Meditation Increases Brain Size

January 28th, 2006 | researchmaterial

People who meditate grow bigger brains than those who don’t. Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the first evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains. Brain scans they conducted reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input.

In one area of gray matter, the thickening turns out to be more pronounced in older than in younger people. That’s intriguing because those sections of the human cortex, or thinking cap, normally get thinner as we age.

“Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being,” says Sara Lazar, leader of the study and a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. “… In other words, the structure of an adult brain can change in response to repeated practice…”


January 28th, 2006 | researchmaterial

One of the strangest satellites in the history of the space age is about to go into orbit. Launch date: Feb. 3rd. That’s when astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) will hurl an empty spacesuit overboard. The spacesuit is the satellite — “SuitSat” for short.

“SuitSat is a Russian brainstorm,” explains Frank Bauer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Some of our Russian partners in the ISS program, mainly a group led by Sergey Samburov, had an idea: Maybe we can turn old spacesuits into useful satellites.” SuitSat is a first test of that idea.

“We’ve equipped a Russian Orlan spacesuit with three batteries, a radio transmitter, and internal sensors to measure temperature and battery power,” says Bauer. “As SuitSat circles Earth, it will transmit its condition to the ground.”

Unlike a normal spacewalk, with a human inside the suit, SuitSat’s temperature controls will be turned off to conserve power. The suit, arms and legs akimbo, possibly spinning, will be exposed to the fierce rays of the sun with no way to regulate its internal temperature.

“Will the suit overheat? How long will the batteries last? Can we get a clear transmission if the suit tumbles?” wonders Bauer. These are some of the questions SuitSat will answer, laying the groundwork for SuitSats of the future…

(Thanks to R Stevens and Heidi MacDonald for sending this)

The Pub Is My Womb

January 27th, 2006 | mobilesignals

“Cigarettes are my food,” said Frank Zappa. And then he died of testicular cancer. Which came as no surprise to anyone who’d heard him wanking in recording studios for thirty years, but still. Anyone who names his kid Moon Unit is plainly asking for his balls to rot off. Because there is such a thing as karma. Welcome to the concept of universal payback.

I quit smoking when I was thirty. There then followed three years of medical holocaust. I had a cold for a year, I developed a terminal allergy to housedust, my mouthwas ravaged by some hideous infection that stopped me eating anything harder than soup, I collapsed and was kept chemically unconscious by pain medication for a mouth, my circulatory system tried to kill my brain… And this, understand, is from NOT smoking.

I cannot deny my genetics. I cannot fight that which was hard-wired into me by my father’s tea-coloured, nicotine-riddled seed. You go ahead and pretend that car fumes are magic stardust and the greatest threat to life on earth is cigarette smoke. But the ineluctable, medical truth of the matter is that if I do not smoke I will DIE.
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January 27th, 2006 | researchmaterial

California has become the first US state to classify second-hand tobacco smoke as a toxic air pollutant.

The decision by the California Air Resources Board puts drifting smoke in the same category as diesel exhaust, and could lead to tougher regulation.

cigarette smoke