Tag Archives: #fact

How to Find The “Self”? (Philosophy)

Finding yourself is a journey worth embarking on. This is where to start.

There is a defined path to find the self “quickly,” though the process could still hardly be described as quick. Many people are swift to dismiss Eastern modalities as outdated, unusual, and unworkable. But the fact is that in terms of finding the self, Vedic philosophy occupies a distinct position of respect. To proceed with finding Self, you will need:

1. A silent and serene location
2. The ability to meditate on the heart chakra
3. The ability to severely restrict diet
4. The ability to leave behind all technology and distractions.

© Crushpixel

In many ways, it is simple and straightforward. Get to a silent location and meditate on loving the self. Restrict your diet, so you are not eating any meat, processed food, caffeine, or alcohol. Avoid technology and eliminate all mental, physical, and emotional distractions.

Though this can be difficult to do, the results will be immense. It is the ideal healing modality. About three to seven days is enough for significant changes to occur with the above protocol. It can be repeated as often as necessary, and while you won’t succeed the first or even the tenth time, it is enough to fully rejuvenate you from the stresses of modern living in a big way.

Ironically, the quickest way to find the self is to do absolutely nothing at all. Your body, mind, and soul will heal if you stop eating, thinking, and reading garbage all the time. You will be in a perfect state of health if you stop doing things that put you in a depressed mood and environment. The grand irony of it all is that people need to ‘do something’ to fix an illusory problem. This leads to fad diets, liposuction, gender changes, unhappy relationships, and unaffordable mortgages.

Vedic philosophy has by no means a monopoly on silent retreats and fasting. But it really cuts to the heart, emphasizing these things and its constant focus on finding the self. There are hundreds of other esoteric modalities such as crystal bowls, visualization, spinning, manifestation, lucid dreaming, chakra work, and many more. While they might bring many benefits and even some paranormal effects, they do not cut to the core of finding the self. This involves letting go of everything you have learned to step into new dimensions.

The pinnacle of self-esteem ultimately culminates in self-realization, a state of being discussed in practically every piece of spiritual literature of note. This state goes beyond the typical human experience to full-bodied bliss and understanding. However, self-realized people are still flesh and blood, live to tell their experiences, have written books, and can be found by those who actively search for them.

Other Methods to Help Find the Self

There are more ways to try and find who you really are. It is best likened to the peeling of an onion where only the true self is left. A good place to start is to review all of what has happened to you in this lifetime and the major events. The point is not to wallow in them or take pride in their achievements. Just draw a linear map of the major events that happened, their effect on you, and try to see the bigger picture. This will help to build a degree of objectivity.

In terms of finding self, you do not want to be dependent in any way. Look at all the ways you are emotionally, mentally, physically, or financially dependent on other people and things. Become as self-sufficient as possible. This could entail eliminating cigarettes or bad food and finding a new job where you work for yourself. It will be different for everybody.

Finding self is an individual process. Nobody has ever self-realized themselves together. It is just not the way that the universe works. Groupthink is the antithesis of individual empowerment. Because even in groups, solutions only come from one individual with one spark of inspiration. There is no way to share creativity or ingenuity because it comes from within. This means that when you find the self, the practices that you use, and the philosophy that you adopt will be yours alone. If you copy what others are doing, you are already disempowered and will never find yourself. Without making decisions of your own volition, you are not giving yourself any power.

This article is originally written by Sarah-Len Mutiwasekwa who is a mental health advocate whose efforts are invested in breaking the stigma around talking about mental health and increasing awareness of these issues in Africa. This article is republished here from psychology today under common creative licenses

How The Brain Distinguishes Fact From Possibility (Neuroscience)

Our brains respond to language expressing facts differently than they do to words conveying possibility, a team of neuroscientists has found. Its work offers new insights into the impact word choice has on how we make distinctions between what’s real vs. what’s merely possible.

