22 January 2006

New Research on the Human Brain

Quote for the day:

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.”
William Hazlitt
(1778 – 1830)

photo credit: University of Washington Education Faculty

Lots of interesting research coming out on our brain and what makes it tick. Magnetic resonance imaging has been one of the leading areas in supplying new information. There are other areas of research producing fascinating results. Here are some current study results and a bit more interesting trivia on the largest muscle in our body (brain) and how a little exercise is a good thing - no matter the muscle.

A USC study of pathological liars shows first evidence of structural differences in the area of the brain that enables most people to feel remorse.

The researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging and found that liars had significantly more “white matter” and slightly less “gray matter” than those they were measured against. They have more tools to lie coupled with fewer moral restraints than normal people and are less likely to care about moral issues..“They’ve got the equipment to lie, and they don’t have the inhibitions that the rest of us have in telling the big whoppers,” he said.

“Using MRI as a lie detector is expensive, but it may be worthwhile in some cases…” Scott Faro, director of the Functional Brain Imaging Center at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Generally people with happy temperaments exhibit a high ratio of activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area associated with happiness, joy and enthusiasm. Those who are prone to anxiety, fear and depression exhibit a higher ratio of activity in the right prefrontal cortex.

The Dalai Lama hopes researchers can scientifically prove that meditation has medical and emotional benefits, and then divorce it from its spiritual Buddhist roots to offer the world a secular method for relieving suffering and finding happiness.

Professor Theodore W. Berger, director of the Center for Neural Engineering at the University of Southern California, is creating a silicon chip implant that mimics the hippocampus, an area of the brain known for creating memories. If successful, the artificial brain prosthesis could replace its biological counterpart, enabling people who suffer from memory disorders to regain the ability to store new memories.

And it's no longer a question of "if" but "when."

Molecule Gives Passionate Lovers One Year

Your heartbeat accelerates, you have butterflies in the stomach, you feel euphoric and a bit silly. It's all part of falling passionately in love -- and scientists now tell us the feeling won't last more than a year.

The powerful emotions that bowl over new lovers are triggered by a molecule known as nerve growth factor (NGF), according to Pavia University researchers. The Italian scientists found far higher levels of NGF in the blood of 58 people who had recently fallen madly in love.

Caffeine Perks up Brain's Memory Centers

The caffeine found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate stimulates areas of the brain governing short-term memory and attention, Austrian researchers said on Wednesday.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans performed on the brains of 15 subjects who had just consumed caffeine equal to that found in two cups of coffee showed increased activity in the frontal lobe where the working memory is located and in the anterior cingulum that controls attention.

14-Day Plan Improves Memory

Researchers have found a way to improve memory function in older people. After a two-week study that involved brainteasers, exercise and diet changes, study participants' memories worked more efficiently.

The Male Impulse for Retribution

“Men expressed more desire for revenge and seemed to feel satisfaction when unfair people were given what they perceived as deserved physical punishment," said Dr. Tania Singer, the lead researcher, of the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience at University College London.


14 January 2006

Mermaids, Mermen and Amphibious Beings

Quote for the day:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Albert Einstein
American German born physicist
(1879 – 1955)

photo of merman from Banff Trading Post

Here is an excellent photo of a creature that has been on display at ‘The Trading Post’ in Banff, Alberta for many years. The first time I saw it was back in 1969 at which time it was stored in an aquarium at the back of the store on a bottom shelf.

photo credit: roadsideamerica.com

There is no explanation as to who brought it in and it has been there since at least 1915. An old yellowed and torn article from 'The Beaver Magazine' published by the Hudson’s Bay Company dated September 1942 is taped to the glass.

The article tells of an 18th century voyager of the North West Company, Venant St. Germain, who on May 3, 1782, while traveling from Grand Portage to Mackinac, had seen near the south end of Pie Island, at the entrance of the Bay of Thunder, a creature shaped in part like a human being it was about the size of a child seven or eight years of age, the eyes were extremely brilliant, the nose small.

The Caspian Sea has reported recent sightings of an amphibious humanlike being. In March 2005, an eyewitness account from the crew of the Baku, an Azeri trawler, was published by Iranian newspaper Zindagi: "That creature was swimming parallel course near the boat for a long time," said Gafar Gasanof, captain of the ship.


