Category Archives: Science

Hypnagogia

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown

Have you ever been waking up in the morning and hear the phone ring, then become fully awake and realize you just imagined it? If so, you may have experienced an auditory hypnagogic hallucination.

In August of 2015, Dr. Laurence Knott of the UK wrote:  https://patient.info/doctor/hypnagogic-hallucinations “Hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations are visual, tactile, auditory, or other sensory events, usually brief but occasionally prolonged, that occur at the transition from wakefulness to sleep (hypnagogic) or from sleep to wakefulness (hypnopompic). The phenomenon is thought to have been first described by the Dutch physician Isbrand Van Diemerbroeck in 1664.[1] The person may hear sounds that are not there and see visual hallucinations. These visual and auditory images are very vivid and may be bizarre or disturbing.”

And Wikipedia describe it this way: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnagogia   “Hypnagogia is the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep in humans: the hypnagogic state of consciousness, during the onset of sleep. Mental phenomena that occur during this “threshold consciousness” phase include lucid thought, lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.” As you can see, there are several other “conditions” mentioned, that I don’t have the time to explore here.

I love what is sometimes called the “twilight time” as I drift off to sleep, and frequently have little vignettes play out before my (closed) eyes. I have heard seemingly original strains of music that I wish I could write down and remember later. Rather than thinking of it as a medical condition to be “treated”, I often wish they would last longer.

Do you experience any sort of hallucinations upon waking or falling asleep? Or do you have any elaborate daydreams?

 

Getting Dumb and Dumber?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

According to an article I found on BBC.com, it looks like our IQs are starting to recede, or at least not continue upwards as they have been doing.

Intelligence tests (IQ tests) were invented a little more than a century ago and since that time, our scores have been increasing at a steady rate. According to studies “even the average person today would have been considered a genius compared to someone born in 1919”.  (Unless you’re comparing yourself to Albert Einstein (born 1879), then all bets are off.)  This steady increase in IQ is known as the Flynn Effect.

But now scientists have uncovered evidence that this trend may be slowing down and perhaps even reversing. Does this mean we’ve peaked as a species?

Of course the cause of the Flynn Effect has never been agreed upon by the scientific community; most seem to think that multiple environmental factors are involved (increased health, increased food availability, increased access to education, removing lead from gasoline), but nobody really knows for sure. It’s my guess that if there is a decline of our collective IQ on the horizon, no one will understand that either.

Who is the smartest person you know? Or what smart person would you LIKE to know?

New Phase of the Moon

NASA has been back in the news with the announcement that a return trip to the moon is in the works for 2024. And this means that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is back in the news with HIS announcement that he wants to bankroll 6-8 artists to go with him on a SpaceX flight affectionately named “Dear Moon”. He says that taking artists to space would allow them to “communicate their experiences to the masses in new ways”.

Of course, this project is just in the offing and we’ll have to see if it comes to fruition by 2024.

Would you want to travel to the moon? Or Mars?  Or beyond?

Down the Rabbit Hole

Over lunch today I thought I’d watch John Oliver – he always makes me laugh while he’s giving me something to think about. That video led me to a SciShow piece debunking last week’s news about a study purporting that cell phone use was causing horns in young people.  That led me to a long piece on “How I Found Out” about flat earthers and the next step was to look up the big 2024 solar eclipse to see the closest spot to Minneapolis to see it in totality.  That led me to the calendar to find out what day of the week that will be in 2024.  Then I searched a bit to see if the calendar that I like for my fridge was done for 2020 yet, which led me to Amazon.  There I decided to check on an order that I placed a few days ago and was happy to see that my world map was on the truck for delivery. Then I got a text from a girlfriend about dinner tonight – how about El Jefe?  I googled them, they are closed on Mondays, so then spent time googling a few other restaurants, which  led me to recipes using corn and queso fresco.

Then suddenly my lunch hour was over and I hadn’t even finished eating my lunch!

What distracts you?  What rabbit hole have you been down recently?

If I Be Waspish, Beware My Sting

Now that it’s about time to start big works in the garden and yard, it’s time to start worrying about bees, wasps and mosquitos.

Just this morning I read that according to a new study that just came out, they’ve determined that wasps can use a form of logical reasoning to figure out unknown relationships from known relationships. What this means is that wasps can determine that if X is greater than Y, and Y is greater than Z, X is greater than Z. For most of history we have thought this was something unique to humans. In just the past 30 years, scientists have discovered that some vertebrate animals (monkeys, birds, fish) can reason like this, but wasps are the first invertebrate that shows this ability.

This news means I am really hoping not to have to spray any wasp nests this summer.

How do you co-exist with all the little critters?

Redeeming Science

I swear more than I like; as a child I fully succumbed to my father’s theory that people who swore just didn’t have good enough imaginations to choose better words.  But I am, in the heat of the moment, a potty mouth.  I’ve always kind of wished that I were a sailor; as I understand that sailors and longshoremen are the best swearers . Then maybe I’d have a bigger swearing vocabulary and wouldn’t need to feel my father’s disapproval from the great beyond.

So lo and behold, I see online today (SciShow) that it turns out that swearing can confer stress release, pain amelioration and increased social bonding.  This backs up a Mythbusters episode I saw a few years back in which they tested pain response (iced water) in volunteers who either had to stay silent or could swear to their heart’s content.  The swearers were able to hold their hands in the iced water longer and recorded a less intense level of pain.

Apparently the social bonding is based on the perception that you are more open/forthright if you swear, as opposed to “holding something back” by not swearing occasionally.  There is apparently science to back this up along with the stress relief aspect of swearing as well.

I don’t know if having this knowledge will make me swear more or if I will always hear my father’s voice in the back of my head.

What bad habit would you have that you’d like to be redeemed by science?

Big Splash

We live very near to an important geologic area called the Hell Creek Formation.  It covers parts of western North Dakota, Western South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. It contains some of the richest fossil beds from the Cretaceous period, the era that ended with the death of the dinosaurs.

Recently, two paleontologists published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  titled “A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota”,  outlining just what happened in what is now North Dakota in the minutes following the crash of an asteroid in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This was the asteroid that is thought to have killed all the dinosaurs.

Based on what they found in a grey/ black layer near the top of a butte on a ranch near Bowman, ND, about 80 miles from my town, they estimate that in minutes after the asteroid crashed in Yucatan, seismic waves of water and molten rocks smashed into what is now the Hell Creek Formation.  Molten glass particles filled the air, choking any living thing.  Fish (salt water and fresh water), trees, rocks, dinosaurs, and beads of molten glass were swept up into a jumbled mass, preserved in the mud and debris for the modern paleontologists to find.  The fish fossils in the KPg boundary dig  were so well preserved that they could see that their mouths were open, gasping for air.  It triggered fires within 1500 miles of the impact and formed a plume of fire that rose halfway to the Moon.  They estimate 70% of the world’s forests burned.  Almost all life on the planet died.

Well, I find that pretty awe inspiring and amazing.  I like it when scientists can make things real and exciting.  Yucatan is a long way from where I live. That must have made a really big splash when it hit.

What has amazed you recently? Would you want to be a paleontologist? Did you ever do cannon balls?