50 Shades of Strange

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When you look at this image how do you feel?

Take a moment to feel your reaction. Without analyzing it ask yourself, do I like this image? Does it creep me out? Does it have a “vibe” to it? Is that vibe one you want to hug, or be cautious of?

Chances are your instinctual response to this photo is starkly different from, say, looking at a picture of a luscious green meadow with open blue skies.

Take a real moment to stop and observe: What does this image FEEL like.

The pattern this plant produces is generally rated as “not cuddly”, and 16% of the human population will become viscerally upset. You know that feeling when you just feel like gagging out of nowhere? Well 1 out of 6 people will get that feeling, or something similar, as an instinctual response to this image.

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This reaction is innate, and not related to cultural upbringing. It is something that exists deep inside us. Even if you are not that 1 out of 6 people there is a strong chance that this image makes you moderately uncomfortable. At the very least your initial gut reaction was something along the lines of “weeeeeeird”.

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After intense research it was discovered that the pattern of “clustered dots” in this image is what awakens this reflexive response. This effect has been called trypophobia because we humans can’t help but give everything a name. The 1 in 6 people who have a strong negative reaction to this image were found to show an identical reaction toward images of other organisms and images that presented a pattern of clustered dots.

Seems pretty random? Well the other organisms that display this same pattern are also classified as being among the most poisonous and venomous in the world, go figure!

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As it turns out, we have embedded in us an instinctive aversion to this pattern. The hypothesized reason is that this pattern has high contrast, and therefore easily catches the eye in natural settings. This makes the deadly creature more visible from a distance, which alerts you long before you get close. This is great for your survival: it prevents you from dying.

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However, it is also great for the deadly thing: it not only prevents it from dying in conflict with you, but also ensures that the creature can save energy and resources going at a casual “fuel efficient” pace through environments that are full of hungry animals.

Even though it benefits both parties, it benefits the deadly thing more. You have to waste energy taking a less preferred “detour” route to your destination while the deadly thing essentially gets to use the carpool lane everywhere it goes.

Those who had an urge to hug such creatures were less likely to pass on their genes. Those that had a gut sickening aversion were at a genetic advantage since they were less likely to perish before having offspring. This pattern is displayed by poisonous creatures throughout the globe, and our gut disgust is a trait we likely share with many other carnivorous animals.

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This begs the question: how much of who you are is your choice, and how much is at least mildly determined by our genetic heritage? If you were to walk into a room with an artificially rendered poster displaying this pattern your behavior would change. You would be more skittish, your body language would trend toward a “closed” protective stance – limbs held close to the body, arms crossed, legs together – and you would have no idea you were even doing it, much less WHY you were doing it. This is true for you, me, everyone.

There is a fascinating experiment where this exact effect is confirmed in a very amusing way, but that must be saved for another time.

That Twinkle In Your Eye

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Light takes up to 2.9 million years to travel from the Sun’s core to its surface.

It then travels the entire 93,000,000 miles (1 AU) to Earth in just 8 minutes and 19 seconds. This is pretty funky since the Sun’s core is “only” 430,000 miles from its surface.  

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For comparison, light from the Moon takes 1.278 seconds to travel the 240,000 mile distance to Earth. Granted, rocketing yourself Apollo style from the Earth to the Moon is equivalent to going halfway from the Sun’s surface to its core (the Sun is pretty big), but that’s still only 2.5 seconds compared to 2.9 million years, so… what gives?

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The Sun is so incredibly dense that it acts like a pinball machine covered in those spastic auto-bumpers. Our poor photon is a pinball that keeps running into other molecules and getting randomly bumped left, right, backwards, sideways, and every which way.  Astronomers call the phenomena the “drunkard’s walk” because the photon is randomly staggering until sheer probability gets it to the Sun’s surface.


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Most of the photons exiting the Sun are “only” 1,000 – 10,000 years old, but there are so many hundreds of trillions of photons entering your eyes every second that some of them were created 2.9 million years ago, others 100,000 years ago, and still more just 500 years ago.


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Every single second, of every single day of your life, photons enter your eye that were birthed during every significant moment in human history. A photon just entered your eye that was created the same moment that Augustus Caesar became the first emperor of Rome; that same second you saw a photon birthed the same moment that Christopher Columbus first spotted “India” (i.e. America); nearly simultaneously a photon entered your eye from the day that Abraham Lincoln was shot at the Ford’s Theatre.

 

Alongside those photons from human history was one from 2.9 million years ago – this photon was created before humans had evolved, we did not yet exist as a species. In fact, this photon was already 2.6 million years old when the first members of our species walked the African savanna. Another 300,000 years later this photon breached the Sun’s surface and soon hit your cornea.


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This happened to you today. It is not a thought experiment, it is one of the quirky realities of our universe.

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The universe is a strange place.

Infrasound: Lions, And Volcanoes, And Tsunamis Oh My!

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If you blast a person with infrasound (sound just below our hearing threshold) they will become fearful, anxious, uneasy, nervous, feel chills in their spine, pressure in the chest, and extreme sorrow.

