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a well wisher  
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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote a well wisher Replybullet Posted: 26 August 2009 at 3:08pm

Trust in a teardrop: Researcher says tears can help build, strengthen personal relationships

Medically, crying is known to be a symptom of physical pain or stress. But now a Tel Aviv University evolutionary biologist looks to empirical evidence showing that tears have emotional benefits and can make interpersonal relationships stronger.

New analysis by Dr. Oren Hasson of TAU's Department of Zoology shows that tears still signal physiological distress, but they also function as an evolution-based mechanism to bring people closer together.

"Crying is a highly evolved behavior," explains Dr. Hasson. "Tears give clues and reliable information about submission, needs and social attachments between one another. My research is trying to answer what the evolutionary reasons are for having emotional tears.

"My analysis suggests that by blurring vision, tears lower defences and reliably function as signals of submission, a cry for help, and even in a mutual display of attachment and as a group display of cohesion," he reports.

His research, published recently in Evolutionary Psychology, investigates the different kinds of tears we shed -- tears of joy, sadness and grief -- as well as the authenticity or sincerity of the tears. Crying, Dr. Hasson says, has unique benefits among friends and others in our various communities.

For crying out loud (and behind closed doors)

Approaching the topic with the deductive tools of an evolutionary biologist, Dr. Hasson investigated the use of tears in various emotional and social circumstances. Tears are used to elicit mercy from an antagonistic enemy, he claims. They are also useful in eliciting the sympathy ― and perhaps more importantly the strategic assistance ― of people who were not part of the enemy group.

"This is strictly human," reasons Dr. Hasson. "Emotional tears also signal appeasement, a need for attachment in times of grief, and a validation of emotions among family, friends and members of a group."

Crying enhances attachments and friendships, says Dr. Hasson, but taboos are still there in certain cases. In some cultures, societies or circumstances, the expression of emotions is received as a weakness and the production of tears is suppressed. For example, it is rarely acceptable to cry in front of your boss at work -- especially if you are a man, he says.

Streets awash with tears?

Multiple studies across cultures show that crying helps us bond with our families, loved ones and allies, Dr. Hasson says. By blurring vision, tears reliably signal your vulnerability and that you love someone, a good evolutionary strategy to emotionally bind people closer to you.

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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote Al-Cordoby Replybullet Posted: 28 August 2009 at 11:41am

Sunspots linked to Pacific rain

A study has shown how sunspots could affect climate in the Pacific.

Writing in the journal Science, the international team detailed how the 11-year sunspot cycle might influence the amount of rain falling on the ocean.

It is hoped the findings will lead to better models for regional climate predictions.

The authors emphasised the findings "cannot be used to explain recent global warming because of the trend over the past 30 years".

Sunspots are cooler areas on the Sun's surface that are marked by intense magnetic activity.

Although dimmer than their surroundings, their presence is usually accompanied by bright spots, or faculae, which result in a slight general overall brightening of our star when it is most active.

Sunspots and rain

The new study suggests that relatively small variations in sunspot activity might result in changes in climate.

Two mechanisms are involved.

The first is "top-down" where changes in the upper layers of the atmosphere contribute to wetter conditions below.

The second is "bottom-up" where the ocean evaporates and more clouds are produced.

The study used models to show how these two mechanisms might act together to produce rainfall similar to that observed in the tropics.

In addition, the models predict a cooling effect of the surface of the ocean in equatorial regions ........

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8224543.stm

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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote a well wisher Replybullet Posted: 30 August 2009 at 2:44pm

Ultimate Long Distance Communication: Talking To Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Anyone who's vacationed in the mountains or lived on a farm knows that it's hard to get good internet access or a strong cell phone signal in a remote area. Communicating across great distances has always been a challenge. So when NASA engineers designed the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), they knew it would need an extraordinary communications system

Over the next year, the LRO, NASA's diligent robotic scout, will collect more information about the moon's surface and environment than any previous mission. It takes a powerful system to send all of this information more than 238,800 miles back to Earth.....

Simons, Peterson and other members of the Glenn team were on standby when LRO entered its final orbit and began transmitting data. They were thrilled to hear that it's working properly, not only because LRO is a vital step toward returning humans to the moon, but also because they believe the new amplifier can improve life on Earth in countless ways.

If used on communication satellites, it could allow for much better tracking, monitoring and control of transoceanic flights and ships traveling beyond the reach of radar.

