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Archive for March, 2009

A song for you… to chill out

Song: Whispering Wind
Artist: Moby
Lyrics: Included in the video. External link here
Video courtesy of: unknown

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Earth Hour 2009 is today! Save yourself by saving the earth

For those of you who do not know, earth hour is scheduled for today from 8:30 pm till 9:30 pm local time. Earth Hour is an international event organized by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), and held on the last Saturday of March each year, which asks households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness. Even Google’s homepage went “dark” on the day Earth Hour took place.

The last couple of years, the trend has been going towards this “green” campaign and climate change. Companies embrace green technologies, and ads target people urging them to save the earth. But this raises a very important question in my mind: “Is it really the earth that we are saving? or are we saving ourselves?”

Earth will still be here, maybe having a different living environment that is not suitable for us as human beings, but it is us who will disappear! I believe all these ads about saving earth should be modified, to reflect the fact that we are saving ourselves! Maybe this would lead to a higher awareness in the consciousness of people. As for me, I am doing my part in this global campaign, as should each one of you.

Vote Earth 2009- Earth Hour by WWF

Vote Earth 2009- Earth Hour by WWF

Appreciation for the spiritual masters

I cannot but wonder how spiritual masters convey their messages from their higher states of consciousness into the ordinary consciousness of human beings, like me. I sympathize with those who were attacked for their transcendental insights and views, and those who were laughed at, or even crucified for what they claimed for.

We tend to believe that what the spiritual masters are saying is the same as what we are understanding at the moment, but is it really so? Is our awareness really high to be aware and fully understand what they are trying to convey?

Buddha teaching disciples - buddhanet.net

Buddha teaching disciples - buddhanet.net

Zapping spinal cord may alleviate Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain (central nervous system) that often impairs motor skills, speech, and other possible functions. There’s no cure for it yet, but scientists at the Duke University Medical Center are nearing a huge breakthrough in treatment, and it involves zapping the spinal cord.

The scientists believe electricity can restore the spinal cord disruption that causes Parkinson’s. In their research published in the journal Science, they attached tiny wires to the spinal cords of mice and rats whose brains produced so little dopamine that they had the slow, stiff motions of advanced Parkinson’s disease. When the electricity was turned on, the animals became 26 times more active and movement visibly improved in seconds

CTV health specialist Dr. Rhonda Low explains this breakthrough below:

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India’s Tata Motors launches Nano, the world’s cheapest car

When new products hit the marketplace, they’re often billed as bigger and better. But in auto showrooms in India yesterday, a different idea with a very small price tag was unveiled. It’s called the Nano, the world’s cheapest car (priced at around 2,500$), and it’s about to go on the market in a country where an automobile is often considered an out-of-reach luxury. Here are some specifications of the Nano: no air conditioning, no air bags, no power steering, and top speed at around 70 km/h.

More about this car in the video below by CTV News correspondent Tom Kennedy:

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Nanotechnology may offer alternative to radiation for cancer patients

Nanotechnology is the study of the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally nanotechnology deals with structures of the size 100 nanometers or smaller, and involves developing materials or devices within that size.

Nanotechnology is extremely diverse and spans many subfields such as nanomaterials, nanomedicine, molecular self-assembly and nanotechnology, nanoelectronics, and many others. It is already applied in hundreds of consumer products to enhance colour and durability of paints or make socks less smelly etc…

Researchers are now focusing on nanotechnology to develop new cancer treatments that could one day replace radiation and chemotherapy. Scientists can use nano particles, created in the laboratory and delivered deep into the body, that would recognize, target, and kill tumor cells.

More about this in the video below from CBC:

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A review and comparison of tax software

It’s the time of the year to do the income taxes, so if you’re ready to start tackling yours, there’s a number of software tools out there. In the video below, Pat Foran from CTV walks you through some of them that range from free to priced ones, desktop to web-based:

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A trip with the Hubble Space Telescope into a black hole

Interested in black holes? Then you should consider watching the video below shot in 2005 from the Hubble Space Telescope. It zooms in into a supermassive black hole in our neighboring Andromeda galaxy. An explanation about this black hole can be found on the SpaceTelescope.org website.

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Lucid Dreaming: take control over your dreams

I am sure many people may have experienced a lucid dream, as I did when I was a kid, or heard of the term at some point in their life, but I would like to introduce it anyhow to those who did not have the chance to know about it.

