Jon Feingersh/Blend Images/Corbis
People at risk for becoming obese have difficulty feeling full and so they tend to eat a constant, high rate.
Valley of the Moon in San Pedro de Atacama, C
Aug. 9, 2012
-- "Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life." --William Faulkner Being in the moment and focusing on what one is doing can be hard when there are 15 other reminders popping up on the to-do list. Counter-intuitively, psychologists at Stanford and the University of Minnesota suggest that losing one’s sense of time pressure can help people accomplish more by allowing them to focus on a single task, but it can take awe-inspiring events to shake people out of their time crunch. In an experiment, people who had been primed with an awe-inspiring story or image reported they felt they had more available time, were less impatient and materialistic, were willing to volunteer time to help others, and generally felt more satisfied with their lives than folks who had received a neutral or simply happy stimulus. The research was published in the journal Psychological Science. A person doesn't have to hang glide over the Grand Canyon or take a trip to the International Space Station to feel awe. Just taking a few moments to feel wonder at the order of the cosmos, marvel at nature or appreciate humans’ amazing creative abilities can help break the chains forged by a full schedule and refresh a person with a truly awesome experience.
Cactus silhouetted against lightning, Tucson,
Strike of Inspiration "Human life is as evanescent as the morning dew or a flash of lightning." -- Samuel Butler A lightning bolt can span more than five miles (eight kilometers), raise the air temperature by as much as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (27,700 degrees Celsius), and contain one hundred million electrical volts. Is it any wonder that since ancient times humans have been amazed, inspired and terrified by lightning? Lighting was so awe-inspiring that many cultures came to see it as an act of a divine being, like the Greek's Zeus or Scandinavian's Thor.
Mountain ridges, cirques, and glaciers surrou
Be Challenged to Succeed "Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere. Climb the mountain just a little bit to test it's a mountain. From the top of the mountain, you cannot see the mountain." --Frank Herbert Mount McKinley stabs the sky above Denali National Park in Alaska. Mountains are inhospitable and even deadly, yet humans are drawn to them. Our brief lifespans and tiny forms seem inconsequential compared to the bulk and age of the mountains, yet the grandeur of the peaks would be nothing but lumps of rock, if humans weren’t here to be awed by them. Mountains, like lightning, so amazed our ancestors that in many cultures, the lofty peaks were the home of the gods or even gods themselves.
Common Poppys on the South Downs Near Pulboro
Nature's Medicine "The poppy opes her scarlet purse of dreams." --Scharmel Iris Poppies are one of humanity's oldest medicines. In the days before ibuprofen and codeine, people had to go to nature for their painkillers. The morphine contained in certain poppy species eases the anguish of the wounded and sick to this day. Amazingly, there are still cures hidden in nature’s medicine chest. Many medications like aspirin or penicillin were originally found in nature. In places like the Amazon forest, the traditional knowledge of shamans about the medicinal benefits of plants is being tapped by ethnobotanists like Mark Plotkin, author of Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice.
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Large field of healthy early growth grain cor
"Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together." --Jonathan Swift Not only do our medicines come from nature, but so too does our food. The sheer quantity of edibles offered up by the Earth is astounding. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Administration reported that in 2010 the Earth’s farmers produced: Corn – 844 million tonnes Wheat – 651 million tonnes Bananas – 102 million tones Apples – 70 million tonnes Coffee – 8 million tonnes This year's drought however is wrecking havoc on farmer's crops. New methods of irrigation and advancements in technology that help reduce carbon pollution will be needed as times they are a changin'.
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Morande Vineyards, Chile, South America (Corb
"Days of wine and roses laugh and run away, Like a child at play." --Johnny Mercer Even while still on the vine, the grape inspires art. Famous poets, such as Lord Byron to Li Po, have found their awe-inspiring moment at the lip of a wine goblet. Alcoholic beverages have served to loosen the lips of singers since bards strummed lutes for their libations. The world's oldest vineyards arose from regions in the Middle East with archeological evidence of wine grapes growing in Georgia about 9,000 years ago. The oldest winery ever found dates back 6,000 years and was discovered in a cave in Armenia.
