Friday, July 27, 2012

Lucid Dreaming Providing More Insights

Flying is a frequent occurrence in lucid dreams.

People who can deliberately control their dreams during sleep ~ known as “lucid dreamers” ~ might offer insight into the self-reflection capabilities of the mind.

According to
It is difficult to get a full picture of what goes on in the brain when we make the transition from sleep to wakefulness. In fact, the specific areas of the brain underlying our restored self-perception and consciousness when we wake up have eluded scientists, according to a statement by the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry. 
But a team of researchers was able to get a picture of that isolated activity in lucid dreamers.  
"In a normal dream, we have a very basal consciousness, we experience perceptions and emotions but we are not aware that we are only dreaming,” study researcher Martin Dresler, of Max Planck, said in a statement. "It's only in a lucid dream that the dreamer gets a meta-insight into his or her state."
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans, the team compared the activity of the brain during one of these lucid-dreaming periods with the activity just beforehand in a normal dream. The results showed that a specific cortical network is activated when lucid consciousness is attained.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Key Myths Have Links to Real-World Society

Beowulf slaying his foe.
Ancient myths including Beowulf, Homer’s Illiad and the traditional Irish poem Táin Bó Cuailnge likely are based on real communities and people, according to researchers who compared the complex web of the characters’ relationships with the type of social networks occurring in real life.

Scientists at Coventry University calculated characters’ popularity based on how many relationships they had with other characters and whether they were friends or enemies. Then they examined the overall dynamic between the cast as a whole.

According to the The Telegraph:
Their results, published in the journal Europhysics Letters, showed that the societies depicted in the stories strongly mirrored real social networks of company directors, film actors and scientists which had been mapped out by other academics.

In contrast they found that four works known to be entirely fictional ~ Shakespeare's Richard III, Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment of Rowling's Harry Potter series and Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo ~ contained telltale signs of being fictional.
"In the myths but also in real social networks, you tend to have sub-communities who do not know anybody else," says Pádraig Mac Carron, co-author of the report. "In fiction, everyone tends to be completely connected with each other."
"In reality you also have popular people with hundreds of friends, then a few people with maybe 70, and a lot of people with a lot less friends," he adds. "But [in fiction] you get a lot of characters who have the same number of friends. Almost everyone that Harry Potter knows and interacts with also meets and interacts with Ron and Hermione, for example."
Click here for the article.
Small photo shows Page 1 of Beowulf.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Strange Object May Be Nazi Anti-Sub Device

Sonar image of the underseas device.

A ‘UFO-shaped' object in the Baltic sea might be a Nazi anti-submarine device lost beneath the waves since the end of the Second World War. Sonar scans have shown that the device ~ measuring 200-by-25 feet ~ could be a weapon built of wire mesh to baffle submarine radar.

The huge steel-and-concrete structure could be one of the most important historical finds in years, experts say.

According to the Daily Mail:
Such a device could cause submarines to crash, much in the same way as turning out a lighthouse could be used as a weapon against shipping. Former Swedish naval officer and WWII expert Anders Autellus believes the structure may have blocked British and Russian submarine movements in the area.  
“The area was vital to the German war machine because most of the ball bearings for its tanks and trucks came from here. Without them the German army would have ground to a halt,” explained one expert. “This device dwarfs anything ever found before and is an important weapons discovery.”
While the Ocean Explorer team is understandably excited about their potentially earth-shattering find, others are slightly more skeptical and are questioning the accuracy of the sonar technology.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Possible Ending to a Long Scientific Search

A section of CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

Leading physicists are saying it’s still too soon to know whether CERN’s newly discovered subatomic particle fits the description given by the Standard Model ~ the theory that has ruled physics for the last half-century ~ or whether it is an impostor, a single particle, or even the first of many particles yet to be discovered.

According to today's New York Times, CERN Director Rolf-Dieter Heuer’s exclamation earlier today of, “I think we have it,” signaled what is probably the beginning of the end for one of the longest, most expensive searches in the history of science. If scientists are lucky, the Times contends, the discovery could lead to a new understanding of how the universe began.
Confirmation of the Higgs boson or something very much like it would constitute a rendezvous with destiny for a generation of physicists who have believed in the boson for half a century without ever seeing it. And it affirms a grand view of a universe ruled by simple and elegant and symmetrical laws, but in which everything interesting in it, like ourselves, is a result of flaws or breaks in that symmetry.  
According to the Standard Model, which has ruled physics for 40 years, the Higgs boson is the only visible and particular manifestation of an invisible force field, a cosmic molasses that permeates space and imbues elementary particles that would otherwise be massless with mass. Particles wading through it would gain heft.  
Without this Higgs field, as it is known, or something like it, physicists say all the elementary forms of matter would zoom around at the speed of light, flowing through our hands like moonlight. There would be neither atoms nor life. Physicists said that they would probably be studying the new Higgs particle for years. 
Any deviations from the simplest version of the boson — and there are hints of some already — could open a gateway to new phenomena and deeper theories that answer questions left hanging by the Standard Model: What, for example, is the dark matter that provides the gravitational scaffolding of galaxies? And why is the universe made of matter instead of antimatter?
 For now, some physicists are calling it a “Higgslike” particle. “It’s great to discover a new particle, but you have find out what its properties are,” said John Ellis, a theorist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.