It also could enable real-time data transfer from future Earth-orbiting satellites. Such satellites are used to track migratory animals, endangered species, icebergs, volcanic eruptions and forest fires, and to aid in search and rescue operations. They're used to study climate change and meteorology as well.

According to Simons, by collecting more timely data about the interaction of our atmosphere, ocean and land, we could save lives and property during severe weather.

"This technology has the potential to create a better world," he said.

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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote a well wisher Replybullet Posted: 02 September 2009 at 9:04pm

Believing Is Seeing: Thoughts Color Perception -- Implications From Everyday Misunderstandings To Eyewitness Memory

Folk wisdom usually has it that "seeing is believing," but new research suggests that "believing is seeing," too – at least when it comes to perceiving other people's emotions.

An international team of psychologists from the United States, New Zealand and France has found that the way we initially think about the emotions of others biases our subsequent perception (and memory) of their facial expressions. So once we interpret an ambiguous or neutral look as angry or happy, we later remember and actually see it as such.

The study, published in the September issue of the journal Psychological Science, "addresses the age-old question: 'Do we see reality as it is, or is what we see influenced by our preconceptions?'" said coauthor Piotr Winkielman, professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego. "Our findings indicate that what we think has a noticeable effect on our perceptions."

"We imagine our emotional expressions as unambiguous ways of communicating how we're feeling," said coauthor Jamin Halberstadt, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, "but in real social interactions, facial expressions are blends of multiple emotions – they are open to interpretation. This means that two people can have different recollections about the same emotional episode, yet both be correct about what they 'saw.' So when my wife remembers my smirk as cynicism, she is right: her explanation of the expression at the time biased her perception of it. But it is also true that, had she explained my expression as empathy, I wouldn't be sleeping on the couch."

"It's a paradox," Halberstadt added. "The more we seek meaning in other emotions, the less accurate we are in remembering them.".....

Because it is largely automatic, the researchers write, such facial mimicry reflects how the ambiguous face is perceived, revealing that participants were literally seeing different expressions.

"The novel finding here," said Winkielman, of UC San Diego, "is that our body is the interface: The place where thoughts and perceptions meet. It supports a growing area of research on 'embodied cognition' and 'embodied emotion.' Our corporeal self is intimately intertwined with how – and what – we think and feel."....

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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote Al-Cordoby Replybullet Posted: 06 September 2009 at 2:02pm
 

Alzheimer's genes link uncovered

Two potentially key genes linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease have been uncovered by UK researchers.

It is the first gene clue to the condition in 16 years and has prompted scientists to rethink their theories on how the disease develops.

The genes were pinpointed in a study of 16,000 DNA samples and are known to be implicated in inflammation and cholesterol breakdown.

It is hoped the Nature Genetics study will open the way for new treatments.

The last and only gene to be linked to the common form of Alzheimer's disease is APOE4 gene, which has been the focus of much research

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8237686.stm

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Greening University Classrooms: Adding Plants Increases Student Satisfaction

 In today's frenetic world, many urban dwellers spend more than 80% of the day indoors. Bringing nature in to living spaces by enhancing homes and offices with ornamental plants has become another popular facet of the move to "green" our lives. In addition to their aesthetic beauty, indoor plants have been shown to offer psychological and restorative values, such as reduced tension, better coping mechanisms, and increased concentration and attention.

Researchers have found that the presence of houseplants in homes and workplaces can reduce eye irritation and stress, motivate employees, improve concentration, and even reduce air impurities. Plants appeared to have a positive effect on headaches and fatigue and hoarseness, and employees even reported having less dry skin when plants were introduced to offices. Interior plants have also been shown to increase work productivity; in one study, employees' reaction time on computer tasks improved by 12% when plants were present.
 
Now, scientists are testing the impact of plants on student performance and satisfaction in the classroom. Jennifer S. Doxey and Tina Marie Waliczek from the Department of Agriculture, Texas State University, and Jayne M. Zajicek of the Department of Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M University, published a study of the impact of plants in university classrooms in a recent issue of HortScience..........
 

According to Waliczek, "Our results showed that interior plants appeared to have the greatest impact on students who were in the classroom that had no other natural elements. Results also showed that interior plants can be a suitable alternative in some cases to architectural elements such as windows. Our study supports other research showing that plants have value beyond aesthetics in interior environments, including promoting positive feelings in university students."

