Nasa's climate data error | The Guardian

Blogger gets hot and bothered over Nasa's climate data error
· Amateur discovers 1934, not 1998, is hottest year
· Climatologists insist trend is still towards warming
Richard Luscombe in Miami
The Guardian Thursday August 16 2007
An amateur meteorologist in Canada has embarrassed Nasa scientists into admitting that some of the data they used to show significant recent increases in global warming is flawed.
As a result of Stephen McIntyre's calculations, climatologists at the Goddard Institute of Space Science in New York now accept that 1934 was historically the United States' hottest year since records began, not 1998 as they had claimed. It also turns out that five of the 10 warmest years on record in the US occurred before 1939, and only one is from the 21st century, raising questions over the statistics used in Al Gore's environmental film An Inconvenient Truth to highlight the faster pace of climate change.
"They have managed it rather poorly," said Mr McIntyre, a prolific internet blogger from Toronto who pointed out the gaffe to Nasa in an email. He noticed that temperature deviation readings from numerous weather-recording stations around the US showed sudden and inexplicable leaps after 2000. He says the agency refused to share with him the complex methodology it uses to calculate trends from the data, then quietly changed statistics to rewrite history without explanation.
Mr McIntyre said: "I come from a background where you have to announce bad results. They might not like the fact they made a small embarrassing error but if it was me I'd have announced the results and put the best spin on it that I could. I would not have left myself open to the suggestion that I was not being forthcoming."
Climate researchers at the Goddard centre, meanwhile, say Mr McIntyre is making a mountain out of a molehill and that the differences in the recalculated temperatures, hundredths of one degree, are so insignificant as to have no impact on the overall trend towards global warming.
The cause of the error, they say, was a switch to a new data-collection system in 2000 and a faulty assumption that the old and new methods matched, which last week led to a recalculation of the figures.
Now 1934 is the hottest year on record in the US at an average of 1.25C higher than normal; 1998 is second at 1.23C, and 1921 in third place at 1.15C. Under the old system, 1998 was the hottest at 1.24C above normal, with 1934 at 1.23C. 2006, newly relegated to fourth place, was also at 1.23C.
Dr Gavin Schmidt, a climate change expert at GISS and author of the website, said: "The idea that Nasa is faking things or that it hasn't got warmer at all is nonsense. There were some minor rearrangements in the various rankings [but] ... the longer term US averages have not changed."
"The sum total of this change? A couple of hundredths of degrees in the US rankings and no change in anything that could be considered climatically important, specifically long-term trends."
He also noted that the error related only to figures from the US, covering just 2% of the Earth's surface, so could not be applied globally

Blogger gets hot and bothered over Nasa's climate data error | Environment | The Guardian

Least Religious Countries

Posted Aug 23rd 2007 12:15PM by Iva Skoch
Filed under: Cultures, Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America

When you travel to Europe , don't be surprised to find that many Europeans don't believe in God. I have even witnessed some alcohol-infused conversations between Americans and Europeans that almost ended in fist fights over His/Her existence. When you travel to the following countries, you might want to pick a less controversial topic of conversation...umm, maybe George W?

Here is the Top 10 least religious countries in the world:

1. Sweden (up to 85% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)
2. Vietnam
3. Denmark
4. Norway
5. Japan
6. Czech Republic
7. Finland
8. France
9. South Korea
10. Estonia (up to 49% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)

The one that surprised me was Israel, ranking 19th, with up to 37% claiming to be non-believer, atheist, agnostic. Compare that with the US, ranking 44th, with 3-9% non-believers, atheists, agnostics. (I think I have met them all on the streets of New York City , too.)

The survey concluded that "high levels of organic atheism are strongly correlated with high levels of societal health, such as low homicide rates, low poverty rates, low infant mortality rates, and low illiteracy rates, as well as high levels of educational attainment, per capita income, and gender equality. Most nations characterized by high degrees of individual and societal security have the highest rates of organic atheism, and conversely, nations characterized by low degrees of individual and societal security have the lowest rates of organic atheism. In some societies, particularly Europe , atheism is growing. However, throughout much of the world – particularly nations with high birth rates – atheism is barely discernable."

Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns - Phil Zuckerman

Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith

Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007
Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith
By David Van Biema
Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.
— Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

On Dec. 11, 1979, Mother Teresa, the "Saint of the Gutters," went to Oslo. Dressed in her signature blue-bordered sari and shod in sandals despite below-zero temperatures, the former Agnes Bojaxhiu received that ultimate worldly accolade, the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity had grown from a one-woman folly in Calcutta in 1948 into a global beacon of self-abnegating care, delivered the kind of message the world had come to expect from her. "It is not enough for us to say, 'I love God, but I do not love my neighbor,'" she said, since in dying on the Cross, God had "[made] himself the hungry one — the naked one — the homeless one." Jesus' hunger, she said, is what "you and I must find" and alleviate. She condemned abortion and bemoaned youthful drug addiction in the West. Finally, she suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world "that radiating joy is real" because Christ is everywhere — "Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive."

Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. "Jesus has a very special love for you," she assured Van der Peet. "[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand."
The two statements, 11 weeks apart, are extravagantly dissonant. The first is typical of the woman the world thought it knew. The second sounds as though it had wandered in from some 1950s existentialist drama. Together they suggest a startling portrait in self-contradiction — that one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared.
And in fact, that appears to be the case. A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist."
That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'" Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America and the author of My Life with the Saints, a book that dealt with far briefer reports in 2003 of Teresa's doubts: "I've never read a saint's life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented." Recalls Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light's editor: "I read one letter to the Sisters [of Teresa's Missionaries of Charity], and their mouths just dropped open. It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her."
The book is hardly the work of some antireligious investigative reporter who Dumpster-dived for Teresa's correspondence. Kolodiejchuk, a senior Missionaries of Charity member, is her postulator, responsible for petitioning for her sainthood and collecting the supporting materials. (Thus far she has been beatified; the next step is canonization.) The letters in the book were gathered as part of that process.
The church anticipates spiritually fallow periods. Indeed, the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross in the 16th century coined the term the "dark night" of the soul to describe a characteristic stage in the growth of some spiritual masters. Teresa's may be the most extensive such case on record. (The "dark night" of the 18th century mystic St. Paul of the Cross lasted 45 years; he ultimately recovered.) Yet Kolodiejchuk sees it in St. John's context, as darkness within faith. Teresa found ways, starting in the early 1960s, to live with it and abandoned neither her belief nor her work. Kolodiejchuk produced the book as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her most spiritually heroic act.
Two very different Catholics predict that the book will be a landmark. The Rev. Matthew Lamb, chairman of the theology department at the conservative Ave Maria University in Florida, thinks Come Be My Light will eventually rank with St. Augustine's Confessions and Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain as an autobiography of spiritual ascent. Martin of America, a much more liberal institution, calls the book "a new ministry for Mother Teresa, a written ministry of her interior life," and says, "It may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor. It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone."
Not all atheists and doubters will agree. Both Kolodiejchuk and Martin assume that Teresa's inability to perceive Christ in her life did not mean he wasn't there. In fact, they see his absence as part of the divine gift that enabled her to do great work. But to the U.S.'s increasingly assertive cadre of atheists, that argument will seem absurd. They will see the book's Teresa more like the woman in the archetypal country-and-western song who holds a torch for her husband 30 years after he left to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned. Says Christopher Hitchens, author of The Missionary Position, a scathing polemic on Teresa, and more recently of the atheist manifesto God Is Not Great: "She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself." Meanwhile, some familiar with the smiling mother's extraordinary drive may diagnose her condition less as a gift of God than as a subconscious attempt at the most radical kind of humility: she punished herself with a crippling failure to counterbalance her great successes.
Come Be My Light is that rare thing, a posthumous autobiography that could cause a wholesale reconsideration of a major public figure — one way or another. It raises questions about God and faith, the engine behind great achievement, and the persistence of love, divine and human. That it does so not in any organized, intentional form but as a hodgepodge of desperate notes not intended for daylight should leave readers only more convinced that it is authentic — and that they are, somewhat shockingly, touching the true inner life of a modern saint.

Continue to the rest of this article at:,8599,1655415,00.html

U.S. Navy Cold Fusion Research Lab

This video is background material for "Extraordinary Evidence,". This is a non-technical documentary on SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (cold fusion) research. Produced by New Energy Times, a project of New Energy Institute. Hosted by Steven B. Krivit.

Playlist: In Flight Videos

Description: Fighter on takeoff, bird strike in engine, engine failure.
Videos: 55

747-200F aborted takeoff and runway overshoot

This Tradewinds cargo 747-200 had an engine failure during takeoff causing it to overshoot the 3500 meter long wet runway.
Film taken at Medellín-José María Córdova Airport.

Explosive decompression - Boeing 747 Explosion Test

A Boeing 747 and a Lockheed Tristar are blown up by just a few hundred grams of explosives. The airplanes were pressurized simulating flight at high altitude.

Playlist: Funny

Glacier Surfing Alaska

World champion big wave surfers, Garrett McNamara and Kealii Mamala rode into surfing history last week when they towed into a monster tsunami created by Child's Glacier in South-Central Alaska.
The creator/producer, Ryan Casey, "disovered" the wave in 1995, while on location shooting in Alaska. Then after finishing his last film, Quest, a documentary on big wave surfing, he showed Garrett the wave... that was six months ago. So after a short scout in June, we went up in August to film this...

