Sunday, September 26, 2010

Study Shows Meditation Improves Attention Span

Ancient mandala with meditation symbols.

Inspired by Buddhist meditation techniques, researchers have determined that meditation improves people’s attention span and in distinguishing small differences in what they are viewing.

The recent study involved selecting 60 participants, then sending half of them to a meditation retreat while the rest waited their turn ~ and essentially functioned as the control group. All 60 were experienced meditators. The retreat for the study lasted about three months.

According to ScienceDaily:
At three points during the retreat, participants took a test on a computer to measure how well they could make fine visual distinctions and sustain visual attention. They watched a screen intently as lines flashed on it; most were of the same length, but every now and then a shorter one would appear, and the volunteer had to click the mouse in response. 
Participants got better at discriminating the short lines as the training went on. This improvement in perception made it easier to sustain attention, so they also improved their task performance over a long period of time. This improvement persisted five months after the retreat, particularly for people who continued to meditate every day. The task lasted 30 minutes and was very demanding. 
"Because this task is so boring and yet is also very neutral, it’s kind of a perfect index of meditation training," Katherine MacLean of the University of California and one of the authors of the study, told ScienceDaily. "People may think meditation is something that makes you feel good and going on a meditation retreat is like going on vacation, and you get to be at peace with yourself. That's what people think until they try it. Then you realize how challenging it is to just sit and observe something without being distracted."

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Earth's Volcanic Sites Reveal Planetary Pulse

Scientists are theorizing that several volcanic hot spots may be Earth’s planetary pulses, beating at a rate of five to 10 million years. Researchers in Norway, Hawaii and Australia suggest that the regular fluctuations originate in the Earth’s core, travel up through the mantle and create eruptions on the planet’s surface.

According to Discovery News:
Among the most famous hot spots are Hawaii, Yellowstone and Iceland. All of these sites have long histories of eruptive pulses that have burned through the slowly moving crust above like a cutting torch -- leaving a long, telltale wake of dead volcanoes made of progressively older rocks.
This is in contrast to other sorts of volcanoes, which are caused by shallower things, like one tectonic plate being shoved under another, then melting.
“Hot spots remain some of the greatest enigmas in earth science,” commented geologist Mike Coffin of the University of Tasmania, Australia. “Plate tectonic theory does not explain them.”
Some of these hot spots have been linked to vast eruptions that, in turn, are suspected of affecting some of the greatest mass extinctions in the history of life on Earth.

Click here for the Discovery News article.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Robert Walter, Joseph Campbell Foundation

Robert Walter, president of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, talks about the consciousness-jarring impact of visions. In an elevated state of consciousness, these events can be spiritual blessings. But when we return to the mundane state, they can be negative. Sublimating them has led, Walter says, to creation of much of our mythology, literature, and religious teachings.

Götterdämmerung & Propaganda

I admit to seriously mixed feelings of fascination and revulsion when I watch this 8-minute 1941 German film entitled Stukas. Richard Wagner is among my Top Five favorite composers and here we see the remarkable curative strength of music, specifically from his 1876 Ring-cycle opera Götterdämmerung.

Trouble is, the miraculously cured patient in the film is a clinically depressed Nazi pilot who is hospitalized and then hears the soaring strains of Wagner’s music. The pilot is miraculously rejuvenated, rejoins his cheering squadron and takes to the air again to continue the Reich’s merciless bombing of Britain.

This clip’s Götterdämmerung music is worthy here, but I offer Stukas more as a clear example of how propaganda is structured and the type of story it tells. We live in an age where the propaganda is subtler, but it’s undeniably present, especially on some cable networks. Beware.

Thanks to Alex Ross, author of the excellent book The Rest is Noise, who earlier posted this film on his blog at 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New Evidence Indicates Rapid Pole Shift

Just before we entered the new millennium in 2000, a flurry of books touted the apocalyptic prediction of a “pole shift,” where Earth’s magnetic pole would move from north to south with untold catastrophic damage. Originally discredited by most people as an outlandish scare tactic devised to sell books, the concept of shifting magnetic poles seems now to have much more scientific credence ~ though the pace is different and the effects not necessarily so dire.

Not only do pole shifts actually occur, but they happen rapidly in a geomagnetic sense, as new geological findings near Battle Mountain, Nevada, show. The new discovery reinforces similar findings in 1995 at the Steens Mountains in southeastern Oregon.

Describing the new Nevada find, Science News states:
Magnetic minerals in 15-million-year-old rocks appear to preserve a moment when the magnetic north pole was rapidly on its way to becoming the south pole, and vice versa. Such ‘geomagnetic field reversals’ occur every couple hundred thousand years, normally taking about 4,000 years to make the change. The Nevada rocks suggest that this particular switch happened at a remarkably fast clip.
The Nevada find indicates the magnetic pole shift occurs at about one degree a week, while the Oregon evidence indicates up to six degrees a day.
Researchers aren’t sure why the geomagnetic field reverses itself. Many think it must have something to do with what creates the field in the first place ~ convective motions of liquid iron in the planet’s spinning outer core.
The last stable reversal occurred 780,000 years ago, according to Science News. Some geologists argue Earth is overdue for a reversal and might even be entering one now, as the geomagnetic field has been getting weaker over the past 150 years or more.

Click here for the complete Science News article.