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Archive for 'Knowledge'

Mind tricks: why seeing isn’t always believing

How do seemingly intelligent, conscientious people miss what’s right in front of them? Dateline’s Chris Hansen takes a look at what causes people to make quick, inaccurate decisions.

The video below demonstrates how our eyes might not be as reliable as we think and how we can fail to see something that should be obvious:

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Watch online Earthlings, the shocking documentary about society’s cruel treatment of animals


If you’ve never watched this documentary, then I urge you to do so unless you have a weak heart.

Earthlings is a 2005 multi-award-winning documentary about speciesism by Shaun Monson. The film was narrated by Hollywood actor and animal rights activist Joaquin Phoenix. Earthlings also features a score by musician and activist Moby, who’s one of my favourite musicians.

The documentary is about the suffering of animals for food, fashion, pets, entertainment and medical research. It is nicknamed “the Vegan maker” for its sensitive footage shot at animal shelters, factory farms, slaughterhouses, circuses etc… The film took around six years to complete because of the difficulty in obtaining footage within these profitable industries.

You can watch the documentary online for free at .

Watch the trailer below. Viewer discretion is advised:

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“Medical Myths That Can Kill You” by Nancy Snyderman

We sometimes throw advices here and there without really knowing if they are true or not. The reason for that is that those advices were fed to us by our parents or friends without us questioning their legitimacy. But now NBC News chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman wrote a book called “Medical Myths That Can Kill You” that busts a lot of those medical myths through medical proof and explanation.

After ruling out some myths, here are examples of correct statements:

  • you cannot get the H1N1 virus from the water in the water fountain,
  • the HPV vaccine is not only for girls,
  • reading in dim light does not ruin your eyesight,
  • energy drinks do not give you energy,
  • university grads live longer than those who stick only to high school.

An explanation is found in the video below by NBC Today Show:

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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 .

You can find a detailed guide about the technique at Dr. Rhonda Low from CTV explains it more 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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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

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Açaí: the magical fruit

I have recently been introduced by a friend of mine to a new fruit named Açaí. It has only been exposed to the West a couple of years ago. Since not too many people have heard of it, I decided to introduce it here, with an emphasis on its extraordinary antioxidant effect and its benefits to our health.

Açaí is a fruit that grows on the Açaí Palm Trees in the Amazon rain forest of Brazil. The Açaí berry is small in size (smaller than a grape) and is dark purple in color. Açaí is mostly seed, covered in a small amount of pulp. In fact, about 80% of the Açaí berry is seed, which is not eaten.

While Açaí may be small in size, it packs a nutritional punch unlike any other food in the world. Açaí is one of the highest antioxidant fruits in the world. Açaí has 10 times the antioxidant level of grapes and twice that of blueberries. Açaí has 10 to 30 times the Anthocyanins of red wine. The Açaí berry is very rich in healthy Omega fats. Nearly 50% of the Açaí berry is fat - with 74% of the fat coming from healthy unsaturated fats such as Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9. Açaí is also a good source of proteins. 7.59% of the weight of the Açaí pulp is from amino acids. 19 different amino acids have been identified in Açaí . Since amino acids are the building blocks of protein, it is no surprise that you have over 8 grams of protein in a 100 gram serving of Açaí . Moreover, it contains a lot of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and E are all present in Açaí . In addition, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc are all found in Açaí . As for fiber, there are about 14 grams of fiber in every 100 grams of freeze dried Açaí powder.

Due to their high content of fat, Açaí berries will go rancid very quickly, usually in a day or two. Therefore, if you don’t live in the Amazon rain forest, getting fresh Açaí berries can be close to impossible. But to get it to the West, Açaí can come in two forms and at a very expensive price: frozen pulp or freeze dried powder.

For more information, you can find a detailed report on Açaí at the website.
Some scientific studies made on Açaí can be found at the website.

Açaí berries

Açaí berries

Free Radicals and Antioxidants

What are Free Radicals?
We are all made up of atoms. Atoms that have a full outer shell of electrons tend to be stable. Atoms that do not have a full outer shell of electrons want to get another electron very badly so they can be stable and inert. These unstable atoms are called Free Radicals.