1/2 of User Time Devoted to Content

OPA: 1/2 of User Time Devoted to Content
A study released today by the Online Publishers Association shows that users are increasingly consuming content more than any other online activity. While this is a prime example of a study that should be taken with a grain of salt, a 37% increase in time spent on content over the past 4 years is impressive.
The OPA homepage includes updated Internet Activity Index numbers through June (below), placing the most recent number at 49.6% of time spent.
Source: OPA and Nielsen/NetRatings

OPA president Pam Horan pointed to several factors leading the shift toward increased consumption of content including:
the online transition of traditionally offline activities, such as getting news, finding entertainment information or checking the weather …Major news events such as Hurricane Katrina and high profile seasonal events such as the NCAA Final Four Basketball tournament are clearly driving consumers to engage more deeply with online content.”
Horan goes on to state that new online features (read web 2.0) and communities including social networking sites are leading this online shift from communication to content consumption.
It’s probable that the rapid advance of web technologies in the past few years including AJAX and rich user interfaces is improving efficiency in communication and search. As a result, users are spending less time on basic communication just as more engaging content including online video is flooding the web.

OPA: 1/2 of User Time Devoted to Content


My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.


FREEMAN DYSON is professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton. His professional interests are in mathematics and astronomy. Among his many books are Disturbing the Universe, Infinite in All Directions Origins of Life, From Eros to Gaia, Imagined Worlds, and The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet. His most recent book, Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe (Page Barbour Lectures), is being published this month by University of Virgina Press.
Freeman Dyson's Edge Bio Page


1. The Need for Heretics

In the modern world, science and society often interact in a perverse way. We live in a technological society, and technology causes political problems. The politicians and the public expect science to provide answers to the problems. Scientific experts are paid and encouraged to provide answers. The public does not have much use for a scientist who says, “Sorry, but we don’t know”. The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas which they do not question. The public is led to believe that the fashionable scientific dogmas are true, and it may sometimes happen that they are wrong. That is why heretics who question the dogmas are needed.

As a scientist I do not have much faith in predictions. Science is organized unpredictability. The best scientists like to arrange things in an experiment to be as unpredictable as possible, and then they do the experiment to see what will happen. You might say that if something is predictable then it is not science. When I make predictions, I am not speaking as a scientist. I am speaking as a story-teller, and my predictions are science-fiction rather than science. The predictions of science-fiction writers are notoriously inaccurate. Their purpose is to imagine what might happen rather than to describe what will happen. I will be telling stories that challenge the prevailing dogmas of today. The prevailing dogmas may be right, but they still need to be challenged. I am proud to be a heretic. The world always needs heretics to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies. Since I am heretic, I am accustomed to being in the minority. If I could persuade everyone to agree with me, I would not be a heretic.

We are lucky that we can be heretics today without any danger of being burned at the stake. But unfortunately I am an old heretic. Old heretics do not cut much ice. When you hear an old heretic talking, you can always say, “Too bad he has lost his marbles”, and pass on. What the world needs is young heretics. I am hoping that one or two of the people who read this piece may fill that role.

Two years ago, I was at Cornell University celebrating the life of Tommy Gold, a famous astronomer who died at a ripe old age. He was famous as a heretic, promoting unpopular ideas that usually turned out to be right. Long ago I was a guinea-pig in Tommy’s experiments on human hearing. He had a heretical idea that the human ear discriminates pitch by means of a set of tuned resonators with active electromechanical feedback. He published a paper explaining how the ear must work, [Gold, 1948]. He described how the vibrations of the inner ear must be converted into electrical signals which feed back into the mechanical motion, reinforcing the vibrations and increasing the sharpness of the resonance. The experts in auditory physiology ignored his work because he did not have a degree in physiology. Many years later, the experts discovered the two kinds of hair-cells in the inner ear that actually do the feedback as Tommy had predicted, one kind of hair-cell acting as electrical sensors and the other kind acting as mechanical drivers. It took the experts forty years to admit that he was right. Of course, I knew that he was right, because I had helped him do the experiments.

Later in his life, Tommy Gold promoted another heretical idea, that the oil and natural gas in the ground come up from deep in the mantle of the earth and have nothing to do with biology. Again the experts are sure that he is wrong, and he did not live long enough to change their minds. Just a few weeks before he died, some chemists at the Carnegie Institution in Washington did a beautiful experiment in a diamond anvil cell, [Scott et al., 2004]. They mixed together tiny quantities of three things that we know exist in the mantle of the earth, and observed them at the pressure and temperature appropriate to the mantle about two hundred kilometers down. The three things were calcium carbonate which is sedimentary rock, iron oxide which is a component of igneous rock, and water. These three things are certainly present when a slab of subducted ocean floor descends from a deep ocean trench into the mantle. The experiment showed that they react quickly to produce lots of methane, which is natural gas. Knowing the result of the experiment, we can be sure that big quantities of natural gas exist in the mantle two hundred kilometers down. We do not know how much of this natural gas pushes its way up through cracks and channels in the overlying rock to form the shallow reservoirs of natural gas that we are now burning. If the gas moves up rapidly enough, it will arrive intact in the cooler regions where the reservoirs are found. If it moves too slowly through the hot region, the methane may be reconverted to carbonate rock and water. The Carnegie Institute experiment shows that there is at least a possibility that Tommy Gold was right and the natural gas reservoirs are fed from deep below. The chemists sent an E-mail to Tommy Gold to tell him their result, and got back a message that he had died three days earlier. Now that he is dead, we need more heretics to take his place.

2. Climate and Land Management

The main subject of this piece is the problem of climate change. This is a contentious subject, involving politics and economics as well as science. The science is inextricably mixed up with politics. Everyone agrees that the climate is changing, but there are violently diverging opinions about the causes of change, about the consequences of change, and about possible remedies. I am promoting a heretical opinion, the first of three heresies that I will discuss in this piece.

My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

There is no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global. I am not saying that the warming does not cause problems. Obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it better. I am saying that the problems are grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are more urgent and more important, such as poverty and infectious disease and public education and public health, and the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans, not to mention easy problems such as the timely construction of adequate dikes around the city of New Orleans.

I will discuss the global warming problem in detail because it is interesting, even though its importance is exaggerated. One of the main causes of warming is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from our burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal and natural gas. To understand the movement of carbon through the atmosphere and biosphere, we need to measure a lot of numbers. I do not want to confuse you with a lot of numbers, so I will ask you to remember just one number. The number that I ask you to remember is one hundredth of an inch per year. Now I will explain what this number means. Consider the half of the land area of the earth that is not desert or ice-cap or city or road or parking-lot. This is the half of the land that is covered with soil and supports vegetation of one kind or another. Every year, it absorbs and converts into biomass a certain fraction of the carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere. Biomass means living creatures, plants and microbes and animals, and the organic materials that are left behind when the creatures die and decay. We don’t know how big a fraction of our emissions is absorbed by the land, since we have not measured the increase or decrease of the biomass. The number that I ask you to remember is the increase in thickness, averaged over one half of the land area of the planet, of the biomass that would result if all the carbon that we are emitting by burning fossil fuels were absorbed. The average increase in thickness is one hundredth of an inch per year.

The point of this calculation is the very favorable rate of exchange between carbon in the atmosphere and carbon in the soil. To stop the carbon in the atmosphere from increasing, we only need to grow the biomass in the soil by a hundredth of an inch per year. Good topsoil contains about ten percent biomass, [Schlesinger, 1977], so a hundredth of an inch of biomass growth means about a tenth of an inch of topsoil. Changes in farming practices such as no-till farming, avoiding the use of the plow, cause biomass to grow at least as fast as this. If we plant crops without plowing the soil, more of the biomass goes into roots which stay in the soil, and less returns to the atmosphere. If we use genetic engineering to put more biomass into roots, we can probably achieve much more rapid growth of topsoil. I conclude from this calculation that the problem of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a problem of land management, not a problem of meteorology. No computer model of atmosphere and ocean can hope to predict the way we shall manage our land.

Here is another heretical thought. Instead of calculating world-wide averages of biomass growth, we may prefer to look at the problem locally. Consider a possible future, with China continuing to develop an industrial economy based largely on the burning of coal, and the United States deciding to absorb the resulting carbon dioxide by increasing the biomass in our topsoil. The quantity of biomass that can be accumulated in living plants and trees is limited, but there is no limit to the quantity that can be stored in topsoil. To grow topsoil on a massive scale may or may not be practical, depending on the economics of farming and forestry. It is at least a possibility to be seriously considered, that China could become rich by burning coal, while the United States could become environmentally virtuous by accumulating topsoil, with transport of carbon from mine in China to soil in America provided free of charge by the atmosphere, and the inventory of carbon in the atmosphere remaining constant. We should take such possibilities into account when we listen to predictions about climate change and fossil fuels. If biotechnology takes over the planet in the next fifty years, as computer technology has taken it over in the last fifty years, the rules of the climate game will be radically changed.

When I listen to the public debates about climate change, I am impressed by the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations and the superficiality of our theories. Many of the basic processes of planetary ecology are poorly understood. They must be better understood before we can reach an accurate diagnosis of the present condition of our planet. When we are trying to take care of a planet, just as when we are taking care of a human patient, diseases must be diagnosed before they can be cured. We need to observe and measure what is going on in the biosphere, rather than relying on computer models.