A full-brain analysis revealed a significant effect for modal force, eliciting stronger activity for the factual condition over the modal conditions. ©Tulling et al., eNeuro 2020

“At a time of voluminous fake news and disinformation, it is more important than ever to separate the factual from the possible or merely speculative in how we communicate,” explains Liina Pylkkanen, a professor in NYU’s Department of Linguistics and Department of Psychology and the senior author of the paper, which appears in the journal eNeuro.

“Our study makes clear that information presented as fact evokes special responses in our brains, distinct from when we process the same content with clear markers of uncertainty, like ‘may’ or ‘might’,” adds Pylkkanen, also part of the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute.

“Language is a powerful device to effectively transmit information, and the way in which information is presented has direct consequences for how our brains process it,” adds Maxime Tulling, a doctoral candidate in NYU’s Department of Linguistics and the paper’s lead author. “Our brains seem to be particularly sensitive to information that is presented as fact, underlining the power of factual language.”

Researchers have long understood that the brain responds in a variety of ways to word choice. Less clear, however, are the distinctions it makes in processing language expressing fact compared to that expressing possibility. In the eNeuro study, the scientists’ primary goal was to uncover how the brain computes possibilities as conveyed by so-called “modal” words such as “may” or “might”—as in, “There is a monster under my bed” as opposed to, “There might be a monster under my bed.”

To explore this, the researchers used formal semantic theories in linguistics to design multiple experiments in which subjects heard a series of sentences and scenarios expressed as both fact and possibility—for example, “Knights carry large swords, so the squires do too” (factual) and “If knights carry large swords, the squires do too” (possible).

In order to measure the study subjects’ brain activity during these experiments, the researchers deployed magnetoencephalography (MEG), a technique that maps neural activity by recording magnetic fields generated by the electrical currents produced by our brain.

The results showed that factual language led to a rapid increase in neural activity, with the brain responding more powerfully and showing more engagement with fact-based phrases and scenarios compared to those communicating possibility.

“Facts rule when it comes to the brain,” observes Pylkkanen. “Brain regions involved in processing discourse rapidly differentiated facts from possibilities, responding much more robustly to factual statements than to non-factual ones. These findings suggest that the human brain has a powerful, perspective-adjusted neural representation of factual information and, interestingly, much weaker, more elusive cortical signals reflecting the computation of mere possibilities.”

“By investigating language containing clear indicators of possibility compared to factual utterances, we were able to find out which regions of the brain help to rapidly separate non-factual from factual language,” explains Tulling. “Our study thus illustrates how our choice of words has a direct impact on subconscious processing.”

Reference: Tulling et al., “Neural Correlates of Modal Displacement and Discourse-Updating Under (Un)Certainty, eNeuro, DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0290-20.2020

Provided by Society for Neuroscience

“Healthy” Menu Labels Can Backfire (Food)

Over the last decade or so you’ve probably noticed nutrition information appearing on restaurant menus. From fast food chains like McDonald’s to higher end cafes and bistros, the information is now at your fingertips. Although the detailed signage was meant to educate diners and encourage them to make healthier choices, it’s backfiring. When nutritious foods are described in language similar to indulgent menu items, diners are more than happy to dig in.

In the age-old debate between science and art, it seems that researchers are finally picking up on what many chefs have known all along; the more enticing a dish sounds, the more likely people will be to want to eat it. If you’re not convinced, try this simple test: Which menu item would you rather eat? A) Chicken sandwich, or B) Herb-marinated, grilled chicken breast served on fresh-baked focaccia with hearts of romaine, sun-ripened heirloom tomato slices, and garlic aioli? No question, right?

Still, science (and market researchers) rely on provable fact, especially when public health is at risk. In a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers launched a study in a college cafeteria to discover how food descriptions swayed consumers towards or away from healthy choices. Of nearly 28,000 meals served over a month and a half, just over 8,000 included a choice of vegetable.

