Rare case of Lassa fever discovered in Minnesota traveler, CDC says.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) have confirmed a case of Lassa fever in Minnesota.  After being admitted to a Minnesota hospital on Mar. 31, a man returning to the U.S. from West Africa was showing symptoms of fever and confusion.  Blood samples were taken and sent to the CDC.  The samples tested positive for Lassa fever on Apr. 3.

The World Health Organization (WHO)describes Lassa fever as an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by the Lassa virus.  It is transmitted to humans from contacts with food or household items contaminated with rodent excretions.  Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, especially in environments with poor infection control or with individuals that have a compromised immune system.  The disease is endemic to West Africa.

West Africa has been in the news lately for an outbreak of Ebola that appears to be spreading across countries.  Reuters reported that the outbreak began in the West African nation of Guinea and has spread to Mali.  With a regional death toll approaching 100 people and up to a 90 percent fatality rate, news of another illness is likely to cause panic.

Wired Magazine reports on its website that Lassa fever is often lumped together with Ebola as they are both hemorrhagic fevers.  However, it is important to note that they are caused by different organisms and this case is not likely related to the outbreak.  MDH and CDC have emphasized that there is no need for concern from the general public.  There have been seven prior cases of Lassa fever coming back with someone who traveled to Africa, but it has never spread in those cases, so the risk is minimal.

Lassa fever also has a lower mortality rate.  Approximately 10 to 20 percent of infected people die from the disease.  The incubation period for the disease is much shorter and people present with symptoms sooner, allowing health professionals to respond.  In the current case, the Minnesota man is recovering well and no additional cases have been identified.

Approximately 10 to 20 percent of infected people die from the disease.

A 3D printer could ink your next tattoo.


Students in Paris have turned a 3D printer into a tattoo machine and shared their instructions online.

Tattoo_Printer_

Students at a recent electronics workshop at the ENSCI-Les Ateliers design school in Paris have hacked a MakerBot 3D printer, swapping its extruder with parts from a tattoo kit.

The result, as New Scientist reports, is a 3D printer that can give you permanent tats.

And after testing on synthetic skin, there was apparently a long line of people wanting the honour of being the first human tattooed by a ‘robot’.

The 3D printer can currently only draw simple outlines created with modelling software, but it opens up interesting possibilities for the tattoo industry. The next big challenge is how to effectively keep human skin smooth and flat for more intricate designs.

“The idea really isn’t to replace the tattoo artist: you can’t replace their eyes and brain,” Samuel Bernier, the students’ instructor, told New Scientist. “What’s interesting is to open the discussion.”

Even better, the students posted their instructions online. Next engineering project, anyone?

​Zombie cancer cells can resurrect, get cured by eating selves .


A cancer study has achieved a breakthrough by showing that sick cells may be able to split themselves up to recover, instead of dying, when the body is exposed to chemotherapy – all by disabling a process that communicates the news of death.

The University of Colorado Cancer Center study, published in the journal Cell Reports, talks of a process called autophagy, wherein cells devour parts of themselves when faced with some external stressor. But while autophagy is not a new concept, its study has not yet been thorough enough for it not to amaze scientists with new properties.

The term comes from the Greek expression “to eat oneself” and described a process, wherein the little bits of a cell, autophagosomes, trap dangerous or surplus material and transport it elsewhere for the purpose of being recycled into energy or immune protection, whenever the organism runs low.

But autophagy can be manipulated. The process could either be fine-tuned enough, or the materials that work with it could also be targeted. What the team found using the ovarian cancer model is that“cancer cells may [still] be able to rescue themselves from death caused by chemotherapies,” as the deputy director of the CU Cancer Center, Andrew Thorburn, puts it.

Reuters / Stefan Wermuth

This is done by cheating the cell into thinking it’s not really dead. In the moments of death, the mitochondrial cell walls are stripped away and proteins are released – something called MOMP by scientists.

MOMP is an indicator of death. Increased autophagy means the autophagosomes are able to capture the released proteins and revive a dead cell before it’s robbed of all its protein.

Thorburn explains that by inhibiting autophagy, “you’d make this less likely to happen, i.e. when you kill cancer cells they would stay dead.”

