightless.

Tyson provided a home experiment: puncture two holes in a tall cup, then fill with water. Notice that the hole at the bottom will have more pressure and water will come out farther away from the cup. Now hold the cup high as it spills out and let go of cup. The spigots turn off instantly and the water and cup are weightless. The water is in free fall so it doesn't know to come out.

Are astronauts constantly falling down at 17,500 mph? 
Tyson:  They're falling 17,000 mph sideways, not down, and because they're going so fast sideways, it means they're falling down towards earth at rate that it curves away from them. Also, the shuttle launch doesn't go up into space, most of energy is to give it horizontal speed. This is why the space shuttle rolls. They launch to the East because they pick up speed following earth's orbit.

Is the scene Bullock where uses a fire extinguisher to manuever around, accurate?
Tyson:  If your mass loses mass,  (holding the extinguisher, it becomes part of her mass), the extinguisher pushes mass out, so she must recoil. If she doesn't push the mass out through a line that connects to her her center of mass, she would start to  rotate. You must know how to aim it. He adds that even when you burp, you must recoil. 

Massimino: (on the fire extinguisher scene): She was being smart there. We have a smaller jet pack that shoots gas one way and a hand controller to direct it so you can maneuver and propel yourself.  

Does weightlessness have an affect  on cognitive functions?
Massimino: The brain tries to figure out what's going on. The inner ear/vestibular system tries to figure it out, which takes a couple days. Your brain says your body is still, but your eyes say what position you're in (floating around). As an example,  if you suddenly become weightless right now and you flip upside down, your brain says you're right side up, that the room is upside down, not you. Your orientation is all messed-up. Also, the distribution of your fluids get pooled to the upper extremities, so your head gets big. Your brain then thinks it has more water and you urinate more, giving you a higher risk of dehydration. Drinking lots of water is important, especially while the  body adjusts. None of this messes-up your intelligence.  

How do they not tear their suits sliding all over the place?
Massimino: You have to be very careful in space not to tear your space suit. My space glove tore on a space walk fixing Hubble. There was a weak point between the thumb and index finger as it needs to be a flexible area. The suit is seven thin layer in case it's penetrated with some impact. There's thin kevlar then a pressure layer, though no kevlar in the gloves. The final layer is pressure layer (a bladder). Once that's penetrated you have a pressure leak; your oxygen goes out and the pressure goes up.

How did they enter other spacecraft that should've been internally sealed?
Massimino: The doors open to the inside like an airplane and pressure keeps it locked. You can open the door if there's no pressure on the inside.  If it's a pressurized volume, if you can go in and take space suit off and live, like in the film, that won't work. That door wouldn't open. They took liberties with this in the film.

Tyson: Speaking of pressure, suction cups have nothing to do with suction. If you push a suction cup down and expel the air, there's nothing to balance the air pressure around it so the atmosphere sits on it at  15 lbs per square inch. The larger the suction cup size of course, the more pressure. That's why a suction cup will work on the ceiling or walls; atmospheric pressure works in all directions here at the base of the atmosphere. 

In the fire on the ISS there were small floating fireballs. Is this possible? If fire rises how does it work in zero gravity?
Massimino: We don't know exactly how it would happen as we've never had a real fire in space. Gravity helps fire rage, it's the fuel. A raging fire doesn't seem likely with a lack of fuel. It would just go out. Everything they have in space is also fireproof. We have fire extinguishers for a small localized fire and an electrical fire would be what we  would expect if there were one.

Tyson: In space, a candle will extinguish itself. 

Are they allowed to stay outside (on a space walk) until the reach the last 10% of their  oxygen as in the film?
Massimino: They wouldn't be out with less than an hour of reserve.

If we put a fat astronaut into space, how would their gravity affect earth?
It costs $10,000  per lb to put someone in orbit. Tax payers pay would pay much more, plus extra materials for a larger space suit, clothes, and food.

If you're lost in space, is there a suicide pill?
 Massimino: No 

Massimino, would you rather drift into space until you die or take a suicide pill?
Massimino: I would get every second out of it I could. No pill. 

Is it possible to launch a satellite capable of changing orbital altitudes instead of falling around the earth?
Tyson: Yes, you can change angle, height, altitude and re-enter the atmosphere, but only  if you have fuel.