 
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Public Policy Should Promote Family Mealtimes, Researchers Urge

ScienceDaily (Sep. 9, 2009) — In a new report, University of Illinois professor Barbara H. Fiese urges local, state, and federal governments, businesses, and community leaders to promote family mealtimes as a matter of public policy.

"There are few things parents can do that are as effective in protecting their families as taking 18 to 20 minutes to eat together and talk with each other three to five times a week," said Fiese, a U of I professor of human development and family studies and the director of the U of I's Family Resiliency Center.

Research indicates the following benefits of family mealtimes:

  • Teens who eat five or more meals a week with their families are less likely to smoke cigarettes and marijuana and to abuse alcohol.
  • Children who take part in regular family mealtimes have greater vocabulary growth and higher academic achievement.
  • Frequently shared mealtimes protect against obesity in children and eating disorders in preteens and adolescents.
  • For young children, family mealtimes mean fewer behavior problems.
  • Teens who dine regularly with their families tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Meals prepared at home tend to be lower in calories and fat than restaurant fare.

"Most people don't think of family mealtimes as a policy issue, they think of them as private events. But sometimes policy makers work against the best interests of families," she noted....

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Active Older Adults Live Longer, Have Better Functional Status

ScienceDaily (Sep. 14, 2009) — Older adults who continue or begin to do any amount of exercise appear to live longer and have a lower risk of disability, according to a report in the September 14 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Physical activity is a modifiable behavior associated with health, functional status and longevity, and encouraging a physically active lifestyle has become an accepted public health goal," the authors write as background information in the article. However, most research on the benefits of physical activity has focused on middle-aged populations....
 

The benefits associated with physical activity were observed not only in those who maintained an existing level of physical activity, but also in those who began exercising between ages 70 and 85.

"Although the mechanism of the survival benefit is most likely multifactorial, one important finding was the sustained protective effect of physical activity against functional decline," the authors write. Physical activity may delay the spiral of decline that begins with inability to perform daily activities and continues through illness and death by improving cardiovascular fitness, slowing loss of muscle mass, reducing fat, improving immunity and suppressing inflammation.

"Despite the increasing likelihood of comorbidity, frailty, dependence and ever-shortening life expectancy, remaining and even starting to be physically active increases the likelihood of living longer and staying functionally independent," the authors write. "The clinical ramifications are far reaching. As this rapidly growing sector of the population assumes a prominent position in preventive and public health measures, our findings clearly support the continued encouragement of physical activity, even among the oldest old. Indeed, it seems that it is never too late to start."

 
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Researchers Explore What Contemporary Science Cannot Explain
 
A team of University of Hertfordshire philosophers lead by Professor Paul Coates and Dr Sam Coleman is conducting a three-year research project to explore conscious experiences that contemporary science still cannot explain.
 

Funded with £380,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and involving the collaboration of some of the world’s leading philosophers and cognitive scientists, the project will attempt to answer the mystery of consciousness.

Professor Coates explains: “When we see a sunset or hear a symphony our sense organs, brains and bodies are moved in ways that are well understood by the physical and biological sciences. But during such experiences we also enjoy distinctive forms of conscious awareness. Yet this undeniable fact about our conscious lives is stubbornly resistant to scientific understanding. How is it even possible for purely physical brain activity to produce conscious experience? How do the qualities that manifest themselves in experience relate to the very different properties that are referred to in scientific descriptions of the physical world?”

To find the answers to these questions Professor Coates and Dr Coleman and their team will re-examine our fundamental concepts relating to consciousness and physical reality. They will look at experimental results in psychology and brain science and at phenomenology and other forms of philosophical enquiry.

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Antarctica's hidden plumbing revealed

 

THE first complete map of the lakes beneath Antarctica's ice sheets reveals the continent's secret water network is far more dynamic than we thought. This could be acting as a powerful lubricant beneath glaciers, contributing to sea level rise.

Unlike previous lake maps, which are confined to small regions, Ian Joughin at the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues mapped 124 subglacial lakes across Antarctica using lasers on NASA's ICESat satellite (see map).

The team also observed the lakes draining and filling. While interior lakes tended to be static, many coastal lakes changed significantly. Some even appear to be connected by channels under the ice hundreds of kilometres long. For instance, when upstream lakes under the Recovery glacier drained 3 cubic kilometres of water, lakes downstream gained a similar amount (Journal of Glaciology, vol 55, p 573).

