Image Image Image Image Image

Science

RSS

08

Jan

Levitating Objects with Sound

Yoichi Ochiai,Takayuki Hoshi and Jun Rekimoto from the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Tokyo have figured out a way to make objects levitate using the sound coming out of an array of speakers. They can then move these objects around by changing the sound coming out of the speakers. The objects essentially being trapped by standing waves. Geeky? Yes. Amazing? Without a doubt.

For more information on these experiments you can look here: http://96ochiai.ws/3DOFacoustic

These men are AMAZING! Wednesdays are for AMAZING MEN Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE

18

Sep

Jason Silva – The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck

Jason Silva is a man on fire. I could get into critique about his “technology will save us all” message, he is one of the most vocal proponents of Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity theory, but here I just want to focus on his passion…..and entertaining videos. At times I wish I had the unflappable conviction and unabashed enthusiasm for life that he has. Technology lovers, this man is for you.

This man is AMAZING!

Wednesdays are for AMAZING MEN
Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE

09

May

From Womb to World

birth

Do you remember being conceived?

How about being born? Or the time in your mothers womb?

Even if you can’t call forth specific memories might your cells or your morphogenic field hold the imprints of this time? If so, how could this be impacting your life, your decisions and your experience of the world today?

On Monday, May 20th I will be hosting an evening with Anna Verwaal, making a rare appearance from Denmark, where she will talk about just this. All are welcome. For more information on this event please visit our Meetup page here: www.meetup.com/kenwilber-58/

Using rich visuals Anna is going to present the latest findings in cellular biology and pre and perinatal psychology. You will leave you with a deep understanding of how conception, the time in the womb and the birth experience become the blueprint for the rest of our lives, physically, psychologically and emotionally. This talk is for anyone seeking understand, prevent or heal from birth imprints and trauma. This includes couples planning to conceive or currently pregnant.

This night is guaranteed to give you tremendous insights and teach you how to use this important information in personal life and professional practice.

Talk topics:
Cellular biology and memory of the conception, womb and birth experience
The emotional, physical & medical events that affect the fetus later in life
The way prenatal and birth experiences & methods shape our beliefs and fears and show up in our lives (IVF, twins, stress, disease, induction, vacuum, C/S, prematurity, etc)
How prenatal and birth experiences can influence fertility, pregnancy, labor and giving birth
How to prevent birth trauma from happening and prepare for a conscious pregnancy and birth experience

Speaker Information:
Anna Verwaal, RN, CLE, born and educated in the Netherlands is a Maternal-Child Health Nurse, Conscious Conception & Birth Consultant, Primal Period Instructor, UCLA Certified Lactation Educator and Birth Photographer who lives in Santa Fe.

She currently travels internationally to lecture and teach workshops about the cellular memory of the birth experience, the physiological & hormonal blueprint for birth & bonding and the deeply psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of giving birth.

For more info on Anna Verwaal please visit her website: www.FromWombToWorld.com or watch her TEDx talk here:

25

Apr

Practically Ideal

duck bacon

My friend Logan has a great podcast called Practically Ideal, “the podcast for idealists who like to keep it practical”.  Aside from having a great name they offer a somewhat Libertarian take on technology, media and politics. Perhaps you remember that I wrote about Practically Ideal a while back when they asked if they could use some of my music for the show. Well, today I am a guest on said show. I am filling in for Logan’s partner Bob Caswell while he is out. My first ever podcast appearance! Honestly, I’m kinda afraid to listen to it. I drank a ton of coffee and then we talked about smartphones, duck bacon, the Singularity, Vikings, Danny Boyle and, of course, Life Coaching!

Check out the episode here: How to kick ass at life (Logan’s way of referring to what I do as a Life Coach)

Yes, that is a picture I took of Duck Bacon.

18

Apr

Nuns Control Body Temperature with Their Minds

orange meditation monk

Every once in a while I get excited when science documents something that intuition or experience tells me is real, but my judging mind and the society that cultivates it assumes is false. I have written about how Yoga Can Increase Gray Matter in the Brain and treat asthma. I have told you how meditation can help you sleep and reduce stress at work. I even wrote about some amazing science showing that Your Heart May Know the Future. We know that Breathing Exercises  have an amazing number of positive effects on your physiology. The breath is the link between our conscious and unconscious processes, the way to establish a conscious link between our awareness and our autonomic nervous system. Well, when you combine meditation and breathing exercises with visualizations the results are astounding.

Researchers recently visited some Tibetan nuns to take EEG readings and temperature measurements while the nuns engaged a practice known as “g-tummo” meditation. What they found is that Tibetan nuns can change the core of their body temperatures at will. This not only helps them keep warm but also give their immune systems a boost. The nuns were able to dry up wet sheets wrapped around their bodies while sitting outside in -25 degrees Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit). They were able to increase their core body temperature up to 38.3 degree Celsius (about 101 Fahrenheit).

