Jan 30, 2018

Esoterica



Lunar trifecta: Rare 'super blue blood moon' will light the sky this week

Set your alarms, space fans -- if you can drag yourself out of bed on Wednesday, you're in for a treat.

The pre-dawn hours of January 31 will play host to an incredibly rare celestial convergence -- a "super blue blood moon."

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So, a "supermoon" is when a full moon occurs at the same time as its perigee, the closest point of the moon's orbit with Earth. The result: the moon appears larger than normal and NASA is predicting this one will be 14% brighter than usual.

Chances are you have used the phrase "once in a blue moon" -- but have you ever wondered where it came from? The well-known idiom actually refers to the rare instance when there is a second full moon in a calendar month. The first supermoon of 2018 -- which took place on New Year's Day -- was previously described by NASA as the "biggest and brightest" one expected for the entire year.

Then completing this "lunar trifecta" is the "blood" element. Although it does not have a scientific definition, a "blood moon" occurs during a lunar eclipse when faint red sunbeams peek out around the edges of the Earth, giving it a reddish, copper color.



First Blue Moon Total Lunar Eclipse in 150 Years Coming This Month

The eclipse will take place during the middle of the night, and the Pacific Ocean will be turned toward the moon at the time. Central and eastern Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand and most of Australia will get a fine view of this moon show in the evening sky. Heading farther west into western Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the eclipse will already be underway as the moon rises. [Super Blue Blood-Moon 2018: When, Where and How to See It]

To the east, Alaska, Hawaii and northwestern Canada will see the eclipse from start to finish. Moonset will intervene for the rest of North and Central America, however.

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Along the U.S. West Coast, the total phase begins at 4:51 a.m. PST. The farther east you go, the closer the start of the partial phases will coincide with moonrise. Along the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard, for instance, the moon will have only just begun to enter the darkest part of Earth's shadow, the umbra, at 6:48 a.m. EST when it will disappear from view below the west-northwest horizon. The duration of the total phase is 77 minutes, with the moon tracking through the southern part of the Earth's shadow. So, during totality, the moon's lower limb will appear much brighter than the dark upper limb.

Scientists confirm what women always knew: men really are the weaker sex

Women are more likely than men to survive in times of famine and epidemics, research has found.

While it has long been known that women have a higher life expectancy than men in general, analysis of historical records stretching back 250 years shows that women have, for example, outlived men on slave plantations in Trinidad, during famines in Sweden and through various measles outbreaks in Iceland.

Even when mortality was very high for both sexes, women still outlived men, on average, by six months to four years, according to the report (pdf) by Duke University in North Carolina.

The datasets included seven groups of people for whom life expectancy was 20 years or under for one or both sexes. Among them were working and former slaves in Trinidad and the US in the early 1800s; people experiencing famine in Sweden, Ireland and the Ukraine in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; and Icelanders affected by the 1846 and 1882 measles epidemics.

Cult leader behind world’s fastest growing vegan restaurant chain

A FEMALE spiritual leader who claims to be a divinely chosen “supreme master” of two million followers is behind the world’s fastest growing vegan restaurant chain.

Loving Hut, which has Australian cafes in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, is the catering arm of the mysterious Supreme Master Ching Hai.

The now 67-year-old platinum blonde multi millionairess, who goes by the name Celestia De Lamour in America, runs a worldwide spiritual organisation which promotes concepts such as “master power” and time travel.

Ching Hai has a clothing and merchandise line with “SM” — for Supreme Master — monogrammed wear, sells her own paintings and “vegan fur” couture. She also owns a television network and has staged a musical in Hollywood based on her poetry.

Neuroscientists Have Followed a Thought as It Moves Through The Brain

A study using epilepsy patients undergoing surgery has given neuroscientists an opportunity to track in unprecedented detail the movement of a thought through the human brain, all the way from inspiration to response.

The findings confirm the role of the prefrontal cortex as the coordinator of complex interactions between different regions, linking our perception with action and serving as what can be considered the "glue of cognition".

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While this poses an unethical level of risk for your average volunteer, patients undergoing surgery for epilepsy have their brain activity monitored in this very way, giving the researchers a perfect chance to conduct a few tests.

Each of the 16 test subjects performed a number of tasks varied to suit their individual arrangement of electrodes, all while having their neural activity monitored and tracked.

The Spice That Hooked Medieval Nuns

It’s the poshest spice of all, often worth its weight in gold. But saffron also has a hidden history as a dye, a luxury self-tanner, and even a serotonin stimulant. That’s right, this episode we’re all about those fragile red threads plucked from the center of a purple crocus flower. Listen in as we visit a secret saffron field to discover why it’s so expensive, talk to a clinical psychologist to explore the science behind saffron’s reputation as the medieval Prozac, and explore the spice’s off-menu role as an all-purpose beautifier for elites from Alexander the Great to Henry VIII.

