Space & Innovation

Awesome Images Make You Feel Amazing: Photos

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.

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.

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.

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.

PHOTOS: Flowers To Die For

"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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"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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"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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