According to Wikipedia, a lucid dream is a dream in which the person is aware that they are dreaming while the dream is in progress, also known as a conscious dream. When the dreamer is lucid, they can actively participate in the imaginary experiences in the dream environment, and in an advanced stage, they can often control and manipulate them.

A lucid dream can begin in one of two ways. A dream-initiated lucid dream (DILD) starts as a normal dream, and the dreamer eventually concludes that they are dreaming, while a wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD) occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal waking state directly into a dream state with no apparent lapse in consciousness. Lucid dreamers regularly perform a reality check, which is a common method to determine whether or not they are dreaming. It involves performing an action with results that will be different if the tester is dreaming. By practicing these tests during waking life, one may eventually decide to perform such a test while dreaming, which may fail and let the dreamer realize that they are dreaming. Common reality checks include pinching any part of your body to check if you feel no pain, pinching your nose to check if you are able to breathe without using your mouth, flipping a light switch, and Looking at one’s digital watch (remembering the time), looking away, and then looking back.

The term lucid dreaming was coined by Dutch author and psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden in his 1913 article “A Study of Dreams”. Even though it has only come to the attention of the general public in the last few decades, lucid dreaming is not a modern discovery. A letter written by St. Augustine of Hippo in 415 AD refers to lucid dreaming. In the eighth century, Tibetan Buddhists and Bonpo were practicing a form of Dream Yoga held to maintain full waking consciousness while in the dream state. Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys was probably the first person to argue that it is possible for anyone to learn to dream consciously. In 1867, he published his book Les Reves et les Moyens de Les Diriger; Observations Pratiques (Dreams and How to Guide them; Practical Observations), in which he documented more than twenty years of his own research into dreams.

Lucid dreaming has been researched scientifically, and its existence is well established. The first book on lucid dreams to recognize their scientific potential was Celia Green’s 1968 study Lucid Dreams. She predicted that they would turn out to be associated with rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). During the 1980s, further scientific evidence to confirm the existence of lucid dreaming was produced as lucid dreamers were able to demonstrate to researchers that they were consciously aware of being in a dream state using eye movement signals. Neuroscientist J. Allan Hobson has hypothesized what might be occurring in the brain while lucid. Research on techniques and effects of lucid dreaming continues at a number of universities and other centers, including LaBerge’s Lucidity Institute.

Over time, several techniques have been developed to achieve a lucid dreaming state intentionally. Perhaps the most important one is to remember the dreams as soon as you wake up, and write them down in a dream journal. Getting into the habit of doing reality checks is also very important. Lucid dreaming does not happen overnight, but with constant practice you can start having lucid dreams.

If you want to know more about Lucid Dreaming, The Babble Out is the best choice for your consideration. A detailed guide on how to Lucid Dream can be found on that page as well. Watch the video below about Lucid Dreaming on ABC News:

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The Alexander Technique: realign your body

The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change movement habits in our everyday activities. It is a simple and practical method for improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities. It is not a series of treatments or exercises, but rather a reeducation of the mind and body. It is promoted for the alleviation of back pain, rehabilitation after accidents, improving breathing, playing musical instruments and singing.

The technique dates back to the 1890s when Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955), an actor who began his career as a Shakespearean orator, developed chronic laryngitis while performing. Determined to restore the full use of his voice, he carefully watched himself while speaking, and observed that undue muscular tension accounted for his vocal problem. He sought a way to eliminate that restriction. Over time, he discovered and articulated a principle that profoundly influences health and well-being: when neck tension is reduced, the head no longer compresses the spine and the spine is free to lengthen. From this work on himself and others, he evolved this hands-on teaching method that encourages all the body processes to work more efficiently - as an integrated, dynamic whole.

The Alexander Technique is not something you can learn from a video or a book. You need a teacher to review your own personal situation and guide you, so taking lessons is very important. If you are in the New York area, I suggest you contact Mark Josefsberg who is a certified Alexander Technique teacher. You can find a lot of informative articles and videos regarding this topic, as well as his contact information on his website at www.MarkJosefsberg.com .

