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First-seen Neutron Star Collision Crashes So Hard The Whole Universe Wobbles and Flings Out Gold 

Two stars slammed into each other sending out ‘huge amounts of gold’ in an alchemical explosion causing the universe to ‘wobble’ scientists said. 

On 17th August, the neutron stars collided 130 million light years away, expelling ‘precious metals’ and elements such as ‘platinum and uranium’, in turn creating a ‘new chapter in astrophysics’, scientists said. 

According to a report in <em>the Independent</em>, the crash has ‘confirmed theories about the origin of the mysterious neutron stars’. 

The gravitational wave signal, which has been named GW170817, was detected at 1.41pm UK time on 17th August, marking only the fifth time this type of wave have been spotted on Earth. 

Scientists say they not only ‘heard’ this phenomenon by measuring vibrations in space-time, they used telescopes to ‘see light and radiation pouring out of the stellar fireball, called a kilonova’. 

Every other wave detection in history has been ‘traced to black holes’ colliding in more than ‘a billion light years away’. 

The Independent writes the two stars, ‘each about 12 miles in diameter, stretched and distorted space-time as they spiralled towards each other and finally collided’. 

Adding, like ‘ripples from a stone thrown in a pond, the gravitational waves fanned out across the universe at the speed of light’. 

The ripples were picked up on Earth by detectors in Washington and Louisiana, which are operated by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). 

British LIGO scientist Professor BS Sathyaprakash, from the University of Cardiff, said: 

"The 12 hours that followed are inarguably the most exciting hours of my scientific life. This event marks a turning point in observational astronomy and will lead to a treasure trove of scientific results." 

The origins of gold, along with many heavy elements has been a mystery for a long time, but recent evidence suggests colliding neutron stars could well be involved in their creation. 

LIGO’s detectors, consisting of L-shaped tunnels with arms 2.5 miles (4km) long, use laser beams bouncing off mirrors to measure movement across a distance 10,000 times smaller than the width of a proton, the kernel of an atom. 

Dr Samantha Oates, also from the University of Warwick, said: 

"This discovery has answered three questions that astronomers have been puzzling for decades: what happens when neutron stars merge? What causes the short duration gamma-ray bursts? Where are the heavy elements, like gold, made? 

In the space of about a week all three of these mysteries were solved." 

The discovery has also ‘solved the mystery of what creates short wave gamma ray bursts which are picked up on Earth and could help pinpoint how fast the universe is expanding’, according to The Telegraph. 

Her colleague Dr Danny Steeghs said it is a ‘new chapter in The new findings were published in research papers in the journals Nature, Nature Astronomy and Science. 

And professor Laura Cadonati, from Georgia Institute of Technology, US, said: 

"This detection has genuinely opened the doors to a new way of doing astrophysics. 

I expect it will be remembered as one of the most studied astrophysical events in history." 

It is being hailed as the first known instance of multi-messenger astrophysics: one source in the universe emitting two kinds of waves, gravitational and electromagnetic. 

To learn more about the event, check out this PBS video below:

 

Can Silence Heal Your Brain? Science Says Yes 

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.” 

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”. 

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think. 

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence. 

 A 2013 study on mice  published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning. 

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. 

“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.” 

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain. 

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence 

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information. 

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.” 

When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues. 

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world. 

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way. 

As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.” 

Silence relieves stress and tension. 

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones. 

A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says. 

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain. 

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources. 

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving. 

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills. 

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. 

Summation 

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good. 

What do you think? Will you be practicing silence? Let us know in the comments!

Controversial Scriptures Shock Indian Science Conference  


While scriptural texts are usually taken literally in religious contexts, The Indian Science Congress changed the game by relating ancient texts to modern science.

Many at the Mumbai conference were shocked to hear renowned speakers suggest that claims made in ancient texts like the Vedas and Puranas were rooted in truth. One of the more controversial lectures was given by a retired pilot named Anand Bodas, who addressed the possibility of ancient aviation alluded to in the Rigveda. 

“The basic structure was of 60 by 60 feet, and in some cases, over 200 feet. They were jumbo planes...The ancient planes had 40 small engines. Today's aviation does not know even of a flexible exhaust system.” - Anand Bodas

The more-than-3,000 year old scripture also described this ancient aircraft's ability to move in any direction and travel from planet to planet. Needless to say, many fellow scientists remained skeptical, while some even considered Anand's lecture to be an affront to modern science.

Others shared Mr. Bodas' sentiments and found great importance in drawing from ancient Indian texts to further contemporary science. Other ancient technologies introduced at the congress included complicated polymers used to build houses, and a bacteria with ability to turn animal food into pure, 24 carat gold. Oddly enough, bacteria with alchemical abilities has been discovered! Read about it here.

Another surprising claim, described in an ancient Indian epic entitled the Mahabharata, relays the battle of two kings on the planet Mars. During the battle, one of the kings' helmets falls to the ground.

In an eerie coincidence (or was it?) Nasa captured the following image on Mars:


The scientific community continues to ask itself if scriptures have any scientific integrity, and if these texts could perhaps aid us in unlocking a new level of human potential.

Author: Nate Morgan



 

According to Harvard MRI Study, Meditation Rapidly Rebuilds Gray Matter in the Brain 

 
In an 8-week program led by a Harvard-affiliated team of researchers, participants took part in a meditation and mindfulness program that resulted in a groundbreaking discovery. While hypotheses of meditation's effect on gray matter have existed for years, this was the first MRI documentation of actual, meditation-related neurological change in medical history.  

Study senior author and Harvard Medical School Instructor Sara Lazar gives a lay of the land: 

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day... This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

But what exactly happened in the study? Participants took about 27 minutes each day to meditate and practice mindfulness exercises. MRI scans at Massachusetts General Hospital showed major stimulation of gray matter density in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, an area heavily associated with compassion, self-reflection, self-awareness, and empathy.

Sue McGreevey, an employee at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells us that “participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.”

So, it appears that meditation quite literally weakens the part of our brains associated with stress and strengthens the parts related to introspection, emotion, and inter-human connection.

Read more about this study at harvard.edu. And, while you're at it, check out our last article on the benefits of meditation.

Author: Nate Morgan


 

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