Although the preparation of the vegetables remained the same throughout the study, each day they were served, the researchers adjusted the labels on the vegetable dishes between basic (ex. “sweet potatoes”), a description that highlighted its health properties (“vitamin-rich sweet potatoes”), or a description detailing its flavor or other characteristic (“zesty baked sweet potato wedges”). Giving the veggie a sexier description triggered 25 percent more people to choose it over the bland name. The gap widened in a choice between the luxurious label and the health-positive “wholesome sweet potato superfood.”

And if you ask someone to choose between a veggie with fancy description and a “scolding” title, it was no contest. The decadent-sounding dish was chosen 41 percent over “cholesterol-free sweet potatoes.”

The implications of the study show that simply relabeling healthy food can have a major impact on the choices people make while dining out, even without realizing it. The researchers in the JAMA study aren’t the first to realize this phenomenon. For example, when Taco Bell (which has also marketed itself as the spot to go for the “Fourth Meal” of the day) rolled out its “Cantina Menu” nationwide in 2012, it focused its campaign on fresh ingredients, more choices, and value versus the new items’ nutritional profiles compared to its traditional menu, leading to an 8.8 percent increase in sales in its U.S. stores that year. The college cafeteria researchers are certainly more concerned with improving consumers’ overall health rather than where they satisfy their taco cravings, but at the end of the day, it looks like it’s all just a matter of “taste.”

The Moses Illusion Shows How Bad You Are At Fact-Checking? (Psychology)

Can you come up with the answers to these questions?

1. How many of each animal did Moses take on the Ark?
2. What’s the nationality of Thomas Edison, inventor of the telephone?
3. What were the first words uttered by Louis Armstrong when he set foot on the moon?

If you answered “two,” “American,” and “One small step for man …” congratulations: You got every question wrong. As we’re sure you’re aware, it was Noah, not Moses, who built the Ark; Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone; and Neil Armstrong, not Louis Armstrong, who went to the moon. You knew that, of course. So why did the questions fool you? It’s all in how your brain processes information.

This bit of trickery is called the Moses Illusion. It shows how bad you are at picking up on errors in your everyday life. Researchers have fooled countless volunteers in countless labs while trying to figure out what circumstances make this happen and what they can do to help people spot more falsehoods. In the original 1981 study demonstrating this illusion, more than 80 percent of people missed the fact that Moses wasn’t involved in the Ark even though they had previously proven that they knew that. That’s despite the fact that identifying erroneous questions like this was literally one of their tasks; they either had to answer the question, say “don’t know,” or say “wrong” if there was something wrong with the question.

The Moses question tripped people up the most — only around 40 percent of people were fooled by questions like “What was the nationality of Thomas Edison, inventor of the telephone?” A study published in 2000 in the journal Psychological Science explains why. UCLA researchers figured out that there are two ways people are easily fooled by this illusion: if the swapped names are “semantically similar” (on the same topic, the way Moses and Noah are both from the Bible) or “phonologically similar” (sound the same, the way Moses and Noah are both two syllables with an emphasis on the first syllable, which has an “o” sound). With that discovery, the researchers came up with questions that had both qualities in order to test what they called the “Mega-Moses illusion.” Sure enough, a question that swapped out the name “Andrew Johnson” for “Lyndon Johnson” — also a former U.S. vice president with a two-syllable first name and the same last name — fooled more people than questions with just one of those elements at play.

Sure, it’s easy to fool people. But is this actually important beyond letting a few scientists have a laugh? Unfortunately, yes. Vanderbilt psychology professor Lisa Fazio, who wrote about this phenomenon in The Conversation, has shown in her own studies that illusions like this can lead people to pick up false information about the world. When she and her team had people read fictional stories that referred to things like “paddling around the largest ocean, the Atlantic,” people were more likely to say the Atlantic was the world’s largest ocean, even though they had correctly answered “Pacific” on a test they took two weeks before reading the stories.

Even worse, many attempts to help people avoid this tendency have backfired. Researchers have tried giving people more time to read the questions and printing the important information in red ink, and it just made people more likely to answer incorrectly.