Everyone agrees that the increasing abundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has two important consequences, first a change in the physics of radiation transport in the atmosphere, and second a change in the biology of plants on the ground and in the ocean. Opinions differ on the relative importance of the physical and biological effects, and on whether the effects, either separately or together, are beneficial or harmful. The physical effects are seen in changes of rainfall, cloudiness, wind-strength and temperature, which are customarily lumped together in the misleading phrase “global warming”. In humid air, the effect of carbon dioxide on radiation transport is unimportant because the transport of thermal radiation is already blocked by the much larger greenhouse effect of water vapor. The effect of carbon dioxide is important where the air is dry, and air is usually dry only where it is cold. Hot desert air may feel dry but often contains a lot of water vapor. The warming effect of carbon dioxide is strongest where air is cold and dry, mainly in the arctic rather than in the tropics, mainly in mountainous regions rather than in lowlands, mainly in winter rather than in summer, and mainly at night rather than in daytime. The warming is real, but it is mostly making cold places warmer rather than making hot places hotter. To represent this local warming by a global average is misleading.

The fundamental reason why carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is critically important to biology is that there is so little of it. A field of corn growing in full sunlight in the middle of the day uses up all the carbon dioxide within a meter of the ground in about five minutes. If the air were not constantly stirred by convection currents and winds, the corn would stop growing. About a tenth of all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is converted into biomass every summer and given back to the atmosphere every fall. That is why the effects of fossil-fuel burning cannot be separated from the effects of plant growth and decay. There are five reservoirs of carbon that are biologically accessible on a short time-scale, not counting the carbonate rocks and the deep ocean which are only accessible on a time-scale of thousands of years. The five accessible reservoirs are the atmosphere, the land plants, the topsoil in which land plants grow, the surface layer of the ocean in which ocean plants grow, and our proved reserves of fossil fuels. The atmosphere is the smallest reservoir and the fossil fuels are the largest, but all five reservoirs are of comparable size. They all interact strongly with one another. To understand any of them, it is necessary to understand all of them.

As an example of the way different reservoirs of carbon dioxide may interact with each other, consider the atmosphere and the topsoil. Greenhouse experiments show that many plants growing in an atmosphere enriched with carbon dioxide react by increasing their root-to-shoot ratio. This means that the plants put more of their growth into roots and less into stems and leaves. A change in this direction is to be expected, because the plants have to maintain a balance between the leaves collecting carbon from the air and the roots collecting mineral nutrients from the soil. The enriched atmosphere tilts the balance so that the plants need less leaf-area and more root-area. Now consider what happens to the roots and shoots when the growing season is over, when the leaves fall and the plants die. The new-grown biomass decays and is eaten by fungi or microbes. Some of it returns to the atmosphere and some of it is converted into topsoil. On the average, more of the above-ground growth will return to the atmosphere and more of the below-ground growth will become topsoil. So the plants with increased root-to-shoot ratio will cause an increased transfer of carbon from the atmosphere into topsoil. If the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to fossil-fuel burning has caused an increase in the average root-to-shoot ratio of plants over large areas, then the possible effect on the top-soil reservoir will not be small. At present we have no way to measure or even to guess the size of this effect. The aggregate biomass of the topsoil of the planet is not a measurable quantity. But the fact that the topsoil is unmeasurable does not mean that it is unimportant.

At present we do not know whether the topsoil of the United States is increasing or decreasing. Over the rest of the world, because of large-scale deforestation and erosion, the topsoil reservoir is probably decreasing. We do not know whether intelligent land-management could increase the growth of the topsoil reservoir by four billion tons of carbon per year, the amount needed to stop the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All that we can say for sure is that this is a theoretical possibility and ought to be seriously explored.

3. Oceans and Ice-ages

Another problem that has to be taken seriously is a slow rise of sea level which could become catastrophic if it continues to accelerate. We have accurate measurements of sea level going back two hundred years. We observe a steady rise from 1800 to the present, with an acceleration during the last fifty years. It is widely believed that the recent acceleration is due to human activities, since it coincides in time with the rapid increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But the rise from 1800 to 1900 was probably not due to human activities. The scale of industrial activities in the nineteenth century was not large enough to have had measurable global effects. So a large part of the observed rise in sea level must have other causes. One possible cause is a slow readjustment of the shape of the earth to the disappearance of the northern ice-sheets at the end of the ice age twelve thousand years ago. Another possible cause is the large-scale melting of glaciers, which also began long before human influences on climate became significant. Once again, we have an environmental danger whose magnitude cannot be predicted until we know more about its causes, [Munk, 2002].

The most alarming possible cause of sea-level rise is a rapid disintegration of the West Antarctic ice-sheet, which is the part of Antarctica where the bottom of the ice is far below sea level. Warming seas around the edge of Antarctica might erode the ice-cap from below and cause it to collapse into the ocean. If the whole of West Antarctica disintegrated rapidly, sea-level would rise by five meters, with disastrous effects on billions of people. However, recent measurements of the ice-cap show that it is not losing volume fast enough to make a significant contribution to the presently observed sea-level rise. It appears that the warming seas around Antarctica are causing an increase in snowfall over the ice-cap, and the increased snowfall on top roughly cancels out the decrease of ice volume caused by erosion at the edges. The same changes, increased melting of ice at the edges and increased snowfall adding ice on top, are also observed in Greenland. In addition, there is an increase in snowfall over the East Antarctic Ice-cap, which is much larger and colder and is in no danger of melting. This is another situation where we do not know how much of the environmental change is due to human activities and how much to long-term natural processes over which we have no control.

Another environmental danger that is even more poorly understood is the possible coming of a new ice-age. A new ice-age would mean the burial of half of North America and half of Europe under massive ice-sheets. We know that there is a natural cycle that has been operating for the last eight hundred thousand years. The length of the cycle is a hundred thousand years. In each hundred-thousand year period, there is an ice-age that lasts about ninety thousand years and a warm interglacial period that lasts about ten thousand years. We are at present in a warm period that began twelve thousand years ago, so the onset of the next ice-age is overdue. If human activities were not disturbing the climate, a new ice-age might already have begun. We do not know how to answer the most important question: do our human activities in general, and our burning of fossil fuels in particular, make the onset of the next ice-age more likely or less likely?

There are good arguments on both sides of this question. On the one side, we know that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was much lower during past ice-ages than during warm periods, so it is reasonable to expect that an artificially high level of carbon dioxide might stop an ice-age from beginning. On the other side, the oceanographer Wallace Broecker [Broecker, 1997] has argued that the present warm climate in Europe depends on a circulation of ocean water, with the Gulf Stream flowing north on the surface and bringing warmth to Europe, and with a counter-current of cold water flowing south in the deep ocean. So a new ice-age could begin whenever the cold deep counter-current is interrupted. The counter-current could be interrupted when the surface water in the Arctic becomes less salty and fails to sink, and the water could become less salty when the warming climate increases the Arctic rainfall. Thus Broecker argues that a warm climate in the Arctic may paradoxically cause an ice-age to begin. Since we are confronted with two plausible arguments leading to opposite conclusions, the only rational response is to admit our ignorance. Until the causes of ice-ages are understood, we cannot know whether the increase of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing or decreasing the danger.

4. The Wet Sahara

My second heresy is also concerned with climate change. It is about the mystery of the wet Sahara. This is a mystery that has always fascinated me. At many places in the Sahara desert that are now dry and unpopulated, we find rock-paintings showing people with herds of animals. The paintings are abundant, and some of them are of high artistic quality, comparable with the more famous cave-paintings in France and Spain. The Sahara paintings are more recent than the cave-paintings. They come in a variety of styles and were probably painted over a period of several thousand years. The latest of them show Egyptian influences and may be contemporaneous with early Egyptian tomb paintings. Henri Lhote’s book, “The Search for the Tassili Frescoes”, [Lhote, 1958], is illustrated with reproductions of fifty of the paintings. The best of the herd paintings date from roughly six thousand years ago. They are strong evidence that the Sahara at that time was wet. There was enough rain to support herds of cows and giraffes, which must have grazed on grass and trees. There were also some hippopotamuses and elephants. The Sahara then must have been like the Serengeti today.

At the same time, roughly six thousand years ago, there were deciduous forests in Northern Europe where the trees are now conifers, proving that the climate in the far north was milder than it is today. There were also trees standing in mountain valleys in Switzerland that are now filled with famous glaciers. The glaciers that are now shrinking were much smaller six thousand years ago than they are today. Six thousand years ago seems to have been the warmest and wettest period of the interglacial era that began twelve thousand years ago when the last Ice Age ended. I would like to ask two questions. First, if the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is allowed to continue, shall we arrive at a climate similar to the climate of six thousand years ago when the Sahara was wet? Second, if we could choose between the climate of today with a dry Sahara and the climate of six thousand years ago with a wet Sahara, should we prefer the climate of today? My second heresy answers yes to the first question and no to the second. It says that the warm climate of six thousand years ago with the wet Sahara is to be preferred, and that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may help to bring it back. I am not saying that this heresy is true. I am only saying that it will not do us any harm to think about it.

The biosphere is the most complicated of all the things we humans have to deal with. The science of planetary ecology is still young and undeveloped. It is not surprising that honest and well-informed experts can disagree about facts. But beyond the disagreement about facts, there is another deeper disagreement about values. The disagreement about values may be described in an over-simplified way as a disagreement between naturalists and humanists. Naturalists believe that nature knows best. For them the highest value is to respect the natural order of things. Any gross human disruption of the natural environment is evil. Excessive burning of fossil fuels is evil. Changing nature’s desert, either the Sahara desert or the ocean desert, into a managed ecosystem where giraffes or tunafish may flourish, is likewise evil. Nature knows best, and anything we do to improve upon Nature will only bring trouble.

