Wacky & Wild

     Could a near-supersonic tube be the future of transport?

Plans for a transport system that would carry people between cities at nearly the speed of sound have been proposed by an American inventor and entrepreneur.

Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, is proposing a system which could transport people between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a journey of nearly 400 miles, in less than an hour.

Peter Bowes reports @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23678412

Images from cnn.com and bbc.co.uk

 

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For STUDENTS…PARENTS…TEACHERS, and generally every body who has not been secretly genetically modified by aliens from outer space, one of the most dreaded days of our lives is the day all those in Asia experienced just earlier this week…

Except for students in international schools – (aren’t they lucky)…their emotional, psychological and sometimes physical torture has been delayed.

I am sure half of you have already guessed what I am referring to.

Yes, it was the first day of school blues!

It’s the day where the most students come late for school, and the most teachers come after students. It’s the day a lot of students had to buy new alarm clocks after smashing their old ones in jubilation on the last day the school the month(s) before.

However, if you did not guess correctly as to what I was getting to…its okay.

Why?

It is possibly because, like me, and many others, YOUR BRAIN IS STILL IN HOLIDAY MODE!

Scientists call the state of the brain at rest the default mode network (DMN) – (non-scientists like me call it holiday mode). It can be described as a discrete collection of brain regions that exhibit greater activity during rest periods than during performance in effortful cognitive tasks. Surprisingly, this brain activity is even associated with light sleep and daydreaming. Yet, till now, scientists have yet to determine all the processes that the brain undergoes at rest.

Did you know that your brain only accounts for a mere 2% of your total body weight, yet it consumes 20% of all the calories you take in?

Even more amazingly…the energy consumption of your brain at rest is still a whopping 95% of that when you are actively using it at full capacity.

Scientists have named the energy consumed during rest the brain’s “dark energy,” since the massive energy consumption during this so-called rest period is one of the biggest mysteries in neuroscience today.

To all teachers: A study published in PLoS One in 2011 showed that researchers in Japan at Tohoku University found a link between the DMN and general intelligence and creativity.

Researchers scanned the brains of 63 healthy volunteers during rest using functional MRI to measure the cerebral blood flow (CBF) in different regions of the brain. A higher blood flow indicates a higher amount of oxygen demand, which indicates a higher amount of brain activity, and vice versa.

Researchers administered a standard psychometric test to volunteers to measure general intelligence. Creativity was assessed using a divergent thinking test, which assesses the ability to think in unique ways and generate novel ideas rapidly.

The experiment showed that participants who scored high on the intelligence test had high blood flow to the brain’s grey and white matter, which those who scored high for creativity had high blood flow to the brains white mater only.

You may be thinking: What on earth does that mean?!

I don’t understand it myself, because the human brain is just so complicated! But, a common analogy is that the grey matter is would be the actual computer in a computer network, while the white matter would be the network cables.

The authors of this study speculate that this may be an indication that intelligent people  (namely – everyone who can stand contemplating this info!) have intrinsically more active brains. It’s possible that brains that are more active at rest are undergoing specific biochemical processes to increase the integrity and efficiency of the system, something like the diagnostic test on your calculator.

        AHA! Now all of us who are frequent daydreamers, believers in long naps, or ‘relac’ activists, finally have scientific data to back us up!

Our brains have adapted to the modern hectic lifestyle by being on its toes (so to speak) all the time. We are now high-strung practically the whole day. The way we live now means we often have a much higher than normal level of stress hormones circulating in our bodies more or less continuously. (stress mode – the opposite of holiday mode)

Is this healthy? Do you think that the minds of human beings were designed by nature to be on high alert the whole time? Or is it just the stress of city life?

Stress could get to you (especially after checking your metre long stack of uncompleted homework!), and lead to symptoms like headaches, nausea, giddiness, and violently deformed homework. On a more serious note, stress has been found to decrease the effectiveness of your immune system and increase your risk of illness, as well as increase the stress of those around you.

There is a reason why scientists call holiday mode (and not stress mode) the brain’s default mode…

Ever had an amazing idea or a solution to a problem come to you snap! just like that when you were not even focusing on the problem at all, just enjoying the sunset? (See previous post on 30 June) Many people find that taking a break from everything around you, from all the deadlines and worries, and doing nothing in particular, can help you think more clearly to find the answer you need, come up with something new, or simply de-stress yourself.

         A great mathematician Henri Poincaré observed regarding his own creative process, “Often nothing good is accomplished at the first attack. One takes a rest; and then all of a sudden the decisive idea presents itself to the mind.”

Bottom line is – your brain is amazing. Unlike common belief, your brain does not have on and off switches activated when you wake up or sleep. Instead, the brain is a dynamic system engaging in integral processes continuously, especially when we’re unaware of it, like when we are daydreaming or sleeping.

How long can this zombie-like holiday mode last for before your usual self comes back? Well it depends…you see, for some of us students – (maybe even some people you know)…holiday mode IS OUR USUAL SELF!

Or so say our teachers…

Back to the question – it really depends on you. Personally for me, it can take up to two weeks, especially if my ‘holiday’ was filled with very intense and strenuous activities, such as eating, sleeping…and more sleeping. (For the benefit of those still in holiday mode – that was sarcasm)

Or maybe it lasts longer because I was abducted and genetically modified by aliens over the last holiday…you never know…

Peace out,

Dream Writer X

References

Buckner RL, Andrews-Hanna JR, & Schacter DL (2008). The brain’s default network: anatomy, function, and relevance to disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1124, 1-38 PMID: 18400922

Raichle ME (2009). A paradigm shift in functional brain imaging. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 29 (41), 12729-34 PMID: 19828783

Takeuchi H, Taki Y, Hashizume H, Sassa Y, Nagase T, Nouchi R, & Kawashima R (2011). Cerebral blood flow during rest associates with general intelligence and creativity. PloS one, 6 (9) PMID: 21980485

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