Luckily, the thing that’s been proven to work is a practice we can all do, especially as we wade through social-media feeds full of sensational headlines and “fake news.” When people are asked to play fact-checker, correcting errors as they read, they’re much less likely to pick up false information than people who just read what they’re given. The takeaway is clear: assume anything you hear or read could be wrong, and you’re more likely to notice when it is. If you do that, you’ll be just like Einstein, the inventor of electricity.

Rainfall And Snowmelt Filled Ancient Mars With Lake Beds And River Valleys (Astronomy / Planetary Science)

A new study from The University of Texas at Austin is helping scientists piece together the ancient climate of Mars by revealing how much rainfall and snowmelt filled its lake beds and river valleys 3.5 billion to 4 billion years ago.

Fig: New research from The University of Texas at Austin has used dry Martian lake beds to determine how much precipitation was present on the planet billions of years ago. Credit: Gaia Stucky de Quay

The study represents the first time that researchers have quantified the precipitation that must have been present across the planet, and it comes out as the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is making its way to the red planet to land in one of the lake beds crucial to this new research.

The ancient climate of Mars is something of an enigma to scientists. To geologists, the existence of riverbeds and paleolakes—eons-old lake basins—paints a picture of a planet with significant rainfall or snowmelt. But scientists who specialize in computer climate models of the planet have been unable to reproduce an ancient climate with large amounts of liquid water present for long enough to account for the observed geology.

Although scientists have found large amounts of frozen water on Mars, no significant amount of liquid water currently exists.

In the study, researchers found that precipitation must have been between 13 and 520 feet (4 to 159 meters) in a single episode to fill the lakes and, in some cases, provide enough water to overflow and breach the lake basins. Although the range is large, it can be used to help understand which climate models are accurate.

The scientists looked at 96 open-basin and closed-basin lakes and their watersheds, all thought to have formed between 3.5 billion and 4 billion years ago. Open lakes are those that have ruptured by overflowing water; closed ones, on the other hand, are intact. Using satellite images and topography, they measured lake and watershed areas, and lake volumes, and accounted for potential evaporation to figure out how much water was needed to fill the lakes.

By looking at ancient closed and open lakes, and the river valleys that fed them, the team was able to determine a minimum and maximum precipitation. The closed lakes offer a glimpse at the maximum amount of water that could have fallen in a single event without breaching the side of the lake basin. The open lakes show the minimum amount of water required to overtop the lake basin, causing the water to rupture a side and rush out.

In 13 cases, researchers discovered coupled basins—containing one closed and one open basin that were fed by the same river valleys—which offered key evidence of both maximum and minimum precipitation in one single event.

Another great unknown is how long the rainfall or snowmelt episode must have lasted: days, years or thousands of years. That’s the next step of the research.

As this research is published, NASA recently launched Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover to visit Jezero crater, which contains one of the open lake beds used in the study. Co-author Tim Goudge, an assistant professor in the UT Jackson School Department of Geological Sciences, was the lead scientific advocate for the landing site. He said the data collected by the crater could be significant for determining how much water was on Mars and whether there are signs of past life.


References: Gaia Stucky de Quay et al, Precipitation and aridity constraints from paleolakes on early Mars, Geology (2020). DOI: 10.1130/G47886.1 Link: https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/geology/article-abstract/doi/10.1130/G47886.1/589700/Precipitation-and-aridity-constraints-from?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Is Sasquatch Real? Here Are 3 Reasons To Say “Maybe.” (Amazing Places / Adventure / Mystery)

We don’t believe in the Loch Ness monster. Aliens are probably out there somewhere, but we don’t think they’ve been to Earth. But there’s one mythological monster that just pushes all our buttons: sasquatch. If you ask us, it’s the most likely of all of the cryptids to actually exist (though that frankly isn’t saying much). Here’s the case for — and against — the existence of Bigfoot.