Saffron’s origins are a mystery, with competing claims placing the wild plant’s origins in regions along a wide, semiarid swath from Greece, in the eastern Mediterranean, to Central Asia. Today, the vast majority is still grown in that belt, with Iran leading the world’s production. But in the 1500s and 1600s, the center of the saffron universe briefly shifted from the sun-baked Mediterranean to rainy England. One particular region of England became so internationally famous for its saffron—in fact, each autumn, the entire area was carpeted in purple petals—that the local market town of Chepying Walden changed its name to Saffron Walden. But by the 1800s, England’s saffron fields had vanished entirely. Two hundred years later, a restless geophysicist named David Smale decided to try cultivating English saffron again. This episode, we visit his field at a secret location in Essex to learn how saffron is grown, hand-harvested, and dried—and about Smale’s uphill battle to uncover the lost art of successfully coaxing saffron from England’s soggy soils.

Smale also told us that “crokers,” as people who harvest saffron are called, have to take a break during packing to avoid getting the giggles. “It’s got a distinctive smell,” said Smale. “It’s beautiful and it’s quite heady—you have to get fresh air every so often because it is a narcotic in big quantities.” It turns out saffron’s mood-altering reputation has some serious science—and some surprising history—behind it. To learn more, we talk with the clinical psychologist Adrian Lopresti, who’s studying saffron’s efficacy as an antidepressant. We also speak with the musicologist Volker Schier about the cache of letters he discovered, which reveal that medieval nuns were hooked on the stuff. “I call it singing under the influence,” Schier told us. The nuns each had their own stash, he said, which they’d take “if they needed it—as a stimulant.” Join us this episode for all this, plus the recipe for a golden swan, as we explore the secrets of saffron.

Magic Mushrooms Do The Opposite of Anti-Depressants, But That May Be Why They Work

Psychedelic therapy is going through something of a revival right now, and we may now know how one such hallucinogenic drug is seemingly able to alleviate symptoms of depression.

Psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, has long been known to deliver therapeutic effects to people with depression, and researchers think this is because the drug helps to revive emotional responsiveness in the brain.

What's so remarkable is this kind of mechanism is actually the opposite effect of a major class of antidepressants used to treat the condition, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

"Psilocybin-assisted therapy might mitigate depression by increasing emotional connection," neuroscientist Leor Roseman from Imperial College London explained to PsyPost.

"[T]his is unlike SSRI antidepressants which are criticised for creating in many people a general emotional blunting."

30 years after Prozac arrived, we still buy the lie that chemical imbalances cause depression

Some 2,000 years ago, the Ancient Greek scholar Hippocrates argued that all ailments, including mental illnesses such as melancholia, could be explained by imbalances in the four bodily fluids, or “humors.” Today, most of us like to think we know better: Depression—our term for melancholia—is caused by an imbalance, sure, but a chemical imbalance, in the brain.

This explanation, widely cited as empirical truth, is false. It was once a tentatively-posed hypothesis in the sciences, but no evidence for it has been found, and so it has been discarded by physicians and researchers. Yet the idea of chemical imbalances has remained stubbornly embedded in the public understanding of depression.

Prozac, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration 30 years ago today, on Dec. 29, 1987, marked the first in a wave of widely prescribed antidepressants that built on and capitalized off this theory. No wonder: Taking a drug to tweak the biological chemical imbalances in the brain makes intuitive sense. But depression isn’t caused by a chemical imbalance, we don’t know how Prozac works, and we don’t even know for sure if it’s an effective treatment for the majority of people with depression.

Want to know what your pet is saying? This device will help your puppy speak like humans

A Northern Arizona University Professor Con Slobodchikoff is developing a new technology to interpret noises of a type of ground squirrel called prairie dog and says it could be used to interpret other animals' calls.

These herbivorous burrowing rodents a have a unique way of communicating with each other, especially alerting other members of a threat. These animals make a loud alarm call that sounds like a dog's bark whenever they spot an enemy like coyotes, bobcats, badgers, eagles, and falcons. They are so sophisticated that they even convey minute details about the threat.

Prof Slobodchikoff, who has been studying the animals for more than 30 years, thinks this is a milestone stone itself and they soon will be able to understand what dogs and cats are trying to say.

Pope shocks Chile by accusing sex abuse victims of slander

Pope Francis accused victims of Chile's most notorious pedophile of slander Thursday, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country.

Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, such accusations against Barros are "all calumny."

The pope's remarks drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of "penance and prayer" for his crimes in 2011. A Chilean judge also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she had to drop criminal charges against Karadima because too much time had passed, proof of his crimes wasn't lacking.

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Francis reopened the wounds of the scandal in 2015 when he named Barros, a protege of Karadima, as bishop of the southern diocese of Osorno. Karadima's victims say Barros knew of the abuse, having seen it, but did nothing. Barros has denied the allegations.

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