katnissofdauntless:

Guys it’s really important during this whole ferguson protest that we as social media DO NOT back down until punishment is dealt to those racists. If we let this movement die, then the oppressors win. I’ve seen stuff like this before and the majority of people stop posting about it within a week. We can’t let that happen, this is too important. so keep reblogging and keep posting until these darn racists are punished for their awful inhumane actions. 

(via elphabaforpresidentofgallifrey)

@7 hours ago with 65515 notes

starsquadd:

It honestly breaks my heart to think that somewhere in the world right now, Jennifer Lawrence (in addition to multiple other women) may very well be crying her eyes out because her privacy has been greatly compromised in one of the most awful ways possible. This is so fucking disgusting and whoever did this is a fucking low-life pig.

(via elphabaforpresidentofgallifrey)

@7 hours ago with 32078 notes

jcash91:

I laughed so hard at this.

(Source: prosinac, via notentirelysurewhatimdoing)

@7 hours ago with 112834 notes
@8 hours ago with 8217 notes

sagansense:

child-of-thecosmos:

Radio and television broadcasting may be only a brief passing phase in our technological development. When we imagine alien civilizations broadcasting signals with radio telescopes, are we any different from earlier generations who imagined riding cannon shells to the moon? Civilizations even slightly more advanced than ours may have already moved on to some other mode of communication, one that we have yet to discover or even imagine. Their messages could be swirling all around us at this very moment, but we lack the means to perceive them just as all of our ancestors, up to a little more than a century ago, would have been oblivious to the most urgent radio signal from another world. 

But there’s another more troubling possibility: Civilizations, like other living things, may only live so long before perishing due to natural causes, or violence, or self-inflicted wounds. Whether or not we ever make contact with intelligent alien life may depend on a critical question: What is the life expectancy of a civilization?

- Episode 11: The Immortals, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey

Recommended reading:

image

Everything you need to know about this book can be found in this wonderfully thorough review by Astrobiology Magazine from 2003.

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I plan on doing a full writeup/review about this book; however, I can tell you it’s one of the best Carl’s ever written and is still heavily referenced by scientists across multiple fields regarding the search for extraterrestrial life, be it intelligent or otherwise. A review on the book and the study of astrobiology itself can be explored via a PDF by Charley Lineweaver of the Planetary Science Institute at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Earth Sciences.

The most fascinating aspect of this book is that it was originally written by I.S. Shklovskii in Russian, re-translated into English, whereby Carl adds his scientific “two-cents”, expanding on subjects and explaining further in a way only Carl, himself, can. For instance, the last paragraph in Chapter 31: Interstellar contact by automatic probe vehicles:

At this point in the Russian edition of the present work, Shklovskii expresses his belief that civilizations are not inevitably doomed to self-destruction, despite his description of contemporary Western literature as filled with details of atomic holocaust. He expresses his belief that as long as capitalism exists on Earth, a violent end to intelligent life on the planet is probable. There is reason to assume, he asserts, that future peaceful societies will be constructed on the basis of Communism. I am able to imagine alternative scenarios for the future. No one today lives in a society which closely resembles Adam Smith capitalism or Karl Marx communism. The political dichotomies of the twentieth century may seem to our remote descendants no more exhaustive of the range of possibilities for the entire future of mankind than do, for us, the alternatives of the European religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As Shklovskii says, the forces of peace in the world are great. Mankind is not likely to destroy itself. There is too much left to do.

Also recommended:

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SETI Scientist Jill Tarter provided a beautiful TED Talk about this subject, and in this interview with NOVA, she speaks on being the inspiration for Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s book/film ‘Contact’ whereby Jodie Foster portrays Dr. Tarter.

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Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer for SETI, presented an enriching TED Talk about why he’s convinced we’re closer than ever in detecting, contacting, or receiving signals from ETI; and recently, had a Q&A conversation with Science 2.0 appropriately titled “Why I Believe We’ll Find Aliens.”

image

…stay curious.