To prove this, the researchers focused on PUMA – a regulator of cell death. By removing this regulator, they showed that high autophagy can be used to create a special cell death, which kills off bad material, but allows for the creation of a new cell in its place with deposits of protein. In effect, the team are regulating tumor growth itself by inducing high autophagy.

In future, they believe that by employing the newly discovered “molecular mechanism whereby cell fate can be determined by autophagy” and finding new targets in the cell to regulate, they can create different inhibitor medicines for different types of cancer.

Breakthrough synthesis method to speed commercialization of graphene.


Samsung Electronics announced a breakthrough synthesis method to speed the commercialization of graphene, a unique material ideally suited for electronic devices. Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), in partnership with Sungkyunkwan University, became the first in the world to develop this new method.

“This is one of the most significant breakthroughs in research in history,” said the laboratory leaders at SAIT’s Lab. “We expect this discovery to accelerate the commercialization of graphene, which could unlock the next era of consumer electronic technology.”

http://cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/2012/6-satellite(1).jpg

Graphene has one hundred times greater electron mobility than silicon, the most widely used material in semiconductors today. It is more durable than steel and has high heat conductibility as well as flexibility, which makes it the perfect material for use in flexible displays, wearables and other next generation .

Through its partnership with Sungkyungkwan University’s School of Advanced Materials Science and Engineering, SAIT uncovered a new method of growing large area, single crystal wafer scale graphene. Engineers around the world have invested heavily in research for the commercialization of graphene, but have faced many obstacles due to the challenges associated with it. In the past, researchers have found that multi-crystal synthesis – the process of synthesizing small graphene particles to produce large-area graphene – deteriorated the electric and mechanical properties of the material, limiting its application range and making it difficult to commercialize.

The new method developed by SAIT and Sungkyunkwan University synthesizes large-area graphene into a single crystal on a semiconductor, maintaining its electric and . The new method repeatedly synthesizes single crystal graphene on the current semiconductor wafer scale.

Over the past several decades, the growth of the semiconductor industry has been driven by the ability to grow the area of a silicon wafer, while steadily decreasing the process node. In order to commercialize graphene to displace the industry’s reliance on silicon, it is vital to develop a new method to grow a single crystal graphene into a large area.

The research results will be published in the April 4 issue of Science magazine and Science Express, one of the world’s most prestigious science journals.

Samsung and Sungkyunkwan University have been partnering in the field of nano research since 2006. This breakthrough is a testament to the strengths of the two institutions, who together were able to successfully achieve results that could become a driver of next generation technology.


ABSTRACT
The uniform growth of single-crystal graphene over wafer-scale areas remains a challenge in the commercial-level manufacturability of various electronic, photonic, mechanical, and other devices based on graphene. Here, we describe wafer-scale growth of wrinkle-free single-crystal monolayer graphene on silicon wafer using a hydrogen-terminated germanium buffer layer. The anisotropic twofold symmetry of the germanium (110) surface allowed unidirectional alignment of multiple seeds, which were merged to uniform single-crystal graphene with predefined orientation. Furthermore, the weak interaction between graphene and underlying hydrogen-terminated germanium surface enabled the facile etch-free dry transfer of graphene and the recycling of the germanium substrate for continual graphene growth.

10 Surprising Things That Benefit Our Brain That You Can Do Everyday.


Our brains are by far our most important organs. Here are 10 of the most surprising things our brains do and what we can learn from them:

10 Surprising Things That Benefit Our Brain That You Can Do Everyday
1. Your brain does creative work better when you’re tired.

Here’s how it breaks down:

If you’re a morning lark, say, you’ll want to favor those morning hours when you’re feeling fresher to get your most demanding, analytic work done. Using your brain to solve problems, answer questions and make decisions is best done when you’re at your peak. For night owls, this is obviously a much later period in the day.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to do creative work you’ll actually have more luck when you’re more tired and your brain isn’t functioning as efficiently. This sounds crazy, but it actually makes sense when you look at the reasoning behind it. It’s one of the reasons that great ideas often happen in the shower after a long day of work.

If you’re tired, your brain is not as good at filtering out distractions and focusing on a particular task. It’s also a lot less efficient at remembering connections between ideas or concepts. These are both good things when it comes to creative work, since this kind of work requires us to make new connections, be open to new ideas and think in new ways. So a tired, fuzzy brain is much more use to us when working on creative projects.

