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Science

The blurry black hole photo

In the New Republic, writer Matt Ford rightly argues why we should be in awe of the blurry photo of the black hole. It’s not about the picture as much as the effort in went in to capturing it. Context is king.

This level of cynicism is better understood as ignorance. The image itself might indeed seem unimpressive. But judging it as you would any other digital photograph, shorn of all context and understanding, would be shortsighted. One also has to consider the thought and labor behind its creation. The photograph might not depict the horror of galactic destruction as some expected, but it represents something even better.

In other words, the photo should not just be consumed and forgotten like every other piece of digital (re: social) media. The image of the black hole is an artifact.

Think about it: A group of mostly hairless primates, stranded on a rock circling a nuclear spark, used radio waves to photograph an invisible sun-eater so far away that a person would have to travel for 55 million years at the speed of light to reach it. It’s hard to not feel a frisson of awe at the scale of the feat. This context is vital to fully appreciating the image itself, in the same way that the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is even more impressive when you know that Michelangelo spent three years of his adult life bent over backwards to paint it.

Read In Defense of the Blurry Black Hole Photo

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Science Video

Styrofoam dancing to sound waves

gif of dancing sound waves

Put your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care.

What looks like a dubstep rave is actually styrofoam dancing to sound waves in a massive flexiglass pipe. The faux mosh pit is the result of a process called sound looking which demonstrates what audible vibrations may actually look like.

Watch the entire video below.

Categories
Video

Growing nervous system in a developing zebrafish embryo

A stunning video of the nervous system of a zebrafish over a 16 hour period.

The imperative is to grow into somebody.

Categories
Psychology Science

How complaining affects the brain

anxiety-changes-brain.jpg
The positive brain versus the negative brain

“Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses, just do the best you can do,” said UCLA coach John Wooden.

It turns out the coach was on to something.

Recent studies show that complaining every day changes the structure of the brain.

Harmful behaviors such as complaining, if allowed to loop within the brain continually, will inevitably alter thought processes. Altered thoughts lead to altered beliefs which leads to a change in behavior.

Our brain possesses a something called the negativity bias. In simple terms, negativity bias is the brain’s tendency to focus more on negative circumstances than positive.

Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist and author of Buddha’s Brain, explains negativity bias:

“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.”

Fortunately, the brain is plastic, which means it can allow more positive emotions to work alongside more negative ones. Writes Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time:

“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

Your hopes and fears may be in your genes, but that doesn’t spell doom. One of the most practical things we can do to counter negative thinking is practicing meditation. “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” said neuroplasticity pioneer Donald Hebb. 

If forcing positive thinking feels inauthentic, try watching your thoughts instead. Being a neutral observer will help you rise above the whole notion of emotional sidedness. As with any self-improvement mechanism, daily practice and momentum is the key to long-term success.

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Health Science

‘Short sleep predicts a shorter life’

I never sleep/because sleep is the cousin of death.

Nas, ‘New York State of Mind’

Everyone knows sleep is critical few people prioritize it. Some folks think it’s a badge of honor to get five hours a night. But your brain literally eats itself when you don’t sleep. 

Sleep is a ‘non-negotiable biological necessity.’

And why not get a few extra 💤? We’re all geniuses when we dream.

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Books Science

Nature, man and woman

We fail so easily to see the difference between fear of the unknown and respect for the unknown, thinking that those who do not hasten in with bright lights and knives are deterred by a holy and superstitious fear. Respect for the unknown is the attitude of those who, instead of raping nature, woo her until she gives herself. But what she gives, even then, is not the cold clarity of the surface but the warm inwardness of the body—a mysteriousness which is not merely a negation, a blank absence of knowledge, but that positive substance which we call wonderful.

— Alan Watts, Nature, Man and Woman