The humanist ethic begins with the belief that humans are an essential part of nature. Through human minds the biosphere has acquired the capacity to steer its own evolution, and now we are in charge. Humans have the right and the duty to reconstruct nature so that humans and biosphere can both survive and prosper. For humanists, the highest value is harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. The greatest evils are poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, disease and hunger, all the conditions that deprive people of opportunities and limit their freedoms. The humanist ethic accepts an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a small price to pay, if world-wide industrial development can alleviate the miseries of the poorer half of humanity. The humanist ethic accepts our responsibility to guide the evolution of the planet.

The sharpest conflict between naturalist and humanist ethics arises in the regulation of genetic engineering. The naturalist ethic condemns genetically modified food-crops and all other genetic engineering projects that might upset the natural ecology. The humanist ethic looks forward to a time not far distant, when genetically engineered food-crops and energy-crops will bring wealth to poor people in tropical countries, and incidentally give us tools to control the growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Here I must confess my own bias. Since I was born and brought up in England, I spent my formative years in a land with great beauty and a rich ecology which is almost entirely man-made. The natural ecology of England was uninterrupted and rather boring forest. Humans replaced the forest with an artificial landscape of grassland and moorland, fields and farms, with a much richer variety of plant and animal species. Quite recently, only about a thousand years ago, we introduced rabbits, a non-native species which had a profound effect on the ecology. Rabbits opened glades in the forest where flowering plants now flourish. There is no wilderness in England, and yet there is plenty of room for wild-flowers and birds and butterflies as well as a high density of humans. Perhaps that is why I am a humanist.

To conclude this piece I come to my third and last heresy. My third heresy says that the United States has less than a century left of its turn as top nation. Since the modern nation-state was invented around the year 1500, a succession of countries have taken turns at being top nation, first Spain, then France, Britain, America. Each turn lasted about 150 years. Ours began in 1920, so it should end about 2070. The reason why each top nation’s turn comes to an end is that the top nation becomes over-extended, militarily, economically and politically. Greater and greater efforts are required to maintain the number one position. Finally the over-extension becomes so extreme that the structure collapses. Already we can see in the American posture today some clear symptoms of over-extension. Who will be the next top nation? China is the obvious candidate. After that it might be India or Brazil. We should be asking ourselves, not how to live in an America-dominated world, but how to prepare for a world that is not America-dominated. That may be the most important problem for the next generation of Americans to solve. How does a people that thinks of itself as number one yield gracefully to become number two?

I am telling the next generation of young students, who will still be alive in the second half of our century, that misfortunes are on the way. Their precious Ph.D., or whichever degree they went through long years of hard work to acquire, may be worth less than they think. Their specialized training may become obsolete. They may find themselves over-qualified for the available jobs. They may be declared redundant. The country and the culture to which they belong may move far away from the mainstream. But these misfortunes are also opportunities. It is always open to them to join the heretics and find another way to make a living. With or without a Ph.D., there are big and important problems for them to solve.

I will not attempt to summarize the lessons that my readers should learn from these heresies. The main lesson that I would like them to take home is that the long-range future is not predetermined. The future is in their hands. The rules of the world-historical game change from decade to decade in unpredictable ways. All our fashionable worries and all our prevailing dogmas will probably be obsolete in fifty years. My heresies will probably also be obsolete. It is up to them to find new heresies to guide our way to a more hopeful future.

5. Bad Advice to a Young Scientist

Sixty years ago, when I was a young and arrogant physicist, I tried to predict the future of physics and biology. My prediction was an extreme example of wrongness, perhaps a world record in the category of wrong predictions. I was giving advice about future employment to Francis Crick, the great biologist who died in 2005 after a long and brilliant career. He discovered, with Jim Watson, the double helix. They discovered the double helix structure of DNA in 1953, and thereby gave birth to the new science of molecular genetics. Eight years before that, in 1945, before World War 2 came to an end, I met Francis Crick for the first time. He was in Fanum House, a dismal office building in London where the Royal Navy kept a staff of scientists. Crick had been working for the Royal Navy for a long time and was depressed and discouraged. He said he had missed his chance of ever amounting to anything as a scientist. Before World War 2, he had started a promising career as a physicist. But then the war hit him at the worst time, putting a stop to his work in physics and keeping him away from science for six years. The six best years of his life, squandered on naval intelligence, lost and gone forever. Crick was good at naval intelligence, and did important work for the navy. But military intelligence bears the same relation to intelligence as military music bears to music. After six years doing this kind of intelligence, it was far too late for Crick to start all over again as a student and relearn all the stuff he had forgotten. No wonder he was depressed. I came away from Fanum House thinking, “How sad. Such a bright chap. If it hadn’t been for the war, he would probably have been quite a good scientist”.

A year later, I met Crick again. The war was over and he was much more cheerful. He said he was thinking of giving up physics and making a completely fresh start as a biologist. He said the most exciting science for the next twenty years would be in biology and not in physics. I was then twenty-two years old and very sure of myself. I said, “No, you’re wrong. In the long run biology will be more exciting, but not yet. The next twenty years will still belong to physics. If you switch to biology now, you will be too old to do the exciting stuff when biology finally takes off”. Fortunately, he didn’t listen to me. He went to Cambridge and began thinking about DNA. It took him only seven years to prove me wrong. The moral of this story is clear. Even a smart twenty-two-year-old is not a reliable guide to the future of science. And the twenty-two-year-old has become even less reliable now that he is eighty-two.

[Excerpted from Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe (Page Barbour Lectures) by Freeman Dyson, University of Virgina Press, 2007.]


Ways To Detect And Tell If A Person Is Lying

Lying is something that happens everyday in every society. A person may want to to deceive, maintain a secret or reputation, or to avoid punishment. In business, politics, romance or at home it happens and it would also be nice to know when we’re being lied to.

Fidgeting is the most obvious giveaway. Watch for hands and legs that are shaky, rubbing, stiff, self directed, touching the face, nose, chest or behind the ear. Arms crossed over the chest while speaking is the body language for protection and sense of insecurity linked to lying. Other actions include biting the lip, covering the mouth, rubbing the forehead or temple, squinting of the eyes or rubbing of the neck. Women tend to touch their throat’s trachial area.

Over Denial
Repeating protests of innocence.

Lack Of Detail
Liars’ stories often lack detail. Push for particulars. The more specific details that a liar has to provide, the more likely he is to slip up.

Liars are noticeably less cooperative. They are also more likely to complaint, make more negative statements and appear unfriendly to minimize slip ups.

Eye Contact
Unwillingness to make or never breaking eye contact is often sign of deceit.

Dilated Pupils
Dilated pupils and a rise in vocal pitch are more common in liars than people who told the truth.

Forced to make up a story on the spot, most speakers will take a beat or two to collect their thoughts. Lies require a quick mental review of what they have told others to avoid inconsistency and to make up new details as needed.

Having someone to repeat the story again will enable you to for inconsistencies to ferret out lies.

Consciously Trying Too Hard
Someone who consciously is trying to make you think he’s honest may be lying. For example you may hear the phrase ‘to be honest’ more often than not. Most people assume they will be trusted most of the time. If someone expects otherwise, take a moment to think.

Being Open To Possibilities
Liars succeed in the area where listeners themselves do not really want to know the truth. So be honest with yourself about what it is you want to hear. A boss may want to believe that a trusted employee didn’t have his hand in the cookie jar. However, does the story make sense?

Eye Direction
Their eyes are not fixed upon whom they are speaking to. If the person looks up to the left upper corner of their eye, they are pulling strategy from their right side of the brain, which is the creative side, therefore creating a situation or lying. Looking at the right upper corner of the eye will invoke the left side of the brain which indicates visual recalling.

Stumbling over words without natural fluency.

Change Of Subject
Change the subject quickly. A liar will definitely welcome the change and try to maintain the subject. Their interest are clearly seen. An innocent person will appear confuse and may also try returning to the previous subject.

Level Of Comfort
When someone comfortable with you while answering your questions they will move to their comfort position like tilting their head to one side or the other. When asked a question they might lie about or feel threatened by, they will straighten or stiffen up, no longer tilting their head.

Unusually Longer Response
Q : Are there any drugs or weapons in your car?
A : There shouldn’t be.
Q : Is this your car?
A : Yes.

There are drugs and/or guns/knives in the car. An innocent person in their own car would answer with an emphatic ‘NO’. Unusually much longer responses or too many details may tip you off to their desperation to get you to believe them.

Filling The Gap
Someone trying to lie may also ‘bridge’ over something they do not want to tell you.

Ah’s Um’s Er’s
People using um, ah, hmm, before answering questions are trying to think of an answer, that more times than not, is going to be a lie.

Over Formal Speech
Use of long words, painfully correct grammar and the full forms of words or phrases that would normally be shortened, suggesting a scripted speech rather than natural conversation.

Very Few Gestures And No Pointing
As physical movement illustrating something being described are a quite common and natural activity.

Attempting to justify every detail with lengthy explanations.

Conflict In Verbal And Physical Projection
You can find many discrepencies between lie and action. You may also find mismatches between tone of voice and expression. Be sensitive to the person’s emotional expression, specifically the timing and duration, which tends to be off when someone is lying. Emotions can be delayed, remain longer than usual, then stop suddenly. Likewise, they might not match appropriately with verbal statements.

Most Obvious Giveaway
On paper. Seeing what someone said in writing is much more effective at detecting lies than listening to them.
If someone who knows what he is going to be asked will surely have prepared himself. The best liars in the world are the most thorough ones. For example, when Bill Clinton looked at those reporters and told them he never had relations ‘with that woman’ and never blinked or gave ANY indication he was lying, he broke the mold.