You can find a detailed guide about the technique at AlexanderTechnique.com. Dr. Rhonda Low from CTV explains it more in the video below:

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Rising temperatures increase the risk of migraine

A recent study published in the journal of Neurology showed that rising temperatures increase the risks of migraines. The study, led by researchers from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Harvard School of Public Health, spanned over seven years and looked at 7,054 people suffering from migraines and headaches so bad they had to visit an emergency clinic. Those visits were matched with weather and air pollution information.

The study showed that every 5°C increase in temperature led to a 7.5% increase in headaches. It also found that changes in barometric pressure had much less of an effect, and that there was no evidence that pollution played a role. The researchers don’t know what it is about the rising temperatures that trigger severe headaches.

Dr. Marla Shapiro explains the study more in the interview below:

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Red wine increases the risks of breast cancer

Last month, research showed that drinking alcohol increases the risks of breast cancer, but researchers, led by Polly Newcomb from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, wanted to analyze red wine specifically because it has been shown to have beneficial effects on prostate cancer and heart disease.

This recent study, published in the March issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, showed no difference between red or white wine when it comes to breast cancer risks; both increase the risk of the disease.

Dr. Rhonda Low from CTV talks about it in the video below:

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Tips to avoid jetlag in travel

It takes me a couple of days everytime I travel to adjust to the new time zone. A large number of people, including me, experience jetlag in their travel, but following some simple tips can help them avoid or even lessen the impact of jetlag.

It can start with diet, since foods with high protein make you feel alert whereas those with high carbohydrate levels make you feel sleepy. On-flight tips can help you avoid jetlag as well such as drinking lots of water, setting the watch to where you are traveling, eating and sleeping according to the new time zone, and not overeating since it makes you sluggish.

Fore more information about this, you can watch the video below by CTV’s health specialist Dr. Rhonda Low:

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The anti spitting law in China

While I was browsing through my folders, I bumped into a picture I took during my stay in Shanghai in 2006 that made me rethink of the cultural differences between East and West. The picture, shown below, shows a sign of ‘No Spitting’, which prohibits people to spit.

Eventhough spitting for the Chinese goes back five millenia, it is now regarded by the government as an obnoxious habit, and needs to be eradicated. Despite continuous advise from medical staff, the fact that spitting in public was a health hazard really hit home when the SARS virus wreaked havoc in the country in 2003. Guangdong province then introduced campaigns on making public spitting illegal. Fines are now imposed in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. The anti-spitting drive also intensified before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when the capital city devised a ‘No Spitting Day’ to eradicate a top etiquette no-no. But even with all that, the number of spitters remains very large.

No Spitting sign in Shanghai

No Spitting sign in Shanghai

Watch this 30 seconds rare footage of a Chinese anti-spitting campaign that dates back from the 1950s:

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Wireless Power: charging your mobile wirelessly

By definition, wireless power is the process where electrical energy is transmitted from a power source to an electrical load without any interconnecting wires. We are not used to see wireless power in our daily life, even most of us are not aware that it could be possible, but surprisingly enough, wireless power dates back to late 1800s. Last year, an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) professor by the name of Marin Soljačić has decided to work towards a world of wireless electricity.

Wireless power has a long history that started in the late 19th century with the inventor Nikola Tesla, who had a grand scheme to beam elec­tricity around the world. he figured that wireless is the way to go, so he started designing and building a 57 meter long tower on Long Island that he claimed would transmit power to points kilometers away. Although he did some tests, funding ran out before the tower was completed. The promise of airborne power faded rapidly as the industrial world adopted wired electricity.

A couple of years ago, Soljačić started searching for ways to transmit power wirelessly. Instead of pursuing a long-distance scheme like Tesla’s, he decided to look for midrange power transmission methods that could charge - or even power - portabl­e devices such as cell phones, PDAs, and laptops.

Soljačić eventually landed on the phenome­non of resonant coupling, in which two objects tuned to the same frequency exchange energy strongly but interact only weakly with other objects. He found magnetic resonance a promising means of electricity transfer because magnetic fields travel freely through air yet have little effect on the environment or, at the appropriate frequencies, on living beings.

Working with MIT physics professors John Joannopoulos and Peter Fisher and three students, Soljačić built two resonant copper coils and hung them from the ceiling, about two meters apart. When they plugged one coil into the wall, alternating current flowed through it, creating a magnetic field. The second coil, tuned to the same frequency and hooked to a light bulb, reso­nated with the magnetic field, generating an electric current that lit up the bulb - even with a thin wall between the coils.