Do astronauts get trained in breathing techniques to prolong oxygen if in trouble?
Massimino: We always take as shallow breaths as possible. If you take a full breath, you use more oxygen and breath out more c02, which uses-up the filter. 

My thoughts:

Having watched the fabulous film that is "Gravity" (widescreen, 3D, HD...only way to do it) and happening to read Tyson's amusing tweets about ten minutes after they came out, I was especially interested in this show. I could listen to Tyson talk about anything though. Really. Let him give a five hour lecture on today's weather around the world; I'll be captivated. Something about his charisma and manner of speaking just do it for me. So, anyhow, between that and wanting more information on how "real" the film was, he had me at hello with this radio show. I'd already spoken with an astrophysicist friend about it, but Tyson, and especially Massimino, discussed topics that we didn't get to...mostly because I wouldn't have even thought to ask the questions. I learned a lot by listening to this show again and again in order to understand and be able to paraphrase the info!

Also, if you haven't seen HUBBLE 3D  (2010) and get a chance, I recommend it highly. It's an absolutely enthralling documentary, especially in 3D.  I've watched it twice recently at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Massimino was one of the astronauts in the film and easily one of my personal favorites.

Further Reading:

Twitter Feeds:
Neil deGrasse Tyson @neiltyson
Mike Massimino @Astro_Mike 
Chuck Nice @chucknicecomic

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*Below are Tyson's Tweets after seeing the film

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Being Wrong

TED Talk from Kathleen Schulz, journalist and author of "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margins of Error".

This is just one video in a collection ofTED talks under the course, "Understanding Happiness" on iTunes U. I highly recommend this series if this is an area of interest for you.  

Knowledge Nuggets:

We do anything to avoid thinking that we may be wrong. We understand that human beings make mistakes, but not us. Personally, professionally, and as a culture, this is a major problem.

In our culture think that people who get stuff wrong (mistakes at work, the C+ kid) are lazy and stupid. If we realize (and admit) we're wrong, we tend to feel embarrassed and dumb. If we're wrong, we believe there's something wrong with us. If we decide to stick with our blind feeling of rightness, even when we're not, we can still feel safe and "smart". This view of success and intelligence equalling not being wrong or making mistakes turns us into perfectionists and over-achievers  (not so great for your health*). 

It's dangerous to cling and trust too much in the feelings of being right. Our feeling of rightness doesn't ever perfectly match what's really going on in the external world. Our thoughts and convictions don't perfectly reflect reality. Instead of stopping to examine ourselves and fix our mistakes, these convictions can lead to major personal, professional, global disasters. 

When people disagree with us, we assume they're ignorant, that they're just not smart enough to do the math and figure it out. If they actually are smart and have researched the same way we have, then they're just evil and have their own malevolent plans. We can't entertain another point of view or way of thinking if we're so afraid of being wrong. The thing is, we all see the world through different lenses. How can one person (you) always be "right"? 

To rediscover wonder (and hopefully avoid tragic errors), come out of that scared little bubble of rightness, of holding so close to your convictions, look around everyone around you, at the mystery of the Universe and say "I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong". Schulz says that "stepping outside of that feeling [of rightness] It's the single greatest moral, intellectual, creative leap you can make". St. Augestine also stated "Fallor ergo sum", which means "I err therefor I am". Life is rarely a sure thing. We're going to be wrong a lot. "We think this one thing will happen, then something else happens instead" [Schulz]. Accept it; admit your fallibility.

My Thoughts: 

First of all, if you have eighteen minutes, while you're cooking, folding laundry, driving, whatever, listen to this video. The powerful manner in which Schulz delivers this talk isn't reproducible in mere summary. 

As a perfectionist who's working to reform, I needed this message, and I guarantee many of you smarties reading this do too. I was certainly the college student who died inside with less than an A at the end of a semester, the mother who had to be perfect and never raise my voice or have an untidy house, and the one who had to win the argument because gosh darn it I'd done research knew what I was talking about! I've been proven wrong enough times for me to step back and re-evaluate the way I think. I'm not going to say it's been easy. 