Let’s not beat around the bush about this: there is for all intents and purposes no hard evidence of sasquatch. But there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence and even more eyewitness accounts. Here are the three sasquatch stories that made us sit up and say, “Hmm…”

The Patterson-Gimlin tape. This is it. The gold standard of Bigfoot footage. We guarantee you’ve seen it. Though sasquatch is notoriously blurry on camera, the figure here is anything but. Sure, it could be a costume, but remember: this was shot by a couple of amateurs around the same time that “Planet of the Apes” was the pinnacle of special primate effects. To be fair, there have been a few people who have claimed to have faked the footage — but each of them claims to be the person in the monkey suit. Maybe it’s the hoax that’s the real fake.

• Ancient oral traditions. Sure, modern people claim to see Bigfoot all the time — but modern people will say anything. We’re intrigued by the fact that so many Native American cultures make room for a large, hairy wild man in their cosmology. When different cultures all over a continent all have their own word for a big, fuzzy guy who lives in the woods, we’re inclined to think there might be something to the story.

• The prints! How could we forget the prints? Unlike the chupacabra, the moth man, and the jackalope, sasquatches are leaving footprints behind all over the continent. More than 900 sets of footprints have been discovered over the years, and in “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science” (cover blurb by Jane Goodall!) primatologist Jeff Meldrum shows that the most plausible of these prints map onto a bell curve. That means that most of the feet are about 16 inches long, and the further a measurement is from that baseline, the less likely it is to turn up — and that’s exactly what you’d expect of a diverse, biological population.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. Sasquatch, sadly, is probably not real. The problem is, as compelling as the evidence can seem, it all adds up to nothing that you can actually get your hands on. Here’s the case against Bigfoot.

The prints! Yeah, they belong on both lists. See, even though there have been a lot of prints found over the years, there have also been a lot of known fakers. Chief among them was the late Ray Wallace, who used big wooden feet for nearly 50 years to become the bane of good-faith Bigfoot hunters everywhere. He certainly wasn’t the only faker out there, either. Let’s just say that, although tracks might be abundant, they also tend to be very clean and uniform.

• The fossil record. Some bigfoot enthusiasts point to Gigantopithicus as bigfoot’s ancient ancestor, but there’s just one problem. It isn’t found in the Americas. And neither is any other bipedal primate. If there were a breeding population of Bigfeet out there, it would have left its mark on the fossil record, one way or another.

• The hard evidence. At the end of the day, this is what it comes down to. Modern researchers know pretty well how to venture into the untamed woodlands and track the animals that live there. But somehow, Bigfoot tracks always seem to turn up for amateur trackers, and never for scientifically minded professionals. It’s not as if they’re hiding evidence, either — many of them want Bigfoot to be real. The fact that after all these years, we’ve found no Bigfoot DNA, no fecal matter, no nests, and no “I’m with Bigfoot” T-shirts adds up to one unavoidable conclusion: the big guy just isn’t out there. It doesn’t hurt to dream, though.


ALMA Observed Stellar Eggs In Tauras And Revealed Their Evolution State (Astronomy)

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) took a census of stellar eggs in the constellation Taurus and revealed their evolution state. This census helps researchers understand how and when a stellar embryo transforms to a baby star deep inside a gaseous egg. In addition, the team found a bipolar outflow, a pair of gas streams, that could be telltale evidence of a truly newborn star.

Fig: Wide-field far-infrared image of the Taurus Molecular Cloud obtained by the Herschel Space Observatory and stellar eggs observed with ALMA (insets). Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Tokuda et al., ESA/Herschel

Stars are formed by gravitational contraction of gaseous clouds. The densest parts of the clouds, called molecular cloud cores, are the very sites of star formation and mainly located along the Milky Way. The Taurus Molecular Cloud is one of the active star-forming regions and many telescopes have been pointed at the cloud. Previous observations show that some cores are actually stellar eggs before the birth of stars, but others already have infant stars inside.

A research team led by Kazuki Tokuda, an astronomer at Osaka Prefecture University and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), utilized the power of ALMA to investigate the inner structure of the stellar eggs. They observed 32 starless cores and nine cores with baby protostars. They detected radio waves from all of the nine cores with stars, but only 12 out of 32 starless cores showed a signal. The team concluded that these 12 eggs have developed internal structures, which shows they are more evolved than the 20 quite cores.

