Category Archives: Science

Surprise!

Husband and I are now safely ensconced at the downtown Minneapolis Marriot. We  arrived at the hotel at about 5:00 PM on Tuesday. I was so surprised that the traffic going into downtown was negligible. The traffic going the other way was horrible. We were grateful.

Last week I was very surprised to learn that the grandmother of one of my fellow Lutheran Church choir members worked for a decade or more as both the Headless Girl and  the Three Legged Woman in the circus. It isn’t often that young woman from Harvey, ND makes the big time like that. You also don’t hear of many Lutherans in the circus. At one time there were 9 headless girls touring the US in circuses. It was all done with mirrors. Look up Olga the Headless Girl.  You will be surprised and amazed.

What has surprised you lately?  Do you have any friends with surprises?

Right or Wrong

Today marks the anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing on an island near the Bahamas and believing he was in  Asia. My, was he wrong.  No one in my father’s family was ever wrong, so they thought.  They believed they were really French.  They just couldn’t reconcile themselves to be Dutch.  In reality, they are Frisian, but how do you explain what that means? I never expected Ronald Reagan to be elected president. My, was I wrong.

When have you been really, really, right? When have you been really, really, wrong?

Are We Really Ready?

The headlines today say that Facebook is creating  “an immersive environment called Horizon to tempt people into spending more time in virtual reality.”  They’re calling this virtual world “Horizon”.

I just recently finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which is about a future in which a worldwide virtual reality called “Oasis” has become the reality for most people.  Despite there being some seriously bad guys in the story, Ready Player One is much more optimistic about this future virtual world than I am.

Having just written yesterday about my unhappiness with my phone game addiction, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to jump into a virtual reality world with both feet. I mean, if you spend lots more time in “Horizon” or “Oasis” or “Eden”, who does the dishes and vacuums the dog hair?  My job of physically sending people to exotic destinations would be kaput.  In Ready Player One, many people got jobs in the Oasis but it still doesn’t answer the question of who makes your frozen burritos and who maintains the building you live in.

So I think I’ll pass. At least for now.

You just got a new planet for your birthday. What would you call it?  Anything special about it?

Aliens Among Us?

Back to my rant on reactionary headlines. Now I’m seeing news that some videos from quite a few years ago have been leaked from Navy archives, videos that the Navy says are “real”.  They show unidentified objects that have never been explained.  So now aliens exist and are among us according to the headlines.

Personally I’m not willing to say that we are the only life in the universe. As Matthew McConaughey says in the movie, Contact

However, I’m pretty sure that if there is other life in the universe, the human race doesn’t have it within itself to RECOGNIZE that life. I think that our definition of life is too small.  Even our definition of life is based on what we currently believe to be life:  “the condition that distinguishes animals and plants form inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity and continual change preceding death.”

I’m also pretty sure that any kind of life/civilization that can get to Earth is/will be way more advanced than we can imagine. So I’m not really concerned that the Navy video is really aliens – if aliens are here, they are advanced enough to keep themselves hidden from us.  For all we know, aliens do walk among us and we’ll probably never figure it out?

What place in the universe would you like to visit?

Who Dunnit?

We all know that headlines don’t always tell the story. The last few days there have been lots of articles about scientists “solving the Loch Ness Monster”.  Although I am a skeptic in general, I couldn’t help clicking on the first story I saw.  Of course scientists have NOT solved the mystery of Nessie.  What they have done is find more eel dna in the water of the lake than they expected.  All it took was for one person to say “maybe the Loch Ness Monster is really a giant eel” for the story to take off.

The same arguments for why the Loch Ness Monster can’t exist apply to a giant eel (lake too cold, not enough food to keep a giant eel alive, no bones/evidence of previous generations) but that hasn’t stopped the explosion of “Nessie is a giant eel” stories.

I don’t make it a point of following stories like the Loch Ness Monster, the faked moon landing or anything having to do with Area 51, but I look at reports if they cross my path. I do follow the work being done on Amelia Earhart’s disappearance fairly closely (TIGHAR) and I do think this mystery will be solved in my lifetime.  But Nessie, not so much.

What mystery would you like to be explained?

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?