For example, due to this weird almost sixth sense I have, I'm often right when it comes to people and judging character, even from a just a brief meeting or a photo. Saying no way to men on dating sites for example, is as easy as looking at their pictures. I can see insecurity, a cheater,  lack of intelligence, a heartbreaker, laziness, etc, often in just a person's face, no profile read needed. My uncanny senses have been proven right so many times that I'm completely certain of my judgements. But what about when I'm wrong? How do I even realize I'm wrong? And come on, I'm often so right! It's been proven again and again when I give in and stop being so picky and sit in my car waiting out all the wine I had to drink on a first date just to get through when my first instinct that the dude had terrible self-esteem or just a player, was dead on. Despite this, my friends think I'm kinda nuts for my seemingly very judgmental approach. Yet what if I ignore my warning bells about the guy whom I perceive as having evil in his eyes (yet seems so nice and fitting for me otherwise), we go on a date, and someone finds parts of me floating down the river the next morning? Clinging to rightness in politics or current events isn't as much of an issue. I tend to try to learn about each side before I make a decision, but, as for my personal life, I think I'm going to keep my stubborn rightness and chance growing old alone because my spidey-senses are so touchy about 95% of the men out there. I'll work on the other first-born child  perfectionisty stuff, but sometimes I'm okay with maybe being wrong.

In another vein, the important thing about mistakes, I believe, is really learning from them. This, to me, is the biggest reason to 'fess-up to the fact that you've messed-up, even if just to yourself. I tend to take everything that happens to me, good, bad, embarrassing, what have you,  and tweeze-out what I can in the form of lesson. If you're not thinking about your errors and simply brush them aside in an attempt to save your ego, you may likely continue in your "wrongness" over and over, and that, my friends, just sucks. In fact, it will probably make you want to cover it all up even more. Maybe then you really do become a fool. 

Further Reading: 

"Being Wrong" the book and website by Kathleen Schulz

Stuff that most of us believe that's actually quite wrong: Ten False Facts and Everyday Myths

These people are never, ever, ever wrong. Have someone like that in your life? Here's a fact sheet on Narcissists .

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Will We Miss?

Michael Stevens, Internet Personality for the YouTube channel, "VSauce"
Having trouble seeing the above video on your device? View it here.


In 1993 they began building a Time Pyramid in Germany (Zeitpyramide) that, upon completion, will consist of 120 concrete blocks. They're only adding one block every 10 years, so it won't be finished until 3183. 

The Chernobyl exclusion zone won't be safe for human activity until the year 22,000. Yes, you read that correctly!

In about a million years, stars Betelgeuse and Eta Carina will explode into super novas so brilliant that it will appear that there are two suns in the sky. 

The Andromeda Galaxy (visible in our night sky*) is 2.5 million light years away from us, but coming at us faster than a bullet (300 km a second). In about 3.75 billion years, Andromeda will collide with our  Milky Way Galaxy. There will be twice as many stars and our sky will be glowing bright with birth of new stars. After a couple billion years, the cores of the two galaxies will "be married in a bright glowing center" and renamed "Milkdromeda". Life on Earth will likely be unharmed. 

To see stellar photos of what this collision will likely look like, check out mins 2:56 - 4:46 on the video, or visit the NASA link** in "Further Reading".

Michael's Side notes:
In 2 billion years, Earth's oceans will be largely dried up.
In 3.75 billion years, conditions on Earth will be more like Venus due to our sun's warming.


Every year the moon moves 1 cm further away from Earth. Because of this, in 600 million years, solar eclipses will be impossible to view from Earth. 

Niagara Falls is going to disappear. In the year 52,000, the rocks of Niagara Falls will have eroded all the way to Lake Erie. The rocks at the top of the falls erode 1 ft  backwards every year.   

Granite erodes 1 in. per 10,000 years, so in the year 7 million, Mount Rushmore will be gone.

In 50-100 million years, Saturn will no longer have it's gorgeous rings.


Though we don't likely remember our conception or birth, we can find out what day we were likely conceived on and what movie and song were the most popular during that time (perhaps, as Michael says, playing a part in the creation of you) here:

You can find out what star's light/photons first left the star the month you were born with this site: 

My thoughts:

First, I'm really thinking that not being able to see some of the stuff we have now isn't a huge deal. Niagara Falls? Ehh. Maybe it's because I grew-up outside of Rochester, NY  and saw them a lot, but I could do without them. Solar eclipse? Yeah, pretty cool, but they rarely seem to happen anyhow. Saturn's rings? Those are pretty beautiful, but really, I only ever see the rings in photos anyhow, and I imagine those pictures will still be around somewhere in the future, so it's not like much would change for me. 