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Visitors watch waterfall of the Xiaolangdi Re
"The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time." --Henry David Thoreau Besides being necessary for life on Earth, water also creates some of the most beautiful scenery. From sunsets on the ocean to the raging torrents cascading from a waterfall, the movement and reflectivity of water hold a poetic grip on the mind of humans. But tools help. Despite the controversies over dams such as this, you have to admit the amount of water released from China's Xiaolangdi Reservoir is impressive.
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Let Curiosity Drive Your Discoveries "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." --Arthur C. Clarke For billions of years, nature held the monopoly on awe-inspiration. Then humans evolved and started creating their own works of beauty and wonder. From simply building a fire to the terrifying power unleashed by controlling nuclear fission, human technologies have ushered in new wonders throughout history. Now we take it to a whole other planet!
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Scientists and engineers in Europe are embarking on a quest to see if they can change the way young people at risk for becoming obese eat. Key to this will be developing unobtrusive technology that monitors how quickly or slowly a person is eating and guides them toward a healthier pace.
“It’s a behavioral issue,” explains Anastasios Delopoulos, the project leader and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in Greece. When a person begins to eat they typically begin at a high rate and slow down until they feel full. “It’s similar to the voltage of a capacitor as more and more electrons accumulate in it,” he says.
However, obese people or people at risk for the condition have difficulty feeling full, and so they tend to eat a constant, high rate. Some people at risk for eating disorders, such as anorexia, have a similar problem. But for them, the rate is unusually low. “It’s two sides of the same coin,” says Delopoulos.
Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have already measured these rates in patients using a device called a mandometer, which was developed by AB Mando Group. The mandometer is essentially a scale that sits beneath a patient’s plate and records how quickly it lightens as the patient eats. Scientists have found that by making patients mimic a normal eating curve, they can train them to have a more normal sense of satiety — thereby treating the obesity or the eating disorder.
The challenge for the new, three-year European Union-funded project, called Splendid, is to bring that monitoring and treatment out of the clinic and into the real world. “Now we want to move toward prevention,” says Delopoulos. “We want to target some students who are not obese and identify who [among them] are at risk of becoming obese.”
For that they’ll need to develop less-obtrusive monitoring and behavioral modification technology, and the software to run it. On the hardware side of things, the Splendid researchers are working on developing wearable tech that would be able to understand and monitor chewing. The first option is to use a well-placed microphone. The idea is that the sensor would capture chewing noises and be able to interpret the rate of chewing and some information about the texture of the food. They won’t be able to tell Coca-Cola from Pepsi, jokes Delopoulos, but they should be able to tell chewy things from crispy ones or liquids.
People at risk for becoming obese have difficulty feeling full and so they tend to eat a constant, high rate. Jon Feingersh/Blend Images/Corbis
Indeed, ear-based systems have already shown promise: Engineers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Photonic Microsystems, in Dresden, tested eight chew-detection algorithms using an in-ear microphone and recently reported 80 percent accuracy for most of them.
The other option is to adapt a photoplethysmogram — a device that detects a change in the volume of tissue by monitoring the way light is absorbed or reflected. The idea here is seeing if there is an unobtrusive spot on the body where the act of chewing produces a readable signal. The Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), a Zurich-based partner in Splendid, is in charge of that aspect of the research.
Where on the body these sensors will go depends on the quality of the signals they achieve, says Delopoulos. “We want to be as invisible as possible,” he says. So they are investigating sensor designs that would go in the ear, sit behind the ear or hang from a necklace, among others.
The project will also include activity monitoring. As the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) indicated, there’s already a lot of commercially available activity trackers out there.
Delopoulos’ lab itself will be in charge of “signal understanding” — figuring out things like chew rate, meal duration, and other parameters from the signals they can extract from the new wearable sensors. Once they have those signals, they’ll develop the algorithms needed to tell whether a person is at risk for becoming obese, and if they’ve already been asked to modify their behavior, how well they are doing it.
Getting all that into an unobtrusive wearable device wouldn’t have been easy five years ago, say Delopoulos. Android smartphones are now powerful enough to run the needed statistical learning algorithms. And those algorithms themselves are “much more mature now,” he says. “That’s due to research carried out in multimedia indexing and retrieval.”