Sunday, October 25, 2009

Navigating Restaurant Wine Service

When you order a wine in a restaurant, what are the right things to do? What should you look for when the bottle is presented to you? When should you reject the wine? Can you return a wine bottle if you simply do not like the wine? Should you smell the cork?

Find the answers to these and other questions on the video below.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shedding Light on Out-of-Body Experiences

by Alexandre Couto de Andrade

René Descartes claimed that consciousness requires an immaterial soul, the core of our being. Modern science, however, suggests that there is no one central “place” within ourselves where consciousness takes place.

As the philosopher Daniel Dennett puts it, “the brain events that discriminate various perceptual contents are distributed in both space and time in the brain. (…) [T]here is no single, constitutive 'stream of consciousness' but rather a parallel stream of conflicting and continuously revised contents”.

Nevertheless, phenomena like out-of-body experiences seem to defy such arguments. There seems not only to exist a center of the self, but one which is independent from matter. How do out-of-body experiences happen? What does science have to say about them?

Evidence suggests that out-of-body experiences are triggered by malfunctions in a specific area of the brain, called temporoparietal junction (TPJ). It is generally linked to epilepsy, migraines, strokes, brain tumors, drug use and near-death experiences, although healthy people can also have one at some point of their lives.

The TPJ processes sensory information to create a feeling of embodiment, making us know where our body is and where the frontiers between it and the rest of the world are. The out-of-body experiences might arise when the TPJ fails to do this properly.

But how can people who have such experiences see themselves as well as others who eventually happen to be in the same room with them? Another bizarre phenomenon known as sleep paralysis helps shedding some light on it. During sleep paralysis a person can dream of moving or flying while he/she is conscious, yet the brain is aware that the body cannot move. In an attempt to resolve this sensory conflict, the brain might split the self from the body.

But how could someone see what is around him/her while his/her eyes are closed? Something like synaesthesia, yet another strange phenomenon, could be an explanation. The brain could convert acoustic stimuli into visual images.


Time and the Observer: the Where and When of Consciousness in the Brain (Daniel Dennett and Marcel Kinsbourne)

Out of your head: Leaving the body behind (by Anil Ananthaswamy)

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

BMW GINA - An Amazing Concept Car

GINA is a BMW concept car that challenges our idea of what a car should be. The car's skin is made of a special fabric (polyurethane-coated Lycra), instead of metal or composite materials. The fabric is stretched over an aluminum frame controlled by hydraulic and electric actuators that allow the driver to change the vehicle's shape at will. It is really cool!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A new way of communication: "what e-mail would look like if it were invented today"

Google Wave is a new service that can change the way we communicate online. Many of its features already exist separately in social networks, regular e-mail, wikis and instant messaging. However, the service as a whole is unique.

It seems to be very interesting. Watch the video below to know more about it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Exciting News About Human Evolution

Scientists have recently brought to public attention the oldest known skeleton of a putative human ancestor, the Ardipithecus ramidus. Watch the video below and learn why this early hominin is so important when it comes to understanding the history of human evolution.

Click here to get access to much more comprehensive information, including the research papers.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rio 2016: Pack your Kevlar Clothes

The video below shows some inconvenient facts bout Rio, the city which was awarded the 2016 Summer Games.

It is true that the video shows only the dark side of the city. But what a dark side!