Increasing the spacing between the antennas improves the resolution of a radio interferometer, but makes it difficult to detect extended objects. On the other hand, a compact array has lower resolution but allows us to see extended objects. This is why the team used ALMA’s compact array of 7-m antennas, as known as the Morita Array, not the extended array of 12-m antennas.

They found that there is a difference between the two groups in the gas density at the center of the dense cores. Once the density of the center of a dense core exceeds a certain threshold, about one million hydrogen molecules per cubic centimeter, self-gravity leads the egg to transform into a star.

A census is also useful for finding a rare object. The team noticed that there is a weak but clear bipolar gas stream in one stellar egg. The size of the stream is rather small, and no infrared source has been identified in the dense core. These characteristics match well with the theoretical predictions of a “first hydrostatic core,” a short-lived object formed just before the birth of a baby star.


References: (1) Kazuki Tokuda et al. FRagmentation and Evolution of Dense Cores Judged by ALMA (FREJA). I. Overview: Inner ∼1000 au Structures of Prestellar/Protostellar Cores in Taurus, The Astrophysical Journal (2020). DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab9ca7 (2) A low-velocity bipolar outflow from a deeply embedded object in Taurus revealed by the Atacama Compact Array. arxiv.org/abs/2006.06378

The Better-Than-Average Effect Says Most People Think They Are Better Than Most People (Psychology)

Are you a better driver than most people? What about a better friend? What if we told you that the majority of people think the exact same thing about themselves? It doesn’t make mathematical sense — by definition, half of all people must be below average — but it’s true. The idea that most people rate themselves more positively than they rate others is a cornerstone of psychology research. It’s known as the better-than-average effect.

ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO BETTER

Study after study has shown evidence that the better-than-average effect is real, but there are still plenty of questions. For example, does it happen because people feel the need to see themselves as better than other people, or is there something inherent in the way we judge ourselves that makes us self-rate as above average? And anyway, is it so wrong? Some of us must be above average on some things, and most of us won’t go too terribly far in our favorable self-judgments. As The Economist puts it, “Believing that I can do a little better than my team’s average of an eight-minute mile may motivate me to improve my time. Believing that I can run twice as fast as the average is simply setting myself up for failure. Reality can only be distorted so far before it snaps.”

But reality can get plenty distorted. The most striking example of the better-than-average effect in action is a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology. It’s so striking because the study researchers focused on people who are objectively below average on a wide variety of personality traits: convicted prisoners. They found that, when comparing themselves to other inmates, the prisoners rated themselves as more moral, trustworthy, honest, dependable, compassionate, generous, law-abiding, self-controlled, and kinder. Maybe that’s not surprising — they’re rating themselves against their own peers, after all — but this is: They also rated themselves as better than the average non-prisoner on all but one trait. That trait was law-abidingness, which they rated as equal to the average non-prisoner. (What?)

This goes to show that we can have an awfully skewed perception of our own strengths. This can be good when you’re trying to surmount an obstacle — otherwise, you might never apply for that job that’s just beyond your reach or sign up for that marathon you’re not actually ready for — but it can also make you underestimate your problems and keep you from fixing them when you need to.

There is one caveat, however. The better-than-average effect appears to be cultural. A Canadian study found that when you control for other factors, people in East-Asian cultures don’t tend to rate themselves as better than other people. This may come down to the way Western society most values the individual, while Eastern society most values the collective community.


References: (1) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47457937_Deconstructing_the_Better-Than-Average_Effect (2) https://www.economist.com/babbage/2014/03/11/anything-you-can-do (3) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bjso.12060 (4) Takeshi Hamamura Æ Steven J. Heine Æ
Timothy R. S. Takemoto, “Why the better-than-average effect is a worse-than-average measure of self-enhancement: An investigation of conflicting findings from studies of East Asian self-evaluations”, Motiv Emot (2007) 31:247–259. DOI 10.1007/s11031-007-9072-y