@8 hours ago with 3438 notes
@7 hours ago with 1252 notes

jestemgejem:

R A N N O C H

(via pentaghast)

@7 hours ago with 655 notes
@7 hours ago with 28886 notes
trilliansthoughts:

neuromorphogenesis:

The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better
Meditation yields a surprising number of health benefits, including stress reduction, improved attention, better memory, and even increased creativity and feelings of compassion. But how can something as simple as focusing on a single object produce such dramatic results? Here’s what the growing body of scientific evidence is telling us about meditation and how it can change the way our brains function.
Before we get started it’s worth doing a quick review of what is actually meant by meditation. The practice can take on many different forms, but the one technique that appears most beneficial, and which also happens to be among the most traditional, is called mindfulness meditation, or focused attention.
By mindfulness, practitioners are asked to focus their thoughts on one thought and one thought alone. An overarching goal is to be firmly affixed to the present moment. This typically means concentrating on the breath — observing each inhalation and exhalation — and without consideration to other thoughts. When a “stray” thought arises, the practitioner must be quick to recognize it, and then turn back to the focus of their attention. And it doesn’t just have to be the breath; any single thought, like a mantra, will do.
Now, if you’ve ever tried it, you know how unbelievably difficult this is — particularly in this day in age when our attention spans are taxed to the limit. Our minds are notorious at wandering and moving from thought-to-thought; it’s hard sometimes to string just a few seconds of focused attention together.
And indeed, notions that meditation is simply about relaxation or cleansing the mind of allthoughts are common misconceptions. Meditation is hard work and it takes a lot of practice to get better. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to stay focused. Progress can be measured by how long a single thought can be focused upon without straying.
Remarkably, for something so exceedingly simple, it can produce an astounding number of health benefits. Eager to learn more, a growing number of scientists are looking into the cognitive effects of meditation, including studies on Buddhist monks. And they’re learning that meditation is a very powerful tool indeed.
As a quick aside, most of the studies cited here consider the benefits of focused attention. That’s not to suggest that other practices, like open attention, can’t yield positive results as well.
Changes to the Brain
Buddhists have meditated for literally thousands of years. They’re familiar with its positive effects, including the way it works to instill the inner strength and insight required for the overarching spiritual practice; meditation, or “sitting,” is to Buddhist monks what prayer is to Christians. But instead of trying to hack into the mind of God, Buddhists are trying to hack into their own mind to harness it under control.
But it has only been in recent times that neuroscientists have been able to peer directly into the brain to see what’s going on. The advent of fMRIs and other brain scanning techniques have largely paved the way.
For example, neuroscientists observing MRI scans have learned that meditation strengthens the brain by reinforcing the connections between brain cells. A 2012 study showed that people who meditate exhibit higher levels of gyrification — the “folding” of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth, which in turn may allow the brain to process information faster. Though the research did not prove this directly, scientists suspect that gyrification is responsible for making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories, and improving attention.
Indeed, as much of the research is showing, meditation causes the brain to undergo physical changes, many of which are beneficial. Other studies, for example, have shown that meditation is linked to cortical thickness, which can result in decreased sensitivity to pain.
Or take the 2009 study with the descriptive title, “Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem.” Neuroscientists used MRIs to compare the brains of meditators with non-meditators. The structural differences observed led the scientists to speculate that certain benefits, like improved cognitive, emotional, and immune responses, can be tied to this growth and its positive effects on breathing and heart rate (cardiorespiratory control).
The integrity of gray matter, which is a major player in the central nervous system, certainly appears to benefit. Meditation has been linked to larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter, resulting in more positive emotions, the retention of emotional stability, and more mindful behavior (heightened focus during day-to-day living). Meditation has also been shown to have neuroprotective attributes; it can diminish age-related effects on gray matter and reduce cognitive decline.
A study from earlier this year showed that meditators have a different expression of brain metabolites than healthy non-meditators, specifically those metabolites linked to anxiety and depression.
But it’s not just the physical and chemical components of the brain that’s affected by meditation. Neuroscientists have documented the way it impacts on brain activity itself. For example, meditation has been associated with decreased activity in default mode network activity and connectivity — those undesirable brain functions responsible for lapses of attention and disorders such as anxiety, ADHD — and even the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease.
And finally, meditation has been linked to dramatic changes in electrical brain activity, namely increased Theta and Alpha EEG activity, which is associated with wakeful and relaxed attention.
Health Benefits
While most of the studies listed above addressed the neuro-cognitive aspects of meditation, other studies have correlated meditation with many of the health benefits already described.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of meditation is its ability to improve attention. In 2010, researchers looked at participants who practiced focused attention meditation for about five hours each day over the course of three months (which is a lot!). After conducting concentration tests, the participants were shown to have an easier time sustaining voluntary attention. Which makes sense; if you can concentrate for extended periods of time during meditation, it should carry over to daily life. Focused attention is very much like a muscle, one that needs to be strengthened through exercise.
As an aside, five hours of meditation per day is a bit excessive. Other studies show that 20 minutes a day is all that’s required to get beneficial results, like stress reduction.
Indeed, other research has shown that even a little bit of meditation can help. Studies indicate that, after 10 intensive days of meditation (pdf), people can experience significant improvements in mindfulness and contemplative thoughts, the alleviation of depressive symptoms, and boosts to working memory and sustained attention.
A not-so-surprising study from last year showed that meditation can significantly reduce stress after just eight weeks of training (pdf; more here). Participants who meditated, as compared to those who did not, performed better on stressful multitasking tests. This may have something to do with reduced levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. And interestingly, meditatingbefore a stressful situation may help reduce feelings of stress during the event.
For you creative types, open-monitoring (OM) meditation can promote idea generation. OM meditation is basically the polar opposite of focused attention meditation, requiring practitioners to non-reactively monitor the content of experience from moment to moment.
And lastly, meditation has also been shown to increase levels of empathy, but it has to come from a specific practice known as loving-kindness-compassion meditation. It’s a kind of focused attention meditation, but the practitioner is asked to concentrate on feelings of love, compassion, and understanding. By comparing fMRI scans of novices to those of expert Buddhist monks (each with more than 10,000 hours of practice), researchers watched as emotional stimuli (sounds of people in distress) caused those areas of the brain linked to empathy light up; the monks exhibited greater degrees of empathetic response than the novices. In turn, the scientists speculate that compassion meditation can make a person more empathetic.
So what are you waiting for? Start sitting, and transform your brain!
Image: “Theologue” by Alex Grey.