G-tummo meditation is a spiritual practice where they harness “inner energy”. The practice requires two techniques, “Vase breath”, a form of breathing that causes heat production and visualization of flames near the spine.

For 15 years I have been practicing breathing exercises prior to and/or during meditation. To me it is obvious that at times my internal temperature changes drastically. Occasionally I get cold. The vast majority of the time I get warm or hot. More than once I have broken out in a sweat. To say that meditation can change your core temperature is obvious to me. What I have not ever attempted is to raise my temperature intentionally. I did have some intense experiences a few years back that appear to have raised my internal temperature permanently. I used to hate the cold. It bothers me far less now. Others can often feel me radiating heat. This perplexed me. In my attempts to figure out what was happening to me I stumbled across literature on kundalini. There is an entire branch of yoga dedicated to the attempts to “uncoil the serpent at the base of the spine” and release the immense energy that resides there. Yogic asanas, breathing exercises and meditation are the key to raising this “fire at the base of your spine”. My Year on the Mountain was largely about exploring and cultivating this phenomenon. I have no doubt that it works, but I hadn’t put the effort into cultivating raising my core temperature at will. Given the impending energy shortages perhaps this is what we all need living up hear in the chilly NorthEast!

[Science Daily Image: Sirikit Dam Thailand Tevaprapas Makklay/Wikimedia Commons]

27

Mar

Ken Wilber Stops His Brain Waves

I’m a HUGE fan of this man for a whole lot of reasons.

I have and will continue to share many aspects of his work. All of that aside, what he as accomplished as a meditator is incredible. The title doesn’t lie. He does it at will.

This man is AMAZING!

Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE

27

Feb

Jack Andraka – Discovers a test for pancreatic cancer at 15

At only 15 years old Jack Andraka has discovered a test for pancreatic cancer that is 168 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive, and over 400 times more sensitive than the current standard.

15!

Listen to him describe his process.
All bets are off when kids have access to the internet. Love this guy.

This man is are AMAZING!

Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE

10

Feb

Yoga May Increase Gray Matter in the Brain

Costa Rica Yoga

(This weeks Science post is coming to you a little bit late and from beautiful Costa Rica. Thanks Em for being my model for this shot)

Increasingly, scientists are conducting studies looking at how practices such as yoga and meditation effect the brain. For centuries in the east there has been a tradition of rigorous practice and acceptance of yogic techniques as being beneficial for people in innumerable ways.  For better and worse the west is not often convinced by anecdote or public consensus alone. We love to attempt to create a controlled environment and then adjust one variable and see what results. This is the basis for our scientific method. Culturally we may seem slow to adopt certain practices that others have trusted for centuries, but in the process we usually add a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind the results that others experience.

paper published recently in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine provides details of a study that looked at how the brains of practitioners of Hatha Yoga Meditation compare to those with no experience. They measured this difference by looking at the density of gray matter. Gray matter is a type of brain tissue. For our purposes you can think of regions of gray matter as processing centers. Our brain has many of these centers. The creators of this study hypothesized that practitioners of YMP would have a greater density of gray matter in a number of regions including the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. They also predicted significantly less self-reported cognitive failures in those who practice YMP.

Previous studies have shown significant correlations between a decrease in gray matter density in specific regions and smoking, aging and adolescent childhood abuse. The consensus seems to be that gray matter increase is beneficial and losing gray matter is detrimental. It is then a decent hypothesis that something which helps to build gray is beneficial for our health and well being.

Hatha yoga techniques, including physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation, involve the practice of mindfulness. This study refers to this as Yoga Meditation Practice (YMP). The 7 participants who were adept at YMP all reported having a consistent daily practice of 45 minutes or more for the past 5 years or longer. The control group consisted of 7 people who reported no current or past dedicated meditation or yoga practice.

From the authors, “prior studies have identified differences in gray matter volume (GMV) between long-term mindfulness practitioners and controls, no studies to date have reported on whether yoga meditation is associated with GMV differences. The present study investigated GMV differences between yoga meditation practitioners (YMP) and a matched control group (CG). The YMP group exhibited greater GM volume in frontal, limbic, temporal, occipital, and cerebellar regions.”