What I want oh so badly, even more than a life supply of Nutella or to grow old with my "true love", is to be around to catch a blip of what it will look like when Andromeda has collided and filled our sky with twice as many stars. I'd probably have even more trouble going to bed at night as I do now, not wanting to take my eyes off the brilliance of it all, but that's okay. I'm sure there'll be some perfectly safe pill you can pop to make-up sleep by then. 

So, suddenly being cryogenically frozen sounds kinda good...if it weren't for the fact that I'd be a blubbering idiot and some sort of weird dated species compared to the evolved humans, or whatever life will be dominating Earth at that time, that unfreeze me. Darn it. I'm all "FOMO", as Michael calls it. I have a complete Fear Of Missing Out. Wait, but the oceans will be all dried up and it's going to be hella hot and wierd here by then. I'm a huge fan of the ocean. Damn it. So...

So, instead, and in more of my style, I'll suppose I'll continue to go see as many lovely wonders of the world that I can, explore, hike, look up at night, and learn all I can about it all. I'll appreciate and find beauty in every little thing. That's all we can do I guess. And be a wee bit jealous of those folks who will be here about four billions years from now. 

What are your thoughts?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Do We Sleep?

Russell Foster, Circadian Neuroscientist. Video by TED.

Knowledge Nuggets:

Sleep Stats:

You spend 36% of your life your life asleep. If you live to age 90, you spend 32 of your years asleep.

Sleep, which used to be coveted and understood to bring happiness and  good health, is now (and perhaps since the invention of the light bulb) often seen as something unnecessary and only for the weak.

Adults currently average 6.5 hrs of sleep. We were getting 8 hrs in 1950.

Teenagers biologically require 9 hrs. of slumber, yet it's very common for them to now get only 5 hrs.   Their body clocks are also designed for them to stay up later and rise later

Why You Should Bother Sleeping:

We have genes associated with restoration which are only turned on during sleep.

The ability to learn a task when sleep deprived is greatly reduced.

Finding novel solutions to complex problems is enhanced threefold by a good night of sleep.

Lack of sleep's affect on everyday behavior = Poor memory, increased impulsiveness and poor judgment.

Sleep deprived individuals have sustained stress. This causes suppressed immunity and increased risk for both diabetes and cardiovascular disease

Getting 5 hrs or less every night gives you a 50% likelihood of being obese, as being tired increases your craving for sugary carbohydrates.

Still Not Convinced?: 

31% of people will fall asleep once while driving in the Unites States. 100,000 accidents are attributed to tiredness and falling asleep every year.

Chernobyl and the Challenger disasters have both been found to be at least partly due to sleep deprivation. "Poor judgement due to extended shift work, and loss of vigilance and tiredness was attributed to a large chunk of those disasters."

Many use caffeine, nicotine and/or drugs to stay awake, then, too amped-up to sleep, use alcohol to sedate themselves. The problem is, alcohol harms neuroprocessing for memory processing and memory recall during sleep, so don't make it a habit..

How to Get Better Sleep:

Make your bedroom cool and as dark as possible. Reduce you light exposure at least half an hour before you go to bed, including screens. Use caffeine only in the morning. Seek out light exposure in the morning to appropriately set your body clock.

Some people need more or less than 8 hrs. Listen to yourself. Also, your need for sleep doesn't go down as you age. sleep is just more fragmented and difficult.

Current Findings in Sleep Research:

Mental health (or illness) and sleep disruption are physically linked in the brain. Sleep difficulties precede certain types of mental illness and sleep deprivation makes mental illness worse. It's hopeful that sleep disruption can be spotted and used for early intervention. It's thought that if sleep can be stabilized, it may alleviate some of the mental illness symptoms.

My thoughts:

Okay, so I suppose this sleep thing that I've avoided for years is kind of important. This post is half trying to convince myself to quit my "I'm fine on five hours of sleep" mantra, because honestly, it isn't even true anymore, but I can't seem to stop "getting stuff done" or "working on projects" and lay down and shut my pretty little eyes. What a waste of precious time! I'm a single mother! My free time is uber valuable! I'll never finish my to-do and want-to-do list before I die! YOLO! [Okay, I've never once typed YOLO until now, really, but it seemed like an appropriate next step in my rant).

