Lucid dream movements translate from real life

Whether we’re falling or flying, dancing or driving, moving in our dreams feels very real to us at the time. And our brains, it seems, agree. By imaging the brains of sleeping subjects, researchers have found that when we move in our dreams, our brains fire in the same pattern as when we move in the real world.

Because we tend to forget our dreams as soon as we wake up, researchers know little about how our minds create them. Neuroscientists Martin Dresler and Michael Czisch, both of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, and their colleagues wanted to find a way to use brain-imaging techniques to watch what people were doing in their dreams. To interpret these images of the dreaming brain, however, they would first have to know how the brain looks when it is performing a certain task in the dream — a difficult challenge because most dreamers can’t control what they’re doing.

Very rarely, however, dreamers experience a phenomenon known as lucid dreaming, in which a sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming and has some level of control over actions in the dream. “About half of people have had a lucid dream, Dresler says, but “very few have them on a regular basis.” Certain people can learn to dream lucidly more often. The training involves techniques such as writing down dreams and committing to remember that you’re dreaming when you see a certain theme, such as a flying cow…

Dresler and Czisch recruited six people who had been trained in lucid dreaming, instructed them to dream that they were clenching either their left or their right hand, and then let them fall asleep in a brain scanner…Only two of the subjects were able to have lucid dreams in the noisy scanners. But in each of them, one in fMRI and one in NIRS, the researchers saw the area of the motor cortex that controls the left hand light up in the same way as in someone who was awake. The subjects were able to perform the task in two different dreams each…That suggests that “dreams are not just represented as a visual scene” like watching a movie, Dresler says, but involve the whole body…

It’s a very impressive work,” Daniel Erlacher says, particularly given the difficulty of getting someone to dream lucidly in a noisy scanner. To strengthen their findings, the authors plan to recruit more lucid dreamers to determine whether the brain responds similarly in everyone. And they hope to find out what happens when their dreamers perform more complex tasks such as walking, speaking, or even flying, which would help researchers interpret dreams and understand how and why the mind creates them.

Bravo! I know it’s self-evident; but, the more we know about how the brain processes information, decisions – the more we know about ourselves as individuals.

E-readers get heavier with each book – WTF?

E-readers are meant to let bookworms carry their entire libraries with them without any additional weight – but the devices actually get heavier every time a new text is downloaded.

The weight difference is unlikely to make much difference to holidaymakers’ baggage allowances, however, because each new tome is about as heavy as a single molecule of DNA. Filling a 4GB Kindle to its storage limit would increase its weight by a billionth of a billionth of a gram

Prof John Kubiatowicz a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, explained…that storing new data involves holding electrons in a fixed place in the device’s memory.

Although the electrons were already present, keeping them still rather than allowing them to float around takes up extra energy – about a billionth of a microjoule per bit of data.

Using Einstein’s E=mc² formula, which states that energy and mass are directly related, Prof Kubiatowicz calculated that filling a 4GB Kindle to its storage limit would increase its weight by a billionth of a billionth of a gram, or 0.000000000000000001g…

E-readers could also become slightly heavier in the summer, because they would take on more energy from their exposure to sunlight, scientists explained.

Graeme Ackland, of Edinburgh University, told the Guardian: “If Prof Kubiatowicz is really struggling with the extra weight, he is welcome to come to Edinburgh where it’s cooler, and the lack of thermal energy in his Kindle will more than compensate.”

Of course, if we’re going to make comparisons based on geography we should compensate for weight differences between, say, Edinburgh – which probably could grow mildew on stainless steel – and my neck of the prairie with a current annual rainfall less than 7 or 8 inches.

Some of those water molecules may prefer to attach themselves to some plot lines rather than others. 🙂

As the population boom declines, remember to thank women


Not anymore, man!

This week the world will reach 7 billion people. Understandably that raises concern about a soaring world population. But there is a good news story from the demographic data that is not often told. We — or rather the poor women of the world — are defusing the population bomb.

Women today are having half as many children as their mothers and grandmothers. The global average is now down to 2.5 children per woman, and it continues to fall.

This is not just a rich-world phenomenon. Much of Asia now has fertility rates below two, from Japan and Korea to China, with its one-child policy, through Taiwan, Vietnam, Burma, Singapore and much of southern India and parts of the Middle East. Behind the veil, the women of Iran have cut their fertility from eight to less than two in a generation…

Falling fertility happens faster if countries get richer and if women are better educated. Similarly urbanization helps a lot. While even young children can be an economic asset on an African peasant farm, they are an economic liability in cities, where they require education before they can get a job. The teeming megacities of the poor world may look like symbols of overpopulation, but they are part of the solution, too.