Free radicals tend to move quickly to try to steal an electron from whatever molecule happens to be around them. Of course, whoever they steal an electron from becomes a new free radical and the process is like a domino effect. Our body performs many functions and there will always be some free radicals created. However, if the level of free radicals gets too high in the body, you can run into major problems. Numerous diseases and health issues have been linked to high levels of free radicals.

One of the more common types of free radicals are oxygen free radicals. These are oxygen atoms missing an electron. You know that rust you see on the side of your car - well the same thing basically happens inside our body. Oxidative stress is what it’s called when oxygen free radicals start to cause damage in your body.

What causes Free Radicals?
Breathing, eating, moving - basically living! Yes, basically any stress we put on our body can cause free radicals. While obvious things like polluted air, smoking, stressful events and unhealthy foods can cause free radicals - many “healthy” activities can also create free radicals. Almost any type of exercise will put stress on our body, and all this stress on our muscles creates free radicals.

Antioxidants to the rescue
So, how do you turn a free radical into a harmless cell? You give the free radical the extra electron it so desperately wants. What substance can supply this extra electron? You guessed it - antioxidants. Antioxidants are any substances that prevent or slow the oxidation process. Remember, free radicals cause oxidation - and antioxidants prevent oxidation. Antioxidants work by donating an electron to a free radical so it becomes a stable oxygen molecule.


Free Radicals and Antioxidants -

Free Radicals and Antioxidants -

The Imperial History of the Middle East

Who has controlled the Middle East over the course of history? Pretty much everyone. Egyptians, Turks, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Persians, Europeans etc… the list goes on. Who will control the Middle East today? That is a much bigger question.

Click on the ‘Play’ button in the video below from :

Note: the events shown in the video are only till 2006.

Polyphasic Sleep: more free time with less sleep

We are all aware that we spend a third of our life sleeping, which is the average of eight hours of sleep per day. But what if we can decrease the number of sleeping hours and thus increase the waking hours, and still operate with the same and even more mental alertness and energy level. We can then use the extra time to study, finish our work, learn a new musical instrument, and accomplish endless opportunities that we used to dream of doing only if we had more time. Is is possible to do that?

The answer is yes. It’s called Polyphasic Sleep. I thought of introducing this concept since not too many people have heard of it. The term was first introduced in the early 20th century by the psychologist J.S. Szymanski. It refers to the practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period totaling an average of 3 hours of sleep per day. Most people are monophasic (having one block of sleep), while a big - yet decreasing - number of people are biphasic (having one block of sleep with an added nap). Hence, polyphasic sleeping occurs when people use multiple (more than two) ultra-short naps during the day. Polyphasic sleepers gain the most of their sleep time, while coming out from their naps in a highly alert state.

There are many patterns of polyphasic sleep such as Everyman, Uberman, and Dymaxion. They basically differ in the amount and duration of the naps. Everyman consists of a core nap of no more than 3 hours, with three short naps of 20 minutes. Uberman sleep consists of 20 minute naps every four hours, round the clock. Dymaxion pattern, which was advocated by the famous architect and inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller in the 1940s, consists of 30 minute naps every six hours, round the clock.

There are claims that Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and many others used to be polyphasic sleepers, but they lack documentation. With the recent introduction of Blogs into the internet, many people have started to log their experiments with polyphasic sleep. From those logs, a lot of people quit the first couple of days because they found it hard to adapt. But those who bypassed the adaptation period, which is usually from a week to a month, said that they became highly energetic and alert, and enjoyed it to the extent that they did’t want to go back to monophasic sleep. The only reason that made most of them quit was because the world uses the monophasic pattern, and it was hard for them to cooperate and work with other people.

More information about this topic can be found on Wikipedia.
An extensive log of a polyphasic sleeper can be found on Steve Pavlina’s blog.
The archive article about Fuller’s Dymaxion Sleep, dating back from October 11th 1943, can be found on the Time Magazine website.
An up-to-date list of current polyphasic sleepers can be found on Jorel’s blog.

Comparison of sleep patterns - Jorel on Wikipedia

Comparison of sleep patterns - Jorel on Wikipedia