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Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Cradle to Cradle / Remaking the Way We Make Things

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Architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart are the authors of Cradle to Cradle / Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002), which has served as a personal inspiration ever since a close friend of mine introduced me to it in the first quarter of 2007.

“The book itself is a polymer. It is not a tree. With so much polymer, what we really need is technical nutrition and to use something as elegant as a tree. Imagine this design challenge: Design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, mixes complex sugars in food, creates microclimates, changes colors with the seasons and self-replicates… why don’t we knock that down and write on it.” – William McDonough

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Starch Made Us Human

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Photo: “Starch” by Yokoland

Traditionally, when scientists spared a thought for our hunting and gathering forebears, they focused on the hunters and the meat they brought in. But it may be that it was our ancestors’ less glamorous ability to gather, eat and digest roots, bulbs and tubers — the wild versions of what became carrots, onions and potatoes — that increased the size of our brains and made the hunt and the territorial expansion that came with it possible.

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Written by Ethan Handur

December 14, 2007 at 9:35

Posted in science

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Science Favors Meditation

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In an article by Rachel Brand for Gaiam Community, a link between the spiritual benefits of meditation and the supporting science was sought. On the spiritual side of things, Buddhists, yogis, and ayurvedic doctors have said for centuries that meditation improves health and well-being. Scientists are now trying to prove it.

Note: The remainder of this post focuses on points of personal and social interest with respect to Brand’s article.


Meditating may help people stay healthier, sharpen mental focus, and gain more power over their emotions.

The brain of someone who meditates may be physically different from the next person’s.

Talking or writing about your feelings forces you to call them something. It’s part of noticing and detaching from those emotions versus letting them hijack your bliss. It’s about helping people develop that pause button, so they can observe emotions from the outside.

Two UCLA studies showed “that simply labeling emotion promotes detachment,” says David Creswell, Ph.D., a meditation researcher at the university who joined colleague Matthew D. Lieberman, Ph.D., in heading up the studies.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record brain activity and pinpoint where in the brain it occurs, Lieberman’s team found that assigning names to negative emotions turns down the intensity of activity in the amygdala — an almond-sized sector of the brain that acts like an alarm system: When you witness a car crash, argue with your spouse or get yelled at by your boss, it’s your amygdala’s job to set off a cascade of stress-related reactions.

But if you simply name the distressing event, Lieberman says, you can wield more power over your amygdala’s freak-out. “When you attach the word ‘angry,’” he explains, “you see a decreased response in the amygdala.”

Mindful patients (those inclined to pay attention to present emotions, thoughts, or sensations) show more activity in the areas that calm down emotional response, known as the prefrontal cortex; and less activation in the amygdala.

Twenty-year meditation practitioner Joyce Bonnie says having that emotion-diffusing ability is one thing, and using it is another. “It’s very challenging to bring what you practice on the meditation cushion out in a real-life situation,” says Bonnie. “When you’re actually in that moment — say someone is yelling at you — you have to remember to step back, say, ‘Oh, that’s anger I’m feeling,’ and change what you do with that emotion, all in a millisecond. It takes a lot of practice.”

Creswell says, “For the first time since [the Buddha’s] teachings,” he adds, “we have shown that there is actually a neurological reason for doing mindfulness meditation.”

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Written by Ethan Handur

October 27, 2007 at 15:56

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

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In Canada, Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) are currently all the rave, mainly since the Canadian government has been intensely pushing this product for the past couple of years now. Their plan is to phase out most incandescent bulbs by placing a ban on the sale of these and other inefficient bulbs by 2012 (1).

Disappointingly, the welcoming change is all but that for some as they seem to have found comfort in a (FN) article entitled, “Junk Science: Light Bulb Lunacy”. I encourage you to read FN’s article before continuing on.

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Written by Ethan Handur

August 22, 2007 at 23:08