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Sound waves in this range also resonate with our eyes natural vibrations creating undistinguishable and imaginary shapes in our peripheral vision. Most major scientific discoveries are complete accidents, and the story behind this discovery is no different.

In a lab, experimenters kept experiencing a gray shape sitting next to their desk in a specific area of the room. They also consistently felt feelings of dread, depression, anxiety, and feelings of someone watching them in that area.

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They eventually discovered that a “silent” exhaust fan was emitting sound waves of 18.9Hz (infrasound). The fan was fixed and the mysterious gray shape and strange emotional experiences ended.

Stunned by the implications, this clever scientist went to a well regarded haunted cellar in a local home. People who entered the cellar often reported feelings of fear, nausea, nervousness, chills, seeing apparitions, and feeling apparitions watching them. It was found that the cellar had a particular resonant structure that created infrasound waves at, you guessed it, 18.9Hz.

Why do humans feel these sensations when these “silent” sound waves hit our ears?

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Lions, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, large ocean waves, elephants, and other dangerous things produce sounds in the infrasound range. It is the hypothesized reason that many animals know ahead of time about tsunamis and earthquakes. In fact, if humans weren’t so caught up in our own thoughts (detached from our bodily intuition), we’d probably be able to sense these events too. The sensations created are an evolutionary adaptation that intuitively says “Don’t be here! Get somewhere else NOW!”.

 

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Thirst for more on this subject? click here

 

Mystery of the Dog Poop Dance Solved?

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Dogs seem to have an awful lot of ritual before hunkering down and soiling the sidewalk. It’s not uncommon to see a dog owner—plastic bag in hand—rolling his eyes as his furry companion sniffs and spins, getting just so before hunkering down to do the least considerate thing possible.

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But for whatever its worth, all that spinning is far from arbitrary. What dog owners witness is a small and furry version of the aurora borealis and a link between species and environment that’s as holistic and beautiful as a dog pooping can be. A team of Czech and German researchers found that dogs actually align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field when they poop.

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Proving at least that they’re really devoted to their work, the researchers measured the direction of the body axis of 70 dogs from 37 breeds during 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations over the course of two years, and found that dogs “prefer to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm magnetic field conditions.” They fittingly published their results in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.

 

You might wonder why dogs bother to do this, and uh, so do the researchers.

It is still enigmatic why the dogs do align at all, whether they do it ‘consciously’ (i.e., whether the magnetic field is sensorial perceived (the dogs ‘see,’ ‘hear’ or ‘smell’ the compass direction or perceive it as a haptic stimulus) or whether its reception is controlled on the vegetative level (they ‘feel better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable’ in a certain direction). Our analysis of the raw data (not shown here) indicates that dogs not only prefer N-S direction, but at the same time they also avoid E-W direction.

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This isn’t the only example of animals seemingly sensing the Earth’s magnetic field. Birds, turtles, and fish are known to use magnetic guidance while migrating. Cattle and deer are known to graze on a north-south axis—as with defecating dogs, this is magnetic north, not the geographic one. Some bats navigate using a magnetic compass and given the large ranges of the dog’s closest relatives in the wild, wolves, scientists suspected that canines might also sense the magnetic field.

But this was perhaps the first time that magnetic sensitivity was proven in dogs, and it was also the first time that a predictable behavioral reaction to the fluctuations in the magnetic field—magnetic storms, often as resulting from solar flares—was proven in a mammal.

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If you’re out walking your dog later, and he sidles up and pees on a tree facing east-west, don’t be terribly surprised. The magnetic consciousness was observed only in dogs off leash, in the middle of a field. All things considered, the owner matters more to the dog than the Earth’s magnetic field; a nice little ego-booster that you’ll need as you bend over to pick up warm dog droppings.

(I copy pasted this article because it was perfection. It said everything I wanted to say, in logical order, AND with a touch of good fun. Great job Vice!)

Low-Cost Miracle Drink Burns Fat, Adds Muscle

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A mysterious, new, low-cost miracle drink called “milk” burns fat and adds gains.

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Seriously, don’t pay $4 for a glass of a GNC “Ultimate MAX Gains Bio-Elite Whey Formula” unless you’re competing in this years Mr. Universe.

New studies this year confirm that if you’re an average Joe looking to have a healthy body and a healthy bank account, then plain old milk is ideal for cutting fat, adding muscle, and bulking the size of your checking account.

Here’s the Study For the Curious

Mammals produce milk for the growth and development of their young.

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It makes perfect sense that a blend of nutritional goodness specifically for growth and development would be a great “workout recovery drink”.

For 40 cents we can drink 12 oz. of milk. The fact that it is cheap obscures its hidden power – it is a substance with tens of millions of years of evolutionary selection backing it.

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With milk we let nature do the work for us over millions of years, and we reap the rewards for free.

Is milk perfect? Of course not, but studies now confirm what makes intuitive sense – milk has a great nutrient profile for post-workout recovery.