I did Transcendental Meditation for several years. I used to call it, “falling awake”. I really should go back to it as I can still remember my mantra.

trilliansthoughts:

neuromorphogenesis:

The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better

Meditation yields a surprising number of health benefits, including stress reduction, improved attention, better memory, and even increased creativity and feelings of compassion. But how can something as simple as focusing on a single object produce such dramatic results? Here’s what the growing body of scientific evidence is telling us about meditation and how it can change the way our brains function.

Before we get started it’s worth doing a quick review of what is actually meant by meditation. The practice can take on many different forms, but the one technique that appears most beneficial, and which also happens to be among the most traditional, is called mindfulness meditation, or focused attention.

By mindfulness, practitioners are asked to focus their thoughts on one thought and one thought alone. An overarching goal is to be firmly affixed to the present moment. This typically means concentrating on the breath — observing each inhalation and exhalation — and without consideration to other thoughts. When a “stray” thought arises, the practitioner must be quick to recognize it, and then turn back to the focus of their attention. And it doesn’t just have to be the breath; any single thought, like a mantra, will do.

Now, if you’ve ever tried it, you know how unbelievably difficult this is — particularly in this day in age when our attention spans are taxed to the limit. Our minds are notorious at wandering and moving from thought-to-thought; it’s hard sometimes to string just a few seconds of focused attention together.

And indeed, notions that meditation is simply about relaxation or cleansing the mind of allthoughts are common misconceptions. Meditation is hard work and it takes a lot of practice to get better. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to stay focused. Progress can be measured by how long a single thought can be focused upon without straying.

Remarkably, for something so exceedingly simple, it can produce an astounding number of health benefits. Eager to learn more, a growing number of scientists are looking into the cognitive effects of meditation, including studies on Buddhist monks. And they’re learning that meditation is a very powerful tool indeed.

As a quick aside, most of the studies cited here consider the benefits of focused attention. That’s not to suggest that other practices, like open attention, can’t yield positive results as well.

Changes to the Brain

Buddhists have meditated for literally thousands of years. They’re familiar with its positive effects, including the way it works to instill the inner strength and insight required for the overarching spiritual practice; meditation, or “sitting,” is to Buddhist monks what prayer is to Christians. But instead of trying to hack into the mind of God, Buddhists are trying to hack into their own mind to harness it under control.

But it has only been in recent times that neuroscientists have been able to peer directly into the brain to see what’s going on. The advent of fMRIs and other brain scanning techniques have largely paved the way.