This Scientific American article explains how distractions can actually be a good thing for creative thinking:

Insight problems involve thinking outside the box. This is where susceptibility to “distraction” can be of benefit. At off-peak times we are less focused, and may consider a broader range of information. This wider scope gives us access to more alternatives and diverse interpretations, thus fostering innovation and insight.

2. Stress can change the size of your brain (and make it smaller).

I bet you didn’t know that stress is actually the most common cause of changes in brain function. I was surprised to find this out when I looked into how stress affects our brains.

I also found some research that showed signs of brain size decreasing due to stress.

One study used baby monkeys to test the effects of stress on development and long-term mental health. Half the monkeys were cared for by their peers for six months, while the other half remained with their mothers. Afterwards, the monkeys were returned to typical social groups for several months before the researchers scanned their brains.

In the monkeys who had been removed from their mothers and cared for by their peers, areas of their brains related to stress were still enlarged, even after being in normal social conditions for several months.

3. It is literally impossible for our brains to multitask.

Multitasking is something we’ve long been encouraged to practice, but it turns out multitasking is actually impossible. When we think we’re multitasking, we’re actually context switching. That is, we’re quickly switching back and forth between different tasks rather than doing them at the same time.

The book Brain Rules explains how detrimental multitasking can be:

Research shows your error rate goes up 50 percent and it takes you twice as long to do things.

The problem with multitasking is that we’re splitting our brain’s resources. We’re giving less attention to each task, and probably performing worse on all of them:

When the brain tries to do two things at once, it divides and conquers, dedicating one-half of our gray matter to each task.

When our brains handle a single task, the prefrontal cortex plays a big part. Here’s how it helps us achieve a goal or complete a task:

The anterior part of this brain region forms the goal or intention — for example, “I want that cookie” — and the posterior prefrontal cortex talks to the rest of the brain so that your hand reaches toward the cookie jar and your mind knows whether you have the cookie.

A study in Paris found that when a second task was required, the brains of the study volunteers split up, with each hemisphere working alone on a task. The brain was overloaded by the second task and couldn’t perform at its full capacity, because it needed to split its resources.

4. Naps improve your brain’s day-to-day performance.

We’re pretty clear on how important sleep is for our brains, but what about naps? It turns out that these short bursts of sleep are actually really useful.

Here are a couple of ways that napping can benefit the brain:

Improved Memory

In one study, participants memorized illustrated cards to test their memory strength. After memorizing a set of cards, they had a 40-minute break wherein one group napped and the other stayed awake. After the break both groups were tested on their memory of the cards, and the group who had napped performed better:

Much to the surprise of the researchers, the sleep group performed significantly better, retaining on average 85 percent of the patterns, compared to 60 percent for those who had remained awake.

Apparently, napping actually helps our brain solidify memories:

Research indicates that when a memory is first recorded in the brain — in the hippocampus, to be specific — it’s still “fragile” and easily forgotten, especially if the brain is asked to memorize more things. Napping, it seems, pushes memories to the neocortex, the brain’s “more permanent storage,” preventing them from being “overwritten.”

What Happens in the Brain During a Nap

Some recent research has found that the right side of the brain is far more active during a nap than the left side, which stays fairly quiet while we’re asleep. Despite the fact that 95 percent of the population is right-handed, with the left side of their brains being the most dominant, the right side is consistently the more active hemisphere during sleep.

The study’s author, Andrei Medvedev, speculated that the right side of the brain handles “housekeeping” duties while we’re asleep.

So while the left side of your brain takes some time off to relax, the right side is clearing out your temporary storage areas, pushing information into long-term storage and solidifying your memories from the day.

5. Your vision trumps all other senses.

Despite being one of our five main senses, vision seems to take precedence over the others:

Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10 percent of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65 percent.
Pictures beat text as well, in part because reading is so inefficient for us. Our brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures, and we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them. That takes time.

In fact, vision is so powerful that the best wine tasters in the world have been known to describe a dyed white wine as a red.