All participants were scanned using an MRI. As you are likely familiar, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) is a machine with giant magnets that is used to generate an image of internal organs, in this instance, the brain. It can be used to not only get a general image of internal organs, but also to determine the density of a particular area. This study is one of a growing number that look at the effects of mindfulness. Here “the state of mindfulness is characterized by a nonjudgmental and metacognitive monitoring of momentary thoughts, emotions, action urges, perceptions, and bodily sensations.” When meditators speak of equanimity, the state of composure, calm and level-headedness they are speaking of the effect of remaining mindful. We can learn to cultivate equanimity using mindfulness practices. Mindfulness is a focus practice involving “repeated placement of attention onto an object while alternately acknowledging and letting go of distracting thoughts and emotions.” To readers of this blog this should sound familiar. I have talked about how to focus before and the state of mind that this produces is also a good example of FLOW, of “being in the zone.

So what were the results of this study? “YMP exhibited volumetrically larger brain structures and fewer lapses in executive function in daily life. Structural differences were particularly evident in brain regions subserving higher-order control of cognitive and motor responses…. study findings suggest that the practice of hatha yoga is associated with enhanced cognitive function coupled with enlargement of brain structures held to instantiate executive control.” In plain english, yoga tones not only your body, but your brain as well.

25

Jan

Mushrooms Becoming Legal

mac mushroom

On Monday Integral New York (disclosure: I am an organizer) hosted Alexander Belser for a presentation and discussion titled “Taking Mushrooms Before Dying: Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy”. Belser and his research team at New York University are part of a small group of scientists who, in recent years, have gotten government approval to conduct studies on the potential health effects of psilocybin, the active compound in “magic mushrooms”. Currently, psychedelic mushrooms are a schedule 1 drug. This makes them the most illegal of all drugs. Schedule 1 is defined as a category of drugs not considered legitimate for medical use with a high potential for abuse (addiction).

Belser was quick to point out that there is no scientific evidence for either of these claims about psilocybin. In years past, when research was allowed, and now in recent years, as it has begun again, scientists are actually gathering data to the contrary. Far from being damaging, psychedelic use is again and again shown to have a wide range of positive effects on those who partake. Belser’s study looks at anxiety levels in those with cancer or a history of cancer. Most of these people live in constant fear of a disease that could claim their lives in a very short period of time. Anything that could help alleviate their suffering is worth exploring. Lucky for us, psilocybin appears to be a potent treatment.

The NYU study is ongoing. Their 2010 paper was the first time a paper like this has come out in a prestigious psychiatric journal in 40 years. Behavioral Biologist Roland Griffiths from John Hopkins University was quoted saying  that this “demonstrates that such research can be conducted safely and that doses have palliative effects.” It is worth noting that this population is not generally regarded as responding well to psychological therapies. In stark contrast to the minimal results from months of therapy, participants in psychedelic research regularly report not only large state shifts during the experience, but overall quality of life improvements that carry on for months or more. Besler reported that it is not uncommon for participants to cite this one psychedelic experience as one of the most important events in their lives.

Other evidence for the positive effects of psychedelics is piling up across the country. MDMA is an effective treatment for severe P.T.S.D. LSD has been shown to greatly reduce symptoms in people with cluster headaches. Psychedelics have been recently examined as treatment for alcoholism and other addictions. There is a growing history outside the US of using the african root iboga to treat both heroin and alcohol addiction. Researchers in London are using M.R.I. to scan peoples brains to see what regions are effected. It is documented that in people who suffer from severe depression regions such as the anterior cingulate cortex are overactive and psilocybin may work to shut it down. My own speculation is that rather than a specific effect within the brain researchers would be better served studying its potential adaptogenic (non-specific) potential within the entire human body/mind system.

Officially, the NYU study is a Phase II randomized double blind placebo-controlled crossover study investigating the effect of psilocybin on end-of-life anxiety in patients with advanced cancer. They give people mushrooms and see what impact this has on their life. At the meetup we got to watch a 10 minute clip of one of the participants describing her experiences with the study. She is an intelligent, well spoken retired medical health professional. Her experiences were profound and transformative. To say that taking psychedelics reduced the anxiety surrounding her cancer would be an understatement of the largest degree. Her entire life was impacted by this one dose of psilocybin and she had not one negative side effect to mention. You should see the way her eyes shine when she describes months later spontaneously dancing in the kitchen with her husband in the morning. Her experience re-ignited something in her that is ineffable, but easy to feel when you see her speak.

Those of us with personal experience using psychedelics likely find this science reassuring but largely unnecessary. Other than the occasional anecdote about “the guy who thinks he’s a glass of orange juice and is afraid you are going to tip him over because of a bad trip” we have witnessed ourselves and others accessing expanded states of consciousness leading to feelings of love, connection, empathy, joy and probably had a few good laughs along the way. Psychedelic experiences, such as my own that I wrote about on ayahuasca in Brazil can certainly be terrifying, sad and difficult to endure. But in my experience when the set and setting are correct, when the approach to these powerful substances is sacred and not casual, the benefits far outway the costs and the most harrowing experiences lead to the greatest and most long lasting positive insights and transformations.