22 Obvious Ways To Detect And Tell If A Person Is Lying | because you value your soul

Auschwitz liberation: Rare Russian footage

First filmed material of Auschwitz, made by the Red Army. The commentary is German, but the pictures speak for themselves.

Nazi Concentration Camps (Nuremberg Trial Film) GRAPHIC CONTENT!

Nazi Concentration Camps (Nuremberg Trial Film) WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT!
Allied Forces
59 min 15 sec - Aug 16, 2006
The file entitled "Nazi Concentration Camps" was entered as evidence at the 1945 Nuremberg Trials of Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, and 22 ... all » other Nazi officials at the end of World War II. It presented a stark picture of the atrocities of the Holocaust and ensured than no one would ever doubt the meaning of the charge "crimes against humanity."

Stupid, is the only available word for this...

Kid Lets Buddy Run Over His Arm Video

Kid Lets Buddy Run Over His Arm - Watch more free videos

6 Ways to Sharpen Your Intuition

The primary force is intuition. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their origin – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Practical Intuition
Your intuition is a shortcut to productivity, insight, knowledge, innovation, and decision-making. So how do you harness your intuition?

You Have The Ability To Solve Problems Instantly
Have you ever looked at a problem and known the root cause and the solution – instantly – without research? You’ve been taught to distrust that inner voice, right? So you test your intuition with empirical trial and your intuition is usually right, isn’t it?
You have the ability to solve problems instantly if you trust yourself. We all do. So how do we harness the power of our inner creator – the voice that cuts through all the bullshit and tells us the truth?

Six Ways to Strengthen Your Intuition:
1. Use your natural empathy – Imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. Better yet go experience what they’re experiencing. If you are working a helpdesk and someone calls from the factory floor complaining about the speed of the printer, don’t sit at your monitor looking at graphs and metrics. Get off your ass and go down to floor and see what’s going on. Go feel their pain! Get your whole self involved it will strengthen your intuition. Great battlefield generals know this. Get out of your bunker and ride up to the front line and see it, feel it, and act on it. Experience what others are experiencing.

2. Allow yourself to feel your fear and flow past it – You don’t like fear do you? I don’t either. But most of us will have to live with it and find a way to make it our friend instead of our enemy. Unless you are superman and have transcended fear, you’ll have to find a way to harness it for good intent. Fear blocks intuition and is strengthened when we resist it. Allow yourself to feel your fear. Don’t resist any part of it. Don’t bury it. Focus directly upon it and ride it through to the end. You will come out the other side stronger with more clarity. Allowing yourself to feel your fear strengthens your intuition because it teaches you to listen to you inner world and accept it for what it is instead of fighting it.

3. Connect with others on an emotional level – When you engage with another person, face to face, on the phone, or online, try to read their emotions. Name their emotions. Does the person sound angry, happy, hopeful, joyous, depressed, or sad? The more you connect with others emotions, the deeper your understanding of social situations and the better your intuition will function. Intuitive hunches and abstract ideas come from the same place inside you that form your emotions, so the better you are able to read and identify emotions in others the better you will be able to create and communicate via intuition. Identifying and naming emotions within yourself and others is a powerful exercise.

4. Shut down internal judgments – When you find yourself judging someone or something – including yourself – that isn’t intuition, its negative energy that blocks your intuition. When you hear the critic in your mind saying, “he’s stupid”, “she’s ugly”, “I’m fat”, or “I’m gonna lose.” Stop and think – Why did I say that? What part of me is out of alignment? When you hear your inner judge, shut him down – not by burying him, that won’t work, he’ll surface somewhere else - but by forcing a positive question into your consciousness. When I catch myself thinking, “I’ll never get this done.” I consciously change the thought to, “How can I this done?” If I am patient and I listen to my inner voice, it will tell me how I can get it done. When my inner judge says, “it’ll never work”, I ask myself “what part of this idea will work?” or “what is a better idea?” Once you start asking positive questions your sub-conscious mind will start handing over solutions in the form of intuition.

5. Find Solitude – The best way is meditation. Find at least thirty minutes a day to spend alone with your thoughts. Leo at Zen Habits has some great tips for finding time for solitude. Take time to sit alone with your thoughts, feelings, and visualizations. I’ve spent most of my life nearly unaware of all the stuff going on inside me. By taking the time to listen to your inner world, you’ll find out what an amazing magical being you really are. Learning to listen to yourself in solitude will train you to listen to your inner voice when you aren’t alone and will lead to catching powerful intuitive ideas right when you need them.

6. Ask questions – lots of them – This is what I call intuitive bodybuilding. Questioning is the best way to create stronger intuitions. The most powerful creative intuitions will come to you after long question and answer sessions. Get together with a group of curious people and discuss complex issues – philosophical, scientific, sociological, medical, or literary topics. The most power comes not from the answers but from the questions, bringing you down paths you hadn’t considered, spurring further questions and more answers. There is no better way to exercise your intuition than lively question and answer sessions.
Some say intuition isn’t scientific and isn’t reasonable. They are right and wrong. The creative intuitive idea isn’t scientific unless you can prove it. However, all science starts with hypothesis. And a hypothesis comes from where? Good ones, creative ones, original ones, come from your intuition – a mental flash – the Eureka.

All things find their origin in intuition - Emerson

6 Ways to Sharpen Your Intuition

Simultaneity - Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity

Cop breaks wrong windows

Cop breaks the windows of the wrong house when he tries to evecuate people when there is a fire.

Space Shuttle Endeavor STS-118 Complete Launch 08/08/2007

Space Shuttle Endeavor STS-118 Complete Launch 08/08/2007 on it's way to the Space Station.
Space Shuttle Endeavour's STS-118 mission is the 22nd shuttle flight to the International Space Station. It will continue space station construction by delivering a third starboard truss segment.
U.S. Navy Commander Scott J. Kelly will command the seven-person crew of STS-118. U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col Charles O. Hobaugh will be Endeavour's pilot. Veteran astronauts Richard A. Mastracchio and Dr. Dafydd (Dave) Williams of the Canadian Space Agency will be returning to space for their second missions. Barbara R. Morgan, Tracy E. Caldwell, Ph. D., and Benjamin Alvin Drew round out the crew as mission specialists.
Like all shuttle missions, STS-118 is about the future: putting the International Space Station a step closer to completion and gathering experience that will help people return to the moon and go on to Mars.
But this mission also will see a two decade-old dream realized and a vision of inspiration completed. Twenty-two years after first being selected as Christa McAuliffe's backup in the Teacher in Space Project, Barbara Morgan will strap into space shuttle Endeavour as a fully-trained astronaut. She is one of five mission specialists in the seven-member crew.

Decision-making. Four ways to make a big decision

Four ways to make a big decision
by Gina Trapani

Humans can be surprisingly bad at making logical choices, especially when decisions involve too many factors for our puny brains to comprehend at once. The process of making a big, hard decision can involve lots of teeth-gnashing, gazing off into space, fear of regret and visions of the worst case scenario. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Today's feature covers four time-tested decision-making methods. Armed with these babies, even the most difficult decision can get made before you can say "paradox of choice."

Make a weighted pros and cons list.
A good old pros and cons list is a great way to start with any decision. However, some pros are more pro than others, and some cons are worse than others. Also, the implications of a choice should be considered.
The PMI (Plus/Minus/Implication) method includes weights for pros and cons and adds an implications column. A possible implication counts as an interesting point to consider, ie, if I get this particularly vocal dog who I love anyway, she might bark all night and keep me awake.
Use a positive or negative number to weight each plus, minus and implication. When the list is complete, add up all the weights. Compare the totals of each choice and go with the largest one. In the case of a yes/no question, if the total is positive, it's yes - if not, it's no.

For example:

The total here is -1, so the answer is no, I should not move to Austin without getting a job first.
For decisions with more than two choices, several PMI tables should be created, one for each possibility, and the totals compared. Read more about the PMI method at Mindtools.

Create a grid analysis of multiple criteria.
Often the right choice depends on a combination of criteria. Which person has the most qualifications for the job? Which car does all the things I need it to? For multiple criteria, use a decision grid to see how each option stacks up against the other based on the points that matter the most.
For example, say you're choosing between three different apartments for rent, and certain things especially matter in your new living situation:
location (ie, nearby mass transit)
an extra bedroom to set up a home office
storage space (for your canoe, bike and skis)
a 'pets allowed' policy (you've been thinking about getting a dog)
Create a decision grid where each criteria is a column and each option is a row. Enter a weight into each cell which indicates how much the apartment fulfills the specific criteria, like so:

Now, each one of these criteria matters to a different degree. For a particularly affordable apartment with no storage space, you could get a self-storage locker; if the perfect place didn't allow dogs, you might put off getting a pooch a few more years; however, being near mass transit is very important. Add another row above the options and add a weight to each criteria (ie, Location and cost high, Home office medium, Storage and Pets low.) Then multiply each option's criteria score times the criteria weight and add up the score for the total column:

In this example, 123 Main Street scores the highest - which is not the obvious choice to a prospective renter who ranks location very high. Even though it's not in the best location, it fulfills the other criteria enough to balance that out. If you're dismayed with the result because the location isn't great, you didn't weight location high enough. Tweak the criteria weights to see different results.