Wireless power technology was regarded by the Technology Review magazine, published by the MIT, as one of the top 10 emerging technologies of 2008. Read more about it on the page of Marin Soljačić at the MIT website.

Wireless Power of Marin Soljačić - Bryan Christie Design

Wireless Power of Marin Soljačić - Bryan Christie Design

Wood by the Global Drum Project

I have already introduced the Global Drum Project in my other post (The Global Drum Project by Mickey Hart), but in this one I show Mickey Hart and Zakir Hussain perform the song “Wood” on two giant tree roots, one a grapevine and the other a redwood.

Watch the transcendental drumming experience of the Global Drum Project in the video below by the National Geographic Geo Sessions:

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Bisphenol A found in canned soft drinks

There’s new debate about the controversial chemical Bisphenol A, commonly abbreviated as BPA, and its use in consumer products in Canada. BPA has already been banned in 2008 from infant items, such as baby bottles. Now, testing by Health Canada has highlighted its presence in some pop and energy drinks packaged in cans.

Watch the video below by Dr. Rhonda Low from CTV:

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Mimosa pudica: the sensitive plant

Mimosa pudica, also called the sensitive or shy plant, is a creeping annual or perennial herb often grown for its curiosity value: the compound leaves fold inward and droop when touched, re-opening within minutes. The species is native to South America and Central America, but is now a pantropical weed.

It is not known exactly why the Mimosa pudica has this feature, but many scientists think that the plant uses its ability to shrink as a defense from predators. Many animals may be afraid of such a fast moving plant and would rather go and eat a less active one.

Watch the shy Mimosa pudica in action in the video below from StupidVideos.com:

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The Global Drum Project by Mickey Hart

For all you drummers and percussionists out there, you will love this. After the 1991 release of the Grammy Award winning album Planet Drum, the legendary drummer Mickey Hart (best known as one of the two drummers from the rock band the Grateful Dead) and his old crew is again in a reunion sparked by the 15th anniversary of the ground-breaking album Planet Drum. They have recently released a new album called the Global Drum Project, and took home the Best Contemporary World Music Album at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards on February 9th, 2009.

The group brings together Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, Nigerian talking drum ace Sikiru Adepoju, and Puerto Rico’s master conguero Giovanni Hidalgo, among others. According to Hart, “This is a deep drumming groove. We’re taking the archaic rhythm worlds into outer space. The Global Drum Project explores rhythm and noise; it’s a sound yoga of processed acoustic percussion headed straight for the trance zone that becomes a dance of ancient and modern worlds. Deep drumming is a skeleton key into these realms.”

Watch the video below by the National Geographic Geo Sessions to get a taste of the Global Drum Project:

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Krishnamurti’s 1985 speech at the United Nations

I would love to share with you a talk by one of my favorite speakers on spiritual subjects: Jiddu Krishnamurti. For those who don’t know him, he was born in 1895 in India, and was a well known writer and speaker on subjects that included the purpose of meditation, human relationships, the nature of the mind, and how to enact positive change in global society. He died on February 17, 1986, at the age of 90, from pancreatic cancer.

In 1984, shortly before his death, he was awarded the United Nations (UN) Peace Medal, and at the age of 90, he was invited to give a speech at the 40th anniversary of the UN in 1985. In his speech, he spoke of how mankind, through its evolution some fifty thousands years ago till now, has not found peace on earth ‘pacem in terris’ and how it still lives in conflict. He stressed that if there is no radical change at the present time, the future will still be what it is now. He questioned whether human beings can live peacefully with each other, and that organizations did not solve this problem. According to him, “there can only be peace when mankind, when you and I, have no conflict in ourselves.”

You can find more information about Krishnamurti on Wikipedia. Watch the 30 minute video (with French subtitles) of Krishnamurti’s speech at the 40th anniversary of the UN in 1985:

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Life and Music as told by Alan Watts

For most of us, we think of life as a journey that has a serious purpose of the end, and the thing is to get to that end. We go to kindergarten, then we head to school, then high school, then university, then work, etc… as if the great thing is coming at the end of each grade.

But, we miss the point the whole way along. It is a musical thing, and we’re supposed to sing or dance while the music is being played.

Watch the animation below by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of the famous animation South Park) on top of a short narration by Alan Watts, best known as a foremost interpreter of Eastern philosophies to the West:

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