Not only is it surprising that we rely on our vision so much, but it actually isn’t even that good! Take this fact, for instance:

Our brain is doing all this guessing because it doesn’t know where things are. In a three-dimensional world, the light actually falls on our retina in a two-dimensional fashion. So our brain approximates viewable image.

Let’s look at this image. It shows you how much of your brain is dedicated just to vision and how it affects other parts of the brain. It’s a truly staggering amount, compared to any other areas:

10 Surprising Things That Benefit Our Brain That You Can Do Everyday
6. Introversion and extroversion come from different wiring in the brain.

I just recently realized that introversion and extroversion are not actually related to how outgoing or shy we are but to how our brains recharge.

Here’s how the brains of introverts and extroverts differ:

Research has actually found that there is a difference in the brains of extroverted and introverted people in terms of how we process rewards and how our genetic makeup differs. Extroverts’ brains respond more strongly when a gamble pays off. Part of this is simply genetic, but it’s partly a difference in their dopamine systems as well.

An experiment that had people take gambles while in a brain scanner found the following:

When the gambles they took paid off, the more extroverted group showed a stronger response in two crucial brain regions: the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens.

The nucleus accumbens is part of the dopamine system, which affects how we learn and is generally known for motivating us to search for rewards. The difference in the dopamine system in the extrovert’s brain tends to push them toward seeking out novelty, taking risks and enjoying unfamiliar or surprising situations more than others. The amygdala is responsible for processing emotional stimuli, which gives extroverts that rush of excitement when they try something highly stimulating that might overwhelm an introvert.

More research has actually shown that the difference comes from how introverts and extroverts process stimuli. That is, the stimulation coming into our brains is processed differently depending on your personality. For extroverts, the pathway is much shorter. It runs through an area where taste, touch, visual and auditory sensory processing take place. For introverts, stimuli run through a long, complicated pathway in areas of the brain associated with remembering, planning and solving problems.

7. We tend to like people who make mistakes more.

Apparently, making mistakes actually makes us more likeable, due to something called the pratfall effect.

Kevan Lee recently explained how this works on the Buffer blog:

Those who never make mistakes are perceived as less likeable than those who commit the occasional faux pas. Messing up draws people closer to you, makes you more human. Perfection creates distance and an unattractive air of invincibility. Those of us with flaws win out every time. This theory was tested by psychologist Elliot Aronson. In his test, he asked participants to listen to recordings of people answering a quiz. Select recordings included the sound of the person knocking over a cup of coffee. When participants were asked to rate the quizzers on likability, the coffee-spill group came out on top.

So this is why we tend to dislike people who seem perfect! And now we know that making minor mistakes isn’t the worst thing in the world; in fact, it can work in our favor.

8. Meditation can rewire your brain for the better.

Here’s another one that really surprised me. I thought meditation was only good for improving focus and helping me stay calm throughout the day, but it actually has a whole bunch of great benefits.

Here are a few examples:

What happens without meditation is that there’s a section of our brains that’s sometimes called the “me center.” (It’s technically the medial prefrontal cortex.) This is the part that processes information relating to ourselves and our experiences. Normally the neural pathways from the bodily sensation and fear centers of the brain to the “me center” are really strong. When you experience a scary or upsetting sensation, it triggers a strong reaction in your “me center,” making you feel scared and under attack.

Here is how anxiety and agitation decrease with just a 20-minute meditation session:

10 Surprising Things That Benefit Our Brain That You Can Do Everyday
When we meditate, especially when we are just getting started with meditation, we weaken this neural connection. This means that we don’t react as strongly to sensations that might have once lit up our “me centers.” As we weaken this connection, we simultaneously strengthen the connection between what’s known as our “assessment center” (the part of our brains known for reasoning) and our bodily sensation and fear centers. So when we experience scary or upsetting sensations, we can more easily look at them rationally. Here’s a good example:

For example, when you experience pain, rather than becoming anxious and assuming it means something is wrong with you, you can watch the pain rise and fall without becoming ensnared in a story about what it might mean.

Better Memory

One of the things that meditation has been linked to is improving rapid memory recall. Catherine Kerr, a researcher at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Osher Research Center, found that people who practiced mindful meditation were able to adjust the brain wave that screens out distractions and increase their productivity more quickly that those who did not meditate. She said that this ability to ignore distractions could explain “their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.” This seems to be very similar to the power of being exposed to new situations, which will also dramatically improve our memory of things.

