Anyhoo, this is a roundup post in which I cover several topics that are tenuously connected at best. Here's what I'm rambling on about:
- I'm a citizen scientist now! WOOT!
- Encyclopedia of Life!
- My Flickr :)
- Moving the body affects how we think - a study
- Prayer and meditation may reshape the brain - a study
First, I want to talk about a ScienceDaily report: Massive Online 'Macroscopic Observatory' Of Earth's Biodiversity To Be Created. "Wanted (soon): observations from environment-minded citizens that will allow science to study biodiversity at a planetary level in a massive, comprehensive virtual observatory of historic importance."
This guy, Edward O. Wilson, created a website, Encyclopedia of Life (eol). His dream: "Imagine an electronic page for each species of organism on Earth..." and they are starting to do just that. A page for every species. If you read the ScienceDaily article, it will be amazing. You'll be able to get information from the Deep Web from images, maps, classification, common and scientific names, links to research and papers, etc.
It's already there now, and growing all the time. In the future you'll also be able to get genome sequences and much much more. Basically anything you want to know about a species will be there, at your fingertips, all on one page, for free. My scientific geekiness is giggling with delight!
And here's where I get to finally call myself a scientist! Uh, well, a citizen scientist, which is still cool. eol wants people to submit their pictures. I'm a photographer, and I love taking pictures of nature, but I've never been able to do much with them. Now I can help with this project! Can you say WOOT!? I can. Woot WOOT! (Sorry, uber-geek moment there).
So what you do, what I did, was to open a Flickr account. I'm ZeNeeceC on Flickr now. I got some older pictures posted yesterday. Then here's the tough part. You need to machine tag them with their scientific names. This is so that when you send them to the eol Flickr group, eol's computer can get those images and put them on the right pages.
My friend Jeff said that eol sounded like a Wikipedia kind of thing for science. In a way, he's right, because we get to contribute our images. But eol is serious about science, so the images will get authenticated. Until that time, they have a yellow box around them so people can see that they are contributed but might not be scientifically accurate like the rest of the info on the page.
Even further, though, if you just want high end science info, eol lets you set that up so that you don't even see the citizen science stuff. It's a very well done site.
Anyway, I am having trouble finding out what things are called. Flickr has a group called ID Please, which I joined. And I joined BugGuide.net as ZeNeece to help me ID bugs. But the flowers and plants, I will need to find an online source to identify those more readily.
So that's that. I wanted to share it with you because it's so exciting to me, but also in case you or someone you know might be interested as well.
Onto some studies!
Our Bodies, Our Brains: a recent study shows that moving your body in certain ways can improve your ability to think. Published in Psychological Science.
Working with 38 subjects, the scientists confirmed that either a step forward (a typically positive movement) or a step backward (usually negative) significantly changed one’s ability to perform a mental task.
Taking four steps back improved a subject’s accuracy and timing on the task, whereas taking four steps forward led to longer processing times and more errors.
How cool is that? Now, if you follow the link, you'll see that this was on 60 second science on Scientific American, so there are no links to studies. But they list the publication, Psychological Science, if you want to look into it further.
Prayer May Reshape Your Brain... And Your Reality: This is interesting. I've told you about some studies (see below) in the past in this field, which this article calls "neurotheology". The article from NPR is about Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at University of Pennsylvania who has written several books and studies very religious people and their brains. Newberg says: "The more you focus on something — whether that's math or auto racing or football or God — the more that becomes your reality, the more it becomes written into the neural connections of your brain."
He also tested a doctor who meditates for an hour a day. He had him meditate in a brain scanner.
As expected, his frontal lobes lit up on the screen: Meditation is sheer concentration, after all. But what fascinated Newberg was that Baime's parietal lobes went dark. Newberg said, "This is an area that normally takes our sensory information, tries to create for us a sense of ourselves and orient that self in the world," he explains. "When people lose their sense of self, feel a sense of oneness, a blurring of the boundary between self and other, we have found decreases in activity in that area."
The article goes on to suggest that you can benefit from meditation and prayer as well, even if you don't devote 1 or 2 hours a day to it. I find this interesting and compelling, and it goes along with the other studies listed below. I would have liked some studies referenced and linked to in the article, but I guess I'm not that lucky.
Here are the other posts I've done about other relevant brain and mind studies recently:
- Church: No brain activity required- study showed how experiencing transcendence basically shut down the right parietal lobe.
- More differences in the brains of believers and non-believers: A recent study that found religious people were less anxious about mistakes they made than non-believers.
- Knowledge and Beliefs are stored differently in the brain: this wasn't a specific study. Dr. Steven Novella mentioned it in passing on his podcast.
- Religion is the path of least resistance: This was about an article in New Scientist where people are born believers. I strongly suspect the way they conducted the studies mentioned.
- Superstitious? It could be your lack of control: This was a neat study about people who were basically put into a situation where they felt a lack of control found patterns more readily in random information.