Before we left I asked Belser if he personally was hopeful for a rescheduling of psilocybin to make it less illegal or even legal. He said that he is hopeful and offered marijuana as a model for how mushroom legality could evolve over the coming years. Legally there are no significant efforts underway to change the legality of mushrooms, but scientific evidence is hard to argue against in a court of law and currently all of the available evidence disagrees with the letter of the law. This I find hopeful indeed.

03

Jan

Will Power is a Muscle

marshmallow experiment

Perhaps you have heard about the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment? Young children were offered a marshmallow. If they could resist eating the marshmallow for 15 minutes they were promised (and given) a second marshmallow. The researchers were testing the children’s ability to delay gratification. They then looked to see how this correlated with future success. Follow-up studies found that the children who were able to delay gratification longer were described “10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent.” After 12 years the ability to delay gratification also correlated with higher SAT scores. “ A 2011 study of the same participants indicates that the characteristic remains with the person for life.” Differences in the groups showed up in brain scans. (wikipedia)

Skeptics have since pointed out a number of flaws in this experiment including the then ignored importance of the child’s most recent experience with these or any adults. If said experience inspired trust the child was more likely to wait. If they were led to believe that adults may not show up with the second marshmallow the child would not wait. The study was measuring not only the ability to delay gratification, but the child’s momentary state of mind as determined by numerous factors. There is a complex mix of nature and nurture at work.

I have heard this study cited when people are trying to argue for inherent traits or personality types and against the possibility that we can transform who we are when we are young. “See, those who couldn’t delay gratification with a marshmallow can’t stay home and study for their SAT’s!” The study does imply that most people do not undergo massive shifts. Most children remain in the same environment with the same parents and similar activities. What happens when they are adults and can choose to seek change? While few adults do consciously seek growth and transformation it is my experience that those who do seek growth can grow beyond the patterns and inertia that they were handed as a child. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had not overcome many of my own patterns and I would not continue working as a life coach if I were not seeing these types of shifts in others on a regular basis.

A 2000 study published by the American Psychological Association looks at over 100 previous papers and studies and suggests that self control is a muscle. Like all muscles, it appears to fatigue during a period of extended use. The authors, Mark Muraven and Roy F. Baumeister state that “exerting self-control may consume self-control strength, reducing the amount of strength available for subsequent self-control efforts. Coping with stress, regulating negative affect, and resisting temptations require self-control…..when a situation demands two consecutive acts of self-control, performance on the second act is frequently impaired.”

This makes the situation a bit more complex, but also gives us a more nuanced understanding. Children in the experiment may indeed have more or less baseline self control, they may also have just experienced a more or less nurturing or stressful situation. Being stressed appears to be taxing on the same system that regulates self control. Children’s who’s home is less relaxing or more taxing may have shown up in a depleted state. Many of them likely live in that state regularly. And what happens over time? If the muscle analogy has some truth to it then our self control muscles should not only tire with use, they should be susceptible to be strain from over use and growth from proper use balanced with rest and recuperation. The rest piece is crucial to me. Those who live in a stressful environment may never get the opportunity to recuperate.

A 2006 study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology set out to see how participants responded to exercising their “self-regulation muscles”. They set out to see if using our self control in one activity (here actually joining a gym and going regularly) would correlate with an increased ability to control other activities that require will power. Their conclusions? “participants also reported significant decreases in perceived stress, emotional distress, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and an increase in healthy eating, emotional control, maintenance of household chores, attendance to commitments, monitoring of spending and an improvement in study habits.” They went on to say that their 2 month program “produced significant improvements in a wide range of regulatory behaviors. Their conclusion is that exerting self control in one area develops an increased reservoir of self-regulation which all activities can tap into.

Thinking about self control in this manner should help us to be more compassionate both with ourselves and with others. When you give in and eat a piece of cake you know you shouldn’t or skip a workout you feel you need how much do you consider the many strains on your will power that you have already endured that day? The same is true when we judge others. How often do you know the full story of others lives? Can you possibly know every stress and anxiety someone else is already dealing with when you see them act in a way that you deem as less than ideal? Anyone who has ever lifted weights knows that it would be ridiculous to judge yourself as weak on the last rep of the last set of an exercise. Push your muscles hard enough, they fail and you can barely lift your arm. We don’t judge ourselves weak because we recognize all of the work that has come before this last lift. How about when it comes to your will power? Can you recognize that at times your reserves are full and at others they are depleted? Can you grant others this same consideration? I ask two things of you:

  1. Please, be gentle with yourself when you need rest.
  2. Recognize that massive change is possible when you are ready.