Calculate expected value of every outcome.
When a choice can give rise to more than one outcome, one approach is to choose the one with the highest expected value based on the likelihood of success and how much it will benefit you (and conversely, how much failure will hurt.)
For example, if you move to L.A. and join a band, there's a slim chance you'll become a hugely successful rockstar. That possibility might mean the world to you. There's a much larger chance you'll be a starving artist waiting tables with other disgruntled wanna-be movie stars and that outcome could hurt pretty bad - or it could be a risk you're more willing to take than others. Multiply the likelihood of your rockstar success times the value of that success, and compare it to the likelihood of failure and how much it will negatively affect you. For several choices, go with the higher number.
WARNING: Mathematics ahead.
For each option, answer these three questions on a scale of 0 to 1.0:
How likely is succcess?
How much will success benefit you?
How much will failure hurt?
Using those numbers, calculate the expected value using this formula:

Expected Value = (Likelihood of Success * Benefit) - ((1 - Likelihood of Success) * Negative Effect)
For example:

In this case, I rated the benefit of success for starting a new company very high and the likelihood of success 50/50. Success "working for the man" is low at .3 since there's not a whole lot of upward mobility at my BigCo cubicle gig, and the benefit of success is 50/50 (salary and benefits but not a whole lot of excitement.) Since the chances of success and benefits of success are so much higher, in this case, I should start my own company.
The core of this decision-making model is nailing these numbers. In this example, if the job market is stable and a consistent salary and family health insurance is important to you because you have 3 young children who will be going to college in 20 years, "working for the man" has a high probability of success as well as strong benefits and turns out to be the choice with the highest expected value. Things might be different for a single, aspiring entrepreneur with less to lose in a market which is particularly good to startup companies.

Trust your gut.
As any good self-help book or Yoda would say, the answers are within you, my friend.
If you're absolutely stuck in deadlock on a binary decision, trick your gut into telling you what to do. Get out a quarter, assign each outcome to heads and tails. Flip the coin, call it in the air, and then pay attention to which outcome you WANT the coin to land on. Or, decide to go with whatever outcome the coin lands on. If you wish you could flip again, go with the other outcome.
The key to making a smart decision is giving yourself the time to gather all the information you need, and a confident, proactive approach with a method you trust. A daunting decision doesn't have to wrest you into an analysis paralysis death grip. Use a logical decision-making method to help you evaluate your choices and pull the trigger.

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Video To Go

Web site grabs videos from YouTube and converts them to compatible formats for your iPod/iPhone, mobile phone, PSP, and more. What's more, if you only want the audio from a video, vConvert can convert just the audio to an MP3. We've seen desktop apps that promise the same conversions (and one other web site), but if you don't want to install an application to handle this simple transcode, vConvert is a very good and simple alternative. Just give it a YouTube URL, select what you want to convert it for, then click Convert and Download. After a minute or two of processing, you should see a download link for the video.

Manufactured Landscapes -- Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer who takes pictures of landscapes. But not trees, and lakes. He takes pictures of industrial sites and factories.
His work was featured in an amazing documentary called 'Manufactured Landscapes.' It won best Canadian feature film at the Toronto international film fest.

China Airline Jet Exploded Into Fireball In Okinawa Japan

A Taiwanese China Airlines jet exploded into flames at an airport in Okinawa, Japan after arriving from Taiwan Monday, August 20 but all 165 people aboard escaped alive. The 157 passengers including two small children fled the Boeing 737-800 unhurt on inflated emergency slides just minutes before the plane burst into a fireball.
The aircraft skidded on the tarmac on its way from the runway to the gate after landing, starting a fire that prompted the emergency exit. The fire started when the left engine exploded, a minute after the aircraft entered the parking spot.
This is the video of a squad of firefighters dousing the empty plane with extinguishers as flames and clouds of black smoke billowed from the fuselage. The fire was put out about an hour later, leaving the aircraft charred and mangled.

Asteroid-impact Software

Move over global warming, this could be the planet's biggest "heads-up" of all - researchers at the University of Southampton recently unveiled a software modelling program that is able to evaluate the potential catastrophic consequences of a small asteroid impacting the earth - and it is showing that the possibility is not that far off the map.
Called NEOimpactor, the software has been specifically designed to model asteroid impacts, allowing scientists to gauge the impact of "small" asteroids - "small" meaning under one kilometre in diameter. Preliminary results point toward the ten countries at greatest risk are China, Indonesia, India, Japan, the United States, the Philippines, Italy, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Nigeria.
“The threat of the Earth being hit by an asteroid is increasingly being accepted as the single greatest natural disaster hazard faced by humanity,” said Nick Bailey, one of the researchers developing the software.
“The consequences for human populations and infrastructure as a result of an impact are enormous,” continues Bailey. “Nearly one hundred years ago a remote region near the Tunguska River witnessed the largest asteroid impact event in living memory when a relatively small object (approximately 50 metres in diameter) exploded in mid-air.”
According to Wikipedia: "Asteroids with a 1 kilometer diameter hit the Earth a few times in each million year interval. Large collisions with 5 kilometer objects happen approximately once every ten million years. In 1908, the Tunguska explosion, equivalent to 20 megatons of TNT, was caused by an ~20 m object. Small collisions, equivalent to a thousand tons of TNT, occur a few times each month."
Since 1998, a catalogue of all near-earth asteroids (NEA) larger than one kilometre has been compiled by the international Spaceguard survey – however, it is smaller, undetected and more frequently-occurring asteroids under one kilometre in diameter which pose an equally-great risk.
Bailey emphasized that the aim was to study the effect of these smaller asteroids on global economies, infrastructure and human casualties and how to begin tackling it. “Our results highlight those countries that face the greatest risk from this most global of natural hazards and thus indicate which nations need to be involved in mitigating the threat.” Now if that doesn't get everyone to sit down and cooperate, we don't know what will.

Asteroid-impact Software

PBS: " Nazi Scientists "

6 Videos Running Time 0:54:00

Nazi scientist develop the V-1 and V-2 weapons. Russian, British and American troops round up as many Nazi Scientist as possible. Chief among the Germans is Werner Von Braun. The scientist have valuable knowledge but plenty of war crime baggage on their shoulders.

Playlist: Spanish Armada

Spanish Armada -
invincible fleet...

Top secret NSA - by Discovery Channel

NSA - National Security Agency..this documentry is about America's top secrete inteligance Organization

Playlist: Inside Special Forces

Inside one of the most elite combat units in the world:
US Army Special Forces.
National Geographic takes us behind the scenes of US special operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The French Revolution (History Channel)

The French Revolution (1789--1799) was a period of political and social upheaval in the political history of France and Europe as a whole, during which the French governmental structure, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of democracy, citizenship, and inalienable rights.

These changes were accompanied by violent turmoil, including executions and repression during the Reign of Terror, and warfare involving every other major European power. Subsequent events caused by the revolution include the Napoleonic wars, the restoration of the monarchy, and two additional revolutions as modern France took shape.

Over the next 75 years, France would be governed, variously, as a republic, a dictatorship, a constitutional monarchy, and two different empires before 1900.

Historians disagree about the political and socioeconomic nature of the Revolution. Under one interpretation, the old aristocratic order of the Ancien Régime succumbed to an alliance of the rising bourgeoisie, aggrieved peasants, and urban wage-earners. Another interpretation asserts that the Revolution resulted when various aristocratic and bourgeois reform movements spun out of control. According to this model, these movements coincided with popular movements of the new wage-earning classes and the provincial peasantry, but any alliance between classes was contingent and incidental.
However, adherents of both models identify many of the same features of the ancien régime as being among the causes of the Revolution. Among the economic factors were:
• The social and psychological burdens of the many wars of the 18th century, which in the era before the dawn of nationalism were exclusively the province of the monarchy. The social burdens caused by war included the huge war debt, made worse by the monarchy's military failures and ineptitude, and the lack of social services for war veterans.
• A poor economic situation and an unmanageable national debt, both caused and exacerbated by the burden of a grossly inequitable system of taxation.
• The Roman Catholic Church, the largest landowner in the country, which levied a harsh tax on crops known as the dîme. While the dîme lessened the severity of the monarchy's tax increases, it nonetheless served to worsen the plight of the poorest who faced a daily struggle with malnutrition.
• The continued conspicuous consumption of the noble class, especially the court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette at Versailles, despite the financial burden on the populace.
• High unemployment and high bread prices, causing more money to be spent on food and less in other areas of the economy;
• Widespread famine and malnutrition, which increased the likelihood of disease and death, and intentional starvation in the most destitute segments of the population during the months immediately before the Revolution. The famine extended even to other parts of Europe, and was not helped by a poor transportation infrastructure for bulk foods. (Some researchers have also attributed the widespread famine to an El Niño effect.).[1]
In addition to economic factors, there were social and political factors, many of them involving resentments and aspirations given focus by the rise of Enlightenment ideals:
• Resentment of royal absolutism;
• Resentment by the ambitious professional and merchantile classes towards noble privileges and dominance in public life (with a clear picture of the lives of their peers in The Netherlands, The Germanies, and Great Britain etc.);
• Resentment of manorialism (seigneurialism) by peasants, wage-earners, and, to a lesser extent, the bourgeoisie;
• Resentment of clerical privilege (anti-clericalism) and aspirations for freedom of religion;
• Continued hatred for (perceived) "Papist" controlled and influenced institutions of all kinds, by the large protestant minorities;
• Aspirations for liberty and (especially as the Revolution progressed) republicanism;
• Hatred toward the King for firing Jacques Necker and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune (among other financial advisors) who represented and fought for the people.
Finally, perhaps above all, was the almost total failure of Louis XVI and his advisors to deal effectively with any of these problems.

Playlist: Delta Force, Operation Acid Gambit

Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama, was launched at 0045, 20 December 1989. The invasion force consisted of a massive wave of conventional and airborne, and special operations forces. One vital aspect of Just Cause, however, revolved around a single American citizen, and the efforts of a small group of men to rescue him from a certain death.