But the real story is that rich or poor, Muslim or Catholic, secular or devout, socialist or capitalist, with tough government birth control policies or none, most countries tell the same story. Small families are becoming the new norm…

…We are, I believe, likely to see “peak population” by about mid-century. Perhaps at around 9 billion people.

After that, on current trends of fertility falling to below replacement levels, we will see a falling world population.
And rapid aging. With longer life expectancy and fewer babies, this is all but inevitable. China will soon be aging faster than anywhere on Earth. Aging is set to be the dominant demographic phenomenon of the 21st century, just as the population boom dominated the 20th century.

Pearce makes a couple of eloquent points – among them that the Arab Spring wouldn’t have been as likely if North African families were still stuck into the numbers of a few decades ago. Everyone would have been spending twice as much time trying to earn enough to feed the whole family. Fewer hours working – more time to contribute a voice to questions of social justice.

He finishes with questions of consumption as more serious than population. Laying the responsibility for action on rich nations. And to some extent I agree. Though living here in the GOUSA we tend to forget the rest of the world hasn’t been caught up in the absurd consumption society that has defined the United States since WW2.

And, please – remember to thank women for reducing the population burden. I doubt if the number of men who can think that far ahead match the number of sensible women. Men, after all, don’t get pregnant.

GOP wants to pass bill to guarantee we Trust In the Right God

House Republicans are trying to pass a resolution to reaffirm that “In God We Trust” is the national motto of the United States.

The proposed resolution, sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., is aimed at “supporting and encouraging the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions.”

That’s been estimated at a $90 billion tab.

Republicans argue the resolution, to go to a vote Tuesday, would help reverse what they see as an informal effort to remove mention of God from public buildings, The Hill reported…

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee argued that the resolution is a waste of time [and money] better spent working on problems such as high unemployment and budget deficits.

“Instead of addressing any of these critical issues, and instead of working to help American families keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables, we are debating whether or not to affirm and proliferate a motto that was adopted in 1956 and that is not imperiled in any respect,” they wrote in a committee report.

We went through this sillyass resolution in the peak of Cold War, McCarthyite fear-mongering. Democrats caved before the usual Republican ideology of “anyone opposing this bill is Godless and unAmerican”.

Nowadays, there are many more Americans coming to the conclusion they manage to be ungodless and American at the same time. More important, separation of church and state becomes more important as Kool Aid Party fanatics and the twinkie Republican Party try to institute some sort of looney official national Christian religion.

Denmark welcomes China as permanent observer at Arctic Council

China has legitimate economic interests in the Arctic, Denmark’s ambassador said on Friday, welcoming partnership with Beijing in the rapidly thawing polar region but adding that a possible resource rush would come with obligations.

With climate change linked to melting ice caps in the Arctic, the prospect of untapped hydrocarbons, fishing grounds and new summer shipping lanes has whetted China’s appetite for polar research and exploration capabilities.

China doesn’t have any Arctic coastline, like Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States, but it will be keen to cooperate with those countries and have access to the process of designing any new rules at the pole.

China has “natural and legitimate economic and scientific interests in the Arctic“, Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen told a group of journalists, adding that Denmark and other nations welcome China as a permanent observer in the Arctic Council…

China has applied to become a permanent observer in the forum — a role that would not give it voting rights like the eight member states — but the application is still pending…

The Arctic is thought to hold more than 10 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas reserves, and large mineral deposits. Most known resources there lie within countries’ exclusive economic zones, an area 200 nautical miles within their coastlines…

Resources aside, access to shortened shipping passages could be critical for China, the world’s top exporter…

China is planning three Arctic research expeditions from 2011 to 2015, Chinese state media have said. It also plans to build a new 8,000-tonne icebreaker for launch by 2013, a companion to its current Ukrainian-built vessel, Xuelong or Snow Dragon.

Solid basic science came from China’s previous and existing Antarctic expeditions, research stations. Frankly, I think the most sense would be made from an alliance between Canada and China. The former has the 2nd longest Arctic coastline coupled with a comparatively small budget potential for development of natural resources.

Forming partnerships with China would aid in development under the watchful eye of Canada’s own administration. For whatever that be worth – depending on who’s in office I realize. For now, Canadian conservative ideologues are crapping their pants. 🙂