Meditation has also been linked to increasing compassion, decreasing stress, improving memory skills and even increasing the amount of gray matter in the brain.

9. Exercise can reorganize the brain and boost your willpower.

Sure, exercise is good for your body, but what about your brain? Well, apparently there’s a link between xercise and mental alertness, in a similar way that happiness and exercise are related:

A lifetime of exercise can result in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary. Exercisers outperform couch potatoes in tests that measure long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, even so-called fluid-intelligence tasks.

Of course, exercise can also make us happier, as we’ve explored before:
If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and things are clear after exercising, and eventually happy.

At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, are released in your brain. The main purpose of endorphis is this, writesresearcher McGovern:

These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.

10. You can make your brain think time is going slowly by doing new things.

Ever wished you didn’t find yourself saying, “Where does the time go!” every June when you realize the year is half-over? This is a neat trick that relates to how our brains perceive time. Once you know how it works, you can trick your brain into thinking time is moving more slowly.

Essentially, our brains take a whole bunch of information from our senses and organize it in a way that makes sense to us, before we ever perceive it. So what we think is our sense of time is actually just a whole bunch of information presented to us in a particular way, as determined by our brains:

When our brains receive new information, it doesn’t necessarily come in the proper order. This information needs to be reorganized and presented to us in a form we understand. When familiar information is processed, this doesn’t take much time at all. New information, however, is a bit slower and makes time feel elongated.

Even stranger, it isn’t just a single area of the brain that controls our time perception; it’s done by a whole bunch of brain areas unlike our common five senses, which can each be pinpointed to a single, specific area.

When we receive lots of new information, it takes our brains a while to process it all. The longer this processing takes, the longer that period of time feels.

When we’re in life-threatening situations, for instance, “we remember the time as longer because we record more of the experience. Life-threatening experiences make us really pay attention, but we don’t gain superhuman powers of perception.”

Implementing personalized cancer care.


Implementing personalized cancer care requires a sound understanding of cancer genomics, familiarity with the analytical methods used to study cancer, knowledge of the mechanisms of action of targeted drugs, and ways to assimilate and understand complex data sets. Perhaps the greatest challenge is obtaining the drugs predicted to be beneficial based on the genomic profile of a patient’s tumour. A potential solution is creation of a national facilitated access programme and registry for off-label use of targeted anti-cancer drugs. Within such a programme, patients could receive the targeted agent matched to the genomic profile of their tumour. Physicians would receive guidance in interpretation of complex genomic tests and access to drugs. Pharmaceutical companies, payers and regulators would receive data on off-label drug and test use and clinical outcomes to inform their research and development plans and coverage decisions and to track real-world safety. Although recently launched prospective clinical trials will determine the true benefit of matching drugs to genomic alterations, the approach proposed here will facilitate delivery of personalized medicine services to participating patients while at the same time making observations that allow us to learn from each patient to inform clinical care and future research initiatives.

Does a junk food diet make you lazy? Psychology study offers answer .


New UCLA psychology study provides evidence that being overweight makes people tired and sedentary — not the other way around.

The rat on the left ate a junk food diet; the one on the right ate a more nutritious diet.

Life scientists led by UCLA’s Aaron Blaisdell placed 32 female rats on one of two diets for six months. The first, a standard rat’s diet, consisted of relatively unprocessed foods like ground corn and fish meal. The ingredients in the second were highly processed, of lower quality and included substantially more sugar — a proxy for a junk food diet.

After just three months, the researchers observed a significant difference in the amount of weight the rats had gained, with the 16 on the junk food diet having become noticeably fatter.

“One diet led to obesity, the other didn’t,” said Blaisdell, a professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science and a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute.

The experiments the researchers performed, Blaisdell said, also suggest that fatigue may result from a junk food diet.

As part of the study, the rats were given a task in which they were required to press a lever to receive a food or water reward. The rats on the junk food diet demonstrated impaired performance, taking substantially longer breaks than the lean rats before returning to the task. In a 30-minute session, the overweight rats took breaks that were nearly twice as long as the lean ones.