The Falklands War: Playlist

Discovery Civilization documentary

BBC " Bomber Command ", Playlist

Excellent series from the BBC. Bomber Command raids were unthinkable even during the blitz against Britain in 1940. Thousand bomber raids were conducted bringing German cities to their knees. Many have suggested that these raids were nothing but terror raids against innocent people. The Bomber raids against German and Japan were a consequence of total war. However, all nations, for good or evil, have blood on their hands.

D-Day: Lost Evidence: Playlist

Playlist: Steven Hawkings Universe

Playlist: Steven Hawkings Universe
Description: How Hawkings see the univers
Videos: 35

Quantum Mechanics - Electrons Are Weird

Clips from a BBC documentary explaining the arguments from the 1920's until now as to whether electrons are particles, waves or both.
It outlines Einstein's distaste at Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and is a good starting point in realising that the universe is far, far stranger than can be imagined.
Also has some interesting footage showing the impact that the pursuit of quantum physics has made to our world today.

Incredible Sewer Overflow

Watch a sewer get... OUT of control.
Look at the car crashing into the sewer-shield

Hurricane Dean from Space

The crewmembers aboard the space station took a short break Saturday to get a look at the storm from their vantage point. Even from space, the storm expected to reach the Gulf of Mexico and gain strength as a potential Cat 5 storm, impresses the crew with its size.

Pigeon killed by tennis player


Playlist: Inside the Making of 'Dr. Strangelove'

Dubai, Creating Incredible Islands

10 Unsolved Mysteries Of The Brain

What we know—and don’t know—about how we think.
by David Eagleman

Of all the objects in the universe, the human brain is the most complex: There are as many neurons in the brain as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. So it is no surprise that, ­despite the glow from recent advances in the science of the brain and mind, we still find ourselves squinting in the dark somewhat. But we are at least beginning to grasp the crucial mysteries of neuroscience and starting to make headway in addressing them. Even partial answers to these 10 questions could restructure our understanding of the roughly three-pound mass of gray and white matter that defines who we are.

1. How is information coded in neural activity?

Neurons, the specialized cells of the brain, can produce brief spikes of voltage in their outer membranes. These electrical pulses travel along specialized extensions called axons to cause the release of chemical signals elsewhere in the brain. The binary, all-or-nothing spikes appear to carry information about the world: What do I see? Am I hungry? Which way should I turn? But what is the code of these millisecond bits of voltage? Spikes may mean different things at different places and times in the brain. In parts of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), the rate of spiking often correlates with clearly definable external features, like the presence of a color or a face. In the peripheral nervous system, more spikes indicates more heat, a louder sound, or a stronger muscle contraction.
As we delve deeper into the brain, however, we find populations of neurons involved in more complex phenomena, like reminiscence, value judgments, simulation of possible futures, the desire for a mate, and so on—and here the signals become difficult to decrypt. The challenge is something like popping the cover off a computer, measuring a few transistors chattering between high and low voltage, and trying to guess the content of the Web page being surfed.
It is likely that mental information is stored not in single cells but in populations of cells and patterns of their activity. However, it is currently not clear how to know which neurons belong to a particular group; worse still, current technologies (like sticking fine electrodes directly into the brain) are not well suited to measuring several thousand neurons at once. Nor is it simple to monitor the connections of even one neuron: A typical neuron in the cortex receives input from some 10,000 other neurons.
Although traveling bursts of voltage can carry signals across the brain quickly, those electrical spikes may not be the only—or even the main—way that information is carried in nervous systems. ­Forward-looking studies are examining other possible information couriers: glial cells (poorly understood brain cells that are 10 times as common as neurons), other kinds of signaling mechanisms between cells (such as newly discovered gases and peptides), and the biochemical cascades that take place inside cells.

2. How are memories stored and retrieved?
When you learn a new fact, like someone’s name, there are physical changes in the structure of your brain. But we don’t yet comprehend exactly what those changes are, how they are orchestrated across vast seas of synapses and neurons, how they embody knowledge, or how they are read out decades later for retrieval.
One complication is that there are many kinds of memories. The brain seems to distinguish short-term memory (remembering a phone number just long enough to dial it) from long-term memory (what you did on your last birthday). Within long-term memory, declarative memories (like names and facts) are distinct from non­declarative memories (riding a bicycle, being affected by a subliminal message), and within these general categories are numerous subtypes. Different brain structures seem to support different kinds of learning and memory; brain damage can lead to the loss of one type without disturbing the others.
Nonetheless, similar molecular mechanisms may be at work in these memory types. Almost all theories of memory propose that memory storage depends on synapses, the tiny connections between brain cells. When two cells are active at the same time, the connection between them strengthens; when they are not active at the same time, the connection weakens. Out of such synaptic changes emerges an association. Experience can, for example, fortify the connections between the smell of coffee, its taste, its color, and the feel of its warmth. Since the populations of neurons connected with each of these sensations are typically activated at the same time, the connections between them can cause all the sensory associations of coffee to be triggered by the smell alone.
But looking only at associations—and strengthened connections between neurons—may not be enough to explain memory. The great secret of memory is that it mostly encodes the relationships between things more than the details of the things themselves. When you memorize a melody, you encode the relationships between the notes, not the notes per se, which is why you can easily sing the song in a different key.
Memory retrieval is even more mysterious than storage. When I ask if you know Alex Ritchie, the answer is immediately obvious to you, and there is no good theory to explain how memory retrieval can happen so quickly. Moreover, the act of retrieval can destabilize the memory. When you recall a past event, the memory becomes temporarily susceptible to erasure. Some intriguing recent experiments show it is possible to chemically block memories from reforming during that window, suggesting new ethical questions that require careful consideration.

3. What does the baseline activity in the brain represent?
Neuroscientists have mostly studied changes in brain activity that correlate with stimuli we can present in the laboratory, such as a picture, a touch, or a sound. But the activity of the brain at rest—its “baseline” activity—may prove to be the most important aspect of our mental lives. The awake, resting brain uses 20 percent of the body’s total oxygen, even though it makes up only 2 percent of the body’s mass. Some of the baseline activity may represent the brain restructuring knowledge in the background, simulating future states and events, or manipulating memories. Most things we care about—reminiscences, emotions, drives, plans, and so on—can occur with no external stimulus and no overt output that can be measured.
One clue about baseline activity comes from neuroimaging experiments, which show that activity decreases in some brain areas just before a person performs a goal-directed task. The areas that decrease are the same regardless of the details of the task, hinting that these areas may run baseline programs during downtime, much as your computer might run a disk-defragmenting program only while the resources are not needed elsewhere.
In the traditional view of perception, information from the outside world pours into the senses, works its way through the brain, and makes itself consciously seen, heard, and felt. But many scientists are coming to think that sensory input may merely revise ongoing internal activity in the brain. Note, for example, that sensory input is superfluous for perception: When your eyes are closed during dreaming, you still enjoy rich visual experience. The awake state may be essentially the same as the dreaming state, only partially anchored by external stimuli. In this view, your conscious life is an awake dream.
The awake state may be essentially the same as the dreaming state. In this view, your conscious life is an awake dream.

4. How do brains simulate the future?
When a fire chief encounters a new blaze, he quickly makes predictions about how to best position his men. Running such simulations of the future—without the risk and expense of actually attempting them—allows “our hypotheses to die in our stead,” as philosopher Karl Popper put it. For this reason, the emulation of possible futures is one of the key businesses that intelligent brains invest in.
Yet we know little about how the brain’s future simulator works because traditional neuroscience technologies are best suited for correlating brain activity with explicit behaviors, not mental emulations. One idea suggests that the brain’s resources are devoted not only to processing stimuli and reacting to them (watching a ball come at you) but also to constructing an internal model of that outside world and extracting rules for how things tend to behave (knowing how balls move through the air). Internal models may play a role not only in motor acts, like catching, but also in perception. For example, vision draws on significant amounts of information in the brain, not just on input from the retina. Many neuroscientists have suggested over the past few decades that perception arises not simply by building up bits of data through a hierarchy but rather by matching incoming sensory data against internally generated expectations.
But how does a system learn to make good predictions about the world? It may be that memory exists only for this purpose. This is not a new idea: Two millennia ago, Aristotle and Galen emphasized memory as a tool in making successful predictions for the future. Even your memories about your life may come to be understood as a special subtype of emulation, one that is pinned down and thus likely to flow in a certain direction.

5. What are emotions?
We often talk about brains as information-processing systems, but any account of the brain that lacks an account of emotions, motivations, fears, and hopes is incomplete. Emotions are measurable physical responses to salient stimuli: the increased heartbeat and perspiration that accompany fear, the freezing response of a rat in the presence of a cat, or the extra muscle tension that accompanies anger. Feelings, on the other hand, are the subjective experiences that sometimes accompany these processes: the sensations of happiness, envy, sadness, and so on. Emotions seem to employ largely unconscious machinery—for example, brain areas involved in emotion will respond to angry faces that are briefly presented and then rapidly masked, even when subjects are unaware of having seen the face. Across cultures the expression of basic emotions is remarkably similar, and as Darwin observed, it is also similar across all mammals. There are even strong similarities in physiological responses among humans, reptiles, and birds when showing fear, anger, or parental love.
Modern views propose that emotions are brain states that quickly assign value to outcomes and provide a simple plan of action. Thus, emotion can be viewed as a type of computation, a rapid, automatic summary that initiates appropriate actions. When a bear is galloping toward you, the rising fear directs your brain to do the right things (determining an escape route) instead of all the other things it could be doing (rounding out your grocery list). When it comes to perception, you can spot an object more quickly if it is, say, a spider rather than a roll of tape. In the realm of memory, emotional events are laid down differently by a parallel memory system involving a brain area called the amygdala.
One goal of emotional neuroscience is to understand the nature of the many disorders of emotion, depression being the most common and costly. Impulsive aggression and violence are also thought to be consequences of faulty emotion regulation.

