MIAMI (TWH) – There is lots of science being reported that is of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, more than our team can write about in depth in any given week. Therefore, the Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. Here are our favorite picks this month.
A new algorithm converts brainwaves to speech.
Researchers at Columbia University reported yesterday that they have succeed in translating brain waves in Human speech. The research is still in its early phases and scientists warn that it will be many years before the technique is perfected. However, the research paves the way for creating neuroprosthetic devices that can potentially benefit individuals with limited ability to communicate verbally. The researchers note that their refined algorithm for converting neural frequencies to speech improves intelligibility by 65% over baseline methods which have suffered from low quality neural input to speech conversion.
Menopausal women may benefit from mindfulness practice.
Last week, a Mayo Clinic study of 1,744 on menopausal women ages 44 to 55 receiving treatment in upstate New York was reported that found that mindfulness practice appeared to mitigate symptoms of irritability, anxiety and depression. The study conducted in upstate New York asked participants to complete a questionnaire rating their menopausal symptoms, the perceived level of stress and the mindfulness practice. Mindfulness scores were not associated with symptom scores of hot flashes or night sweats. However, mindfulness scores were related to distress such that the higher the mindfulness appeared related to reduced menopausal symptoms.
Mindfulness may improve creativity.
Mindfulness, a mental state of consciousness achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment, and accepting and acknowledging whatever thoughts, and feelings are being experienced, may also help engineers solve complex problems that require creativity and interdisciplinary thinking. A report in Harvard Business Review this month describes how engineers rely heavily on convergent thinking–a linear process that breaks down problems into a series of steps. Divergent thinking is about generating ideas non-linearly and exploring creative solutions that are not simply a hunt for a single correct and optimal solution. Researcher conducted an experiment with engineering students solving an engineering design task. The control group received stress reduction training while the experimental group performed a mindfulness meditation. The mindfulness group improved idea originality but not the number of ideas generated.
Lavender may be beneficial in reducing anxiety.
Researchers are Kagoshima University reported a few weeks ago that they tested whether the smell of lavender might have an anxiety-calming (anxiolytic) effect. They observed the behavior of male mice exposed to one of the key ingredients or constituents of lavender, linalool. In one group, normal mice were exposed to linalool vapor. In the second group, the same linalool vapor, was given to anosmic mice, ones whose sense of smell was blocked by a chemical. In the third group, mice were given a vapor containing a chemical similar to Valium™. The mice were then put in circumstances that promote anxiety like a new maze, for example. Relaxed mice show more exploratory behavior while anxious mice are averse to exploration. The research report that the mice exposed to the lavender smell showed less anxious behavior and comparable to those receiving Valium™ medication. The research was conducted in accordance with ethical guidelines and under the supervision of the Experimental Animal Research Committee of Kagoshima University. Prior research has suggested that Jasmine may have similar effects and may also be beneficial as a sleeping aid. A randomized clinical control trial from Morristown Medical Center two years ago of women undergoing image-guided breast biopsy reported that a mixture of lavender-sandalwood aroma reduced anxiety.
The Oldest Rock from Earth was found on the Moon
What may end up being the oldest-known rock on Earth, a half-inch chunk collected during the 1971 Apollo14 mission, is actually 4-billion years old and of earthly – not lunar – origin. Researchers at Lunar and Planetary Institute report in a forthcoming paper (March 2019) that a felsite sample has the chemical features of having a terrestrial origin. The current hypothesis offered for the presence of the rock on the Moon is that it is the result of a terrestrially-formed meteorite after it was ejected from the Earth by a prior impact.
Happiness and Air Pollution are inversely related.
This week, researchers studying social media posts on the Chinese version of Twitter found a relationship between air quality and expressions of happiness. The researcher developed a “happiness index” and compared their index findings to daily levels of airborne particles. Looking at 210 millions social media posts over a six-month period in 2014 and across 144 Chinese cities, the researchers found not only that people are much happier on weekends and holidays than typical workdays but also that cloud cover affected “happiness”. Even with these, the researchers find that poor air quality reduces levels of happiness in urban populations. They further note that elderly, who are less likely to use social media and more likely to experience the health effects of poor air quality, are under-represented in their tweet sample. Their inclusion may make the findings even more robust.