For example, neuroscientists observing MRI scans have learned that meditation strengthens the brain by reinforcing the connections between brain cells. A 2012 study showed that people who meditate exhibit higher levels of gyrification — the “folding” of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth, which in turn may allow the brain to process information faster. Though the research did not prove this directly, scientists suspect that gyrification is responsible for making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories, and improving attention.

Indeed, as much of the research is showing, meditation causes the brain to undergo physical changes, many of which are beneficial. Other studies, for example, have shown that meditation is linked to cortical thickness, which can result in decreased sensitivity to pain.

Or take the 2009 study with the descriptive title, “Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem.” Neuroscientists used MRIs to compare the brains of meditators with non-meditators. The structural differences observed led the scientists to speculate that certain benefits, like improved cognitive, emotional, and immune responses, can be tied to this growth and its positive effects on breathing and heart rate (cardiorespiratory control).

The integrity of gray matter, which is a major player in the central nervous system, certainly appears to benefit. Meditation has been linked to larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter, resulting in more positive emotions, the retention of emotional stability, and more mindful behavior (heightened focus during day-to-day living). Meditation has also been shown to have neuroprotective attributes; it can diminish age-related effects on gray matter and reduce cognitive decline.

A study from earlier this year showed that meditators have a different expression of brain metabolites than healthy non-meditators, specifically those metabolites linked to anxiety and depression.

But it’s not just the physical and chemical components of the brain that’s affected by meditation. Neuroscientists have documented the way it impacts on brain activity itself. For example, meditation has been associated with decreased activity in default mode network activity and connectivity — those undesirable brain functions responsible for lapses of attention and disorders such as anxiety, ADHD — and even the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease.

And finally, meditation has been linked to dramatic changes in electrical brain activity, namely increased Theta and Alpha EEG activity, which is associated with wakeful and relaxed attention.

Health Benefits

While most of the studies listed above addressed the neuro-cognitive aspects of meditation, other studies have correlated meditation with many of the health benefits already described.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of meditation is its ability to improve attention. In 2010, researchers looked at participants who practiced focused attention meditation for about five hours each day over the course of three months (which is a lot!). After conducting concentration tests, the participants were shown to have an easier time sustaining voluntary attention. Which makes sense; if you can concentrate for extended periods of time during meditation, it should carry over to daily life. Focused attention is very much like a muscle, one that needs to be strengthened through exercise.

As an aside, five hours of meditation per day is a bit excessive. Other studies show that 20 minutes a day is all that’s required to get beneficial results, like stress reduction.

Indeed, other research has shown that even a little bit of meditation can help. Studies indicate that, after 10 intensive days of meditation (pdf), people can experience significant improvements in mindfulness and contemplative thoughts, the alleviation of depressive symptoms, and boosts to working memory and sustained attention.

A not-so-surprising study from last year showed that meditation can significantly reduce stress after just eight weeks of training (pdf; more here). Participants who meditated, as compared to those who did not, performed better on stressful multitasking tests. This may have something to do with reduced levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. And interestingly, meditatingbefore a stressful situation may help reduce feelings of stress during the event.

For you creative types, open-monitoring (OM) meditation can promote idea generation. OM meditation is basically the polar opposite of focused attention meditation, requiring practitioners to non-reactively monitor the content of experience from moment to moment.

And lastly, meditation has also been shown to increase levels of empathy, but it has to come from a specific practice known as loving-kindness-compassion meditation. It’s a kind of focused attention meditation, but the practitioner is asked to concentrate on feelings of love, compassion, and understanding. By comparing fMRI scans of novices to those of expert Buddhist monks (each with more than 10,000 hours of practice), researchers watched as emotional stimuli (sounds of people in distress) caused those areas of the brain linked to empathy light up; the monks exhibited greater degrees of empathetic response than the novices. In turn, the scientists speculate that compassion meditation can make a person more empathetic.

So what are you waiting for? Start sitting, and transform your brain!

Image: “Theologue” by Alex Grey.

I did Transcendental Meditation for several years. I used to call it, “falling awake”. I really should go back to it as I can still remember my mantra.

(via preciousisgood)

@8 hours ago with 2962 notes
janemba:

wow this post is worse than i remembered

janemba:

wow this post is worse than i remembered

(via natnovna)

@8 hours ago with 12375 notes