6. What is intelligence?
Intelligence comes in many forms, but it is not known what intelligence—in any of its guises—means biologically. How do billions of neurons work together to manipulate knowledge, simulate novel situations, and erase inconsequential information? What happens when two concepts “fit” together and you suddenly see a solution to a problem? What happens in your brain when it suddenly dawns on you that the killer in the movie is actually the unsuspected wife? Do intelligent people store knowledge in a way that is more distilled, more varied, or more easily retrievable?
We all grew up with the near-future promise of smart robots, but today we have little better than the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. What went wrong? There are two camps for explaining the weak performance of artificial intelligence: Either we do not know enough of the fundamental principles of brain function, or we have not simulated enough neurons working together. If the latter is true, that’s good news: Computation gets cheaper and faster each year, so we should not be far from enjoying life with Asimovian robots who can effectively tend our households. Yet most neuroscientists recognize how distant we are from that dream. Currently, our robots are little more intelligent than sea slugs, and even after decades of clever research, they can barely distinguish figures from a background at the skill level of an infant.
Recent experiments explore the possible relationship of intelligence to the capacity of short-term memory, the ability to quickly resolve cognitive conflict, or the ability to store stronger associations between facts; the results are not yet conclusive. Many other possibilities—better restructuring of stored information, more parallel processing, or superior emulation of possible futures—have not yet been probed by experiments.
Intelligence may not be underpinned by a single mechanism or a single neural area. Whatever intelligence is, it lies at the heart of what is special about Homo sapiens. Other species are hardwired to solve particular problems, while our ability to abstract allows us to solve an open-ended series of problems. This means that studies of intelligence in mice and monkeys may be barking up the wrong family tree.

7. How is time represented in the brain?
Hundred-yard dashes begin with a gunshot rather than a strobe light because your brain can react more quickly to a bang than to a flash. Yet as soon as we get outside the realm of motor reactions and into the realm of perception (what you report that you saw and heard), the story changes. When it comes to awareness, the brain goes through a good deal of trouble to synchronize incoming signals that are processed at very different speeds.
For example, snap your fingers in front of you. Although your auditory system processes information about the snap about 30 milliseconds faster than your visual system, the sight of your fingers and the sound of the snap seem simultaneous. Your brain is employing fancy editing tricks to make simultaneous events in the world feel simultaneous to you, even when the different senses processing the information would individually swear otherwise.
For a simple example of how your brain plays tricks with time, look in the mirror at your left eye. Now shift your gaze to your right eye. Your eye movements take time, of course, but you do not see your eyes move. It is as if the world instantly made the transition from one view to the next. What happened to that little gap in time? For that matter, what happens to the 80 milliseconds of darkness you should see every time you blink your eyes? Bottom line: Your notion of the smooth passage of time is a construction of the brain. Clarifying the picture of how the brain normally solves timing problems should give insight into what happens when temporal calibration goes wrong, as may happen in the brains of people with dyslexia. Sensory inputs that are out of sync also contribute to the risk of falls in elderly patients.
We grew up with the near-future promise of smart robots, but today we have little better than the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. What went wrong?

8. Why do brains sleep and dream?
One of the most astonishing aspects of our lives is that we spend a third of our time in the strange world of sleep. Newborn babies spend about twice that. It is inordinately difficult to remain awake for more than a full day-night cycle. In humans, continuous wakefulness of the nervous system results in mental derangement; rats deprived of sleep for 10 days die. All mammals sleep, reptiles and birds sleep, and voluntary breathers like dolphins sleep with one brain hemisphere dormant at a time. The evolutionary trend is clear, but the function of sleep is not.
The universality of sleep, even though it comes at the cost of time and leaves the sleeper relatively defenseless, suggests a deep importance. There is no universally agreed-upon answer, but there are at least three popular (and nonexclusive) guesses. The first is that sleep is restorative, saving and replenishing the body’s energy stores. However, the high neural activity during sleep suggests there is more to the story. A second theory proposes that sleep allows the brain to run simulations of fighting, problem solving, and other key actions before testing them out in the real world. A third theory—the one that enjoys the most evidence—is that sleep plays a critical role in learning and consolidating memories and in forgetting inconsequential details. In other words, sleep allows the brain to store away the important stuff and take out the neural trash.
Recently, the spotlight has focused on REM sleep as the most important phase for locking memories into long-term encoding. In one study, rats were trained to scurry around a track for a food reward. The researchers recorded activity in the neurons known as place cells, which showed distinct patterns of activity depending upon the rats’ location on the track. Later, while the rats dropped off into REM sleep, the recordings continued. During this sleep, the rats’ place cells often repeated the exact same pattern of activity that was seen when the animals ran. The correlation was so close, the researchers claimed, that as the animal “dreamed,” they could reconstruct where it would be on the track if it had been awake—and whether the animal was dreaming of running or standing still. The emerging idea is that information replayed during sleep might determine which events we remember later. Sleep, in this view, is akin to an off-line practice session. In several recent experiments, human subjects performing difficult tasks improved their scores between sessions on consecutive days, but not between sessions on the same day, implicating sleep in the learning process.
Understanding how sleeping and dreaming are changed by ­trauma, drugs, and disease—and how we might modulate our need for sleep—is a rich field to harvest for future clues.

9. How do the specialized systems of the brain integrate with one another?
To the naked eye, no part of the brain’s surface looks terribly different from any other part. But when we measure activity, we find that different types of information lurk in each region of the neural territory. Within vision, for example, separate areas process motion, edges, faces, and colors. The territory of the adult brain is as fractured as a map of the countries of the world.
Now that neuroscientists have a reasonable idea of how that territory is divided, we find ourselves looking at a strange assortment of brain networks involved with smell, hunger, pain, goal setting, temperature, prediction, and hundreds of other tasks. Despite their disparate functions, these systems seem to work together seamlessly. There are almost no good ideas about how this occurs.
Nor is it understood how the brain coordinates its systems so rapidly. The slow speed of spikes (they travel about one foot per second in axons that lack the insulating sheathing called myelin) is one hundred-millionth the speed of signal transmission in digital computers. Yet a human can recognize a friend almost instantaneously, while digital computers are slow—and usually unsuccessful—at face recognition. How can an organ with such slow parts operate so quickly? The usual answer is that the brain is a parallel processor, running many operations at the same time. This is almost certainly true, but what slows down parallel-processing digital computers is the next stage of operations, where results need to be compared and decided upon. Brains are amazingly fast at this. So while the brain’s ability to do parallel processing is impressive, its ability to rapidly synthesize those parallel processes into a single, behavior-guiding output is at least as significant. An animal running must go left or right around a tree; it cannot do both.
There is no special anatomical location in the brain where information from all the different systems converges; rather, the specialized areas all interconnect with one another, forming a network of parallel and recurring links. Somehow, our integrated image of the world emerges from this complex labyrinthine network of brain structures. Surprisingly little study has been done on large, loopy networks like the ones in the brain—probably in part because it is easier to think about brains as tidy assembly lines than as dynamic networks.

10. What is consciousness?
Think back to your first kiss. The experience of it may pop into your head instantly. Where was that memory before you became conscious of it? How was it stored in your brain before and after it came into consciousness? What is the difference between those states
An explanation of consciousness is one of the major unsolved problems of modern science. It may not turn out to be a single phenomenon; nonetheless, by way of a preliminary target, let’s think of it as the thing that flickers on when you wake up in the morning that was not there, in the exact same brain hardware, moments before.
Neuroscientists believe that consciousness emerges from the material stuff of the brain primarily because even very small changes to your brain (say, by drugs or disease) can powerfully alter your subjective experiences. The heart of the problem is that we do not yet know how to engineer pieces and parts such that the resulting machine has the kind of private subjective experience that you and I take for granted. If I give you all the Tinkertoys in the world and tell you to hook them up so that they form a conscious machine, good luck. We don’t have a theory yet of how to do this; we don’t even know what the theory will look like.
One of the traditional challenges to consciousness research is studying it experimentally. It is probable that at any moment some active neuronal processes correlate with consciousness, while others do not. The first challenge is to determine the difference between them. Some clever experiments are making at least a little headway. In one of these, subjects see an image of a house in one eye and, simultaneously, an image of a cow in the other. Instead of perceiving a house-cow mixture, people perceive only one of them. Then, after some random amount of time, they will believe they’re seeing the other, and they will continue to switch slowly back and forth. Yet nothing about the visual stimulus changes; only the conscious experience changes. This test allows investigators to probe which properties of neuronal activity correlate with the changes in subjective experience.
The mechanisms underlying consciousness could reside at any of a variety of physical levels: molecular, cellular, circuit, pathway, or some organizational level not yet described. The mechanisms might also be a product of interactions between these levels. One compelling but still speculative notion is that the massive feedback circuitry of the brain is essential to the production of consciousness.
In the near term, scientists are working to identify the areas of the brain that correlate with consciousness. Then comes the next step: understanding why they correlate. This is the so-called hard problem of neuroscience, and it lies at the outer limit of what material explanations will say about the experience of being human.