The research is currently online and is scheduled for publication in the April 10 print edition of the journal Physiology and Behavior.

After six months, the rats’ diets were switched, and the overweight rats were given the more nutritious diet for nine days. This change, however, didn’t help reduce their weight or improve their lever responses.

The reverse was also true: Placing the lean rats on the junk food diet for nine days didn’t increase their weight noticeably or result in any reduction in their motivation on the lever task. These findings suggest that a pattern of consuming junk food, not just the occasional binge, is responsible for obesity and cognitive impairments, Blaisdell said.

“There’s no quick fix,” he noted.

What are the implications for humans? Do people who are overweight become less healthy or do less healthy people become overweight?

“Overweight people often get stigmatized as lazy and lacking discipline,” Blaisdell said. “We interpret our results as suggesting that the idea commonly portrayed in the media that people become fat because they are lazy is wrong. Our data suggest that diet-induced obesity is a cause, rather than an effect, of laziness. Either the highly processed diet causes fatigue or the diet causes obesity, which causes fatigue.”

Blaisdell believes the findings are very likely to apply to humans, whose physiological systems are similar to rats’. Junk food diets make humans — and rats — hungrier, he said.

In addition, the researchers found that the rats on the junk food diet grew large numbers of tumors throughout their bodies by the end of the study. Those on the more nutritious diet had fewer and small tumors that were not as widespread.

Blaisdell, 45, changed his diet more than five years ago to eat “what our human ancestors ate.” He avoids processed food, bread, pasta, grains and food with added sugar. He eats meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables and fruits, and he has seen dramatic improvements in his health, both physically and mentally.

“I’ve noticed a big improvement in my cognition,” he said. “I’m full of energy throughout the day, and my thoughts are clear and focused.”

An expert in animal cognition, Blaisdell conducts research that addresses the relationship between health and lifestyle (diet and exercise) and the relationship between a junk food diet and cognitive impairments it may induce.

“We are living in an environment with sedentary lifestyles, poor-quality diet and highly processed foods that is very different from the one we are adapted to through human evolution,” he said. “It is that difference that leads to many of the chronic diseases that we see today, such as obesity and diabetes.”

Co-authors of the research are Yan Lam Matthew Lau, Ekatherina Telminova and Boyang Fan, UCLA undergraduate students in Blaisdell’s laboratory; Hwee Cheei Lim, the manger of Blaisdell’s lab; Cynthia D. Fast, a UCLA graduate student in the lab; Dennis Garlick, a postdoctoral scholar in the lab; and David Pendergrass, a biology professor at the University of Kansas.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and by entrepreneur Cameron Smith.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California – Los Angeles. The original article was written by Stuart Wolpert. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aaron P. Blaisdell, Yan Lam Matthew Lau, Ekatherina Telminova, Hwee Cheei Lim, Boyang Fan, Cynthia D. Fast, Dennis Garlick, David C. Pendergrass. Food quality and motivation: A refined low-fat diet induces obesity and impairs performance on a progressive ratio schedule of instrumental lever pressing in ratsPhysiology & Behavior, 2014; 128: 220 DOI:10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.02.025

Why Time Slows Down When We’re Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age, and Gets Warped on Vacation.


“Time perception matters because it is the experience of time that roots us in our mental reality.”

Given my soft spot for famous diaries, it should come as no surprise that I keep one myself. Perhaps the greatest gift of the practice has been the daily habit of reading what I had written on that day a year earlier; not only is it a remarkable tool of introspection and self-awareness, but it also illustrates that our memory “is never a precise duplicate of the original [but] a continuing act of creation” and how flawed our perception of time is — almost everything that occurred a year ago appears as having taken place either significantly further in the past (“a different lifetime,” I’d often marvel at this time-illusion) or significantly more recently (“this feels like just last month!”). Rather than a personal deficiency of those of us befallen by this tendency, however, it turns out to be a defining feature of how the human mind works, the science of which is at first unsettling, then strangely comforting, and altogether intensely interesting.

That’s precisely what acclaimed BBC broadcaster and psychology writerClaudia Hammond explores in Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception (public library) — a fascinating foray into the idea that our experience of time is actively created by