If I'm again honest with myself, I'd admit that all the things I stay up trying to do I'm not doing very well. I can't even focus long enough to get started on something much of the time. I don't know what I spend so much of my time on. Browsing Facebook for the tenth time in an hour? Wandering around my apartment trying to remember what I needed to do? Reading articles that I wouldn't likely even remember later. I even considered buying Adderall from a friend recently as I figured my ADHD was just really firing-up (along with my frustration for being completely worthless as far as my goals). I  admitted that if I got more sleep I'd be better focused naturally, but I was unwilling to do it. Stubborn stupidity. I mean honestly. I almost became a criminal to avoid sleep. Hello, low point.

A question that arose for me while watching this video was around sleep in cultures where technology isn't rampant, or even available. I'm not readily finding stats to answer this, though I imagine that those without such savvy distractions aren't literally sending themselves to early graves due to a lack of sleep as often. Being smarter about our technology isn't a new idea, but this certainly points a direct eye at some of our stupidity.

And on that note, I'm turning off this screen, meditating in a dim room and heading to bed a bit earlier than 12:30 a.m. Time to at least try to start some new habits. After I wash the dishes and make lunch for tomorrow and respond to emails and see what my friends are up to on Facebook and text back all the people I've ignored while writing this. Damn it. Tomorrow. I swear.

Further Reading:

Recent findings linking sleep deprivation to Alzheimer's and more: (Oct 2013):
Brains Sweep Themselves Clean of Toxins During Sleep

Alternative Sleep Cycles

Monday, October 21, 2013

How Much Does a Shadow Weigh?

Michael Stevens, Internet Personality for the YouTube Channel, "Vsauce"

Knowledge Nuggets:

Light's energy pushes on objects, making them weigh mere fractions more (half a billionth of a kilogram per square inch). For example, the city of Chicago weighs 300 lbs more on a sunny day and you weigh a bit more with the lights on than when the lights are off.

Pete Lawrence has found that Venus casts a visible shadow on Earth, otherwise termed a "Venusian Shadow". 

The speed of light is slightly slowed when it travels through a medium such as air or your eye, the speed varying depending on the material it must go through. 

You can only move an object as fast as the speed of sound (761 mph). The speed of push is not as instant as it seems, as it travels through the object via compression waves. For example, if you built a board long enough to reach an object a light year away, it would take 900,000 years for the board to reach the object. 

My thoughts: 

This was the first Vsauce video that I had encountered after my three year old asked me about negative weight. This was what we found on YouTube in a search for answers. We still haven't found a definite answer to the original question, but we became instant subscribers and lovers of this channel. I don't have a great deal of knowledge around the subject of physics (though I enjoy learning), so any personal reflection here is pretty out of the question.

Further Reading: 

NASA scientists working to break the speed of sound: Faster Than The Speed of Sound?

Pete Lawrence's journey to discover a Venusian Shadow: In Search of the Venusian Shadow

Information on light-years: How Far is a Light Year?

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Your Time Bending Brain

Video by Neuroscientist David Eagleman, Director of the Labaratory for Perception and Action at The Baylor College of Medicine

Knowledge Nugget:

Time seems to move more slowly when you're in a life-threatening situation, but this isn't actually the case. The events of this type of situation are (hopefully) so unique to your brain that it wrote down a good deal of footage for the event. This means that when you replay the moment in your head, there are more details, making it seem like it lasted longer than commonplace memories do.

My Thoughts:

It makes sense that this would also apply to the feeling that time moves more quickly as we age. When we're younger, so many events within each day can be brand new to us. Our brain is so busy learning and experiencing mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally. As we age, we've kinda been there already. Other than unique life events such as a sparlking new relationship, the birth of a new baby, the start of an exciting new career, or a host of negative life crisis such as death and divorce, life generally becomes routine. Many humans wake to complete the same familair steps, go to work, do their jobs, and come home to exhaust the same chores. We can drive to work and upon arriving, not even remember doing so. There isn't a lot of novelty for the brain to write down in mundane adult life.

This then makes me curious about those whose jobs vary each day, who research and work on larger ideas, or those who choose to get out into the world to explore and try new things more frequently, breaking from the everyday monotony. These more adventerous people, from my experience, tend to more joyful, positive human beings. Could part of the key to happiness be breaking from the everyday normal? Children seem much more joyful than your typical adult. This could easily be for several reasons, but I wonder if you could hold onto  some of that child-like mind by creating newness? Could simply entertaining new ideas, continual learning, and exploring new places generate gleeful traction in the human mind?

Further Reading:

Book: Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes Our Past

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