  • The first "merman" known in America was purchased from Japanese sailors in 1822.
  • P.T. Barnum purchased his first merman in 1842 and put it on exhibit as the "Feejee Mermaid."
  • An amphibious humanlike being was reported in Karelia in 1928. The creature was repeatedly seen in the lake of Vedlozero by local residents. A group of researchers from the Petrozavodsk University arrived to investigate the case on location. Unfortunately, the findings were classified and the members of the research party eventually perished in the Gulag.


Original Beaver Magazine Article 'A Merman In Lake Superior' September 1942
History Society Link To Beaver Magazine Article
Ananova - 'Merman' spotted in Caspian
La Sirene du lac Superieur

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05 January 2006

Satellites & More in Our Airspace

Quote for the Day:

"No one owns space, so everyone has a right to know what's up there."
Dr. Laura Grego
Cambridge astrophysicist

With all the lights both explained and unexplained in our solar system these days, this post covers our satellite paths, altitudes, movement, history, intelligence concerns and a bit more.

photo credit: octopus.gma.org

A satellite looks like a star that drifts across the sky. It does not have blinking or colored lights like airplanes do. Depending on it's orbit it may move quite quickly, covering the distance from one horizon to the other in a few minutes, others appear to move more slowly, these are in higher orbits and are generally dimmer.

Equatorial and polar satellites fly at low altitudes between 100 and 1,000 miles. To an observer on the ground, they seem to climb up from the horizon, pass overhead, and fall below the horizon several times a day. Stationary satellites, on the other hand, are in very high equatorial orbits 22,300 miles above Earth. They are so far above the planet's surface they seem to us to be standing still overhead

photo credit: octopus.gma.org

Other well-known stationary communications satellites are Inmarsat and TDRS

North American cloud photos seen in television weathercasts usually have been made by American satellites known as Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES).

photo credit: kowoma.de

Earth has three different types of satellite systems:

1. International Satellite Communication System – INTELSAT

The INTELSAT Organization was established in 1964 to handle technical and administrative problems associated with a world wide telecommunication system. The international regions served by INTELSAT are divided into:

  • The Atlantic Ocean region (AOR)
  • The Pacific Ocean Region (POR)
  • The Indian Ocean region (IOR)

For each region, satellites are positioned in geo-stationary orbit above the particular Ocean, where they provide a transoceanic telecommunication route.

2. Domestic Satellite System – DOMSAT

Domestic satellites are used to provide various telecommunication services (voice, data, & video transmission) within a country. These occupy The Clarke Belt.

3. Search and Rescue System – SARSAT

Polar-orbiting satellites orbit the earth covering the north and south polar-regions.

photo credit: spacetoday.org

An infinite number of polar satellite orbits are possible. Polar satellites are used to provide environmental data, and to help locate ships and aircrafts in distress. Polar satellites look down on Earth's entire surface, passing above the North and South Poles several times a day. As the satellite loops around the globe, Earth seems to rotate under the orbit.

Kewl trivia::

  • USSR launched SPUTNIK 1, the first man-made object to orbit the earth October 4th, 1957.
  • First polar-orbiting U.S. weather satellite - Nimbus-1 launched 1964.
  • U.S. communications satellite Syncom-3 - first successful launch to stationary orbit (1964). It made history that fall by sending TV pictures of the 1964 Olympic Games in Japan across the Pacific to the U.S.
  • First U.S. Earth-resources observation satellite, Landsat-1 launched 1972
  • Shuttles and stations fly in equatorial orbits
  • The ever popular Google Satellite/Hybrid Map


Definitions & Related Terms of Earth-Orbiting Satellites
Make your own satellite tracking bowl
Tech Museum Satellites Polar Orbits
The Spy Satellite So Stealthy that the Senate Couldn't Kill It
Union of Concerned Scientists
Report on Observation of UFO's during the night of 30MAR90 by Major Lambrechts
Canada Centre for Remote Sensing
NASA's Dirty Little Secret: Remarkable UFOs captured on NASA Open Broadcasts

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