Water flowing under glaciers can act as a lubricant, causing land ice to accelerate into the sea and add to rising sea levels. "The implications for the flow of ice are potentially quite significant," says Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. Those lakes with no clear drainage channels are of particular interest, he says, because they could be spreading a thin film of lubricating water under glaciers.

 
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Scientists Outline 'Safe Operating Space' For Humanity

ScienceDaily (Sep. 24, 2009) — New approaches are needed to help humanity deal with climate change and other global environmental threats that lie ahead in the 21st century, according to a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists.

The scientists propose that global biophysical boundaries, identified on the basis of the scientific understanding of the earth system, can define a "safe planetary operating space" that will allow humanity to continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. This new approach to sustainable development is conveyed in the current issue of the scientific journal Nature. The authors have made a first attempt to identify and quantify a set of nine planetary boundaries, including climate change, freshwater use, biological diversity, and aerosol loading.

The research was performed by a working group at UC Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), in cooperation with the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.

One important strand of the research behind this article is based in the global project known as IHOPE. The goal of the Integrated History and future Of People on Earth (IHOPE) project is to understand the interactions of the environmental and human process over the ten to hundred millennia to determine how human and biophysical changes have contributed to Earth system dynamics....

Planetary boundaries is a way of thinking that will not replace politics, economics, or ethics, explained environmental historian Sverker Sörlin of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. "But it will help tell all of us where the dangerous limits are and therefore when it is ethically unfair to allow more emissions of dangerous substances, further reduction of biodiversity, or to continue the erosion of the resource base. It provides the ultimate guardrails that can help societies to take action politically, economically. Planetary boundaries should be seen both as signals of the need for caution and as an encouragement to innovation and new thinking of how to operate safely within these boundaries while at same time securing human well being for all."

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Rough Day At Work? You Won't Feel Like Exercising

ScienceDaily (Sep. 25, 2009) — Have you ever sat down to work on a crossword puzzle only to find that afterwards you haven't the energy to exercise? Or have you come home from a rough day at the office with no energy to go for a run?

A new study, published in Psychology and Health, reveals that if you use your willpower to do one task, it depletes you of the willpower to do an entirely different task.

"Cognitive tasks, as well as emotional tasks such as regulating your emotions, can deplete your self-regulatory capacity to exercise," says Kathleen Martin Ginis, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, and lead author of the study .........

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090924141749.htm

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Do Your Children Push The Boundaries? It May Be A Sign Of Future Leadership Abilities

ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2009) — Children whose parents use a firm parenting style that still allows them to test the rules and learn from it are more likely to assume leadership roles as adults according to a new study published in a recent edition of The Leadership Quarterly ......

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090928131216.htm

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Population: Overconsumption is the real problem

THERE is a pervading myth that efforts to fight climate change and other environmental perils will be to no avail unless we "do something" about population growth. Even seasoned analysts talk about the threat of "exponential" population growth. But there is no exponential growth. In most of the world fertility rates are falling fast, and the countries where population growth continues are those that contribute least to our planetary predicament.

Back in the late 1960s, when Paul Ehrlich wrote his seminal book The Population Bomb, rapid population growth was arguably the number 1 threat to the planet's future. Many believed that only strict birth control could prevent doomsday. But after scandals about forced vasectomies in India and China's draconian one-child policy, such views fell into disrepute. What's more, Ehrlich's prediction of hundreds of millions of deaths from famine in the 1980s fortunately failed to be borne out.

Now the demographic monster has become a hot topic again. Yet the arguments still don't fit the reality. The population "bomb" is fast being defused. Women across the poor world are having dramatically fewer babies than their mothers did - mostly out of choice, not compulsion....
 

Even if the world population does stabilise soon and starts to glide downwards, that won't solve the world's environmental problems. The real issue is not overpopulation but overconsumption - mostly in rich countries that have long since given up adding substantial numbers to their population.

Take one measure: carbon dioxide emissions. Stephen Pacala, director of the Princeton Environmental Institute, calculates that the world's richest half billion people - that's about 7 per cent of the global population - are responsible for 50 per cent of the world's emissions. Meanwhile, the poorest 50 per cent are responsible for just 7 per cent of emissions. One American or European is more often than not responsible for more emissions than an entire village of Africans.

Every time those of us in the rich world talk about too many babies in Africa or India, we are denying our own culpability. It is the world's consumption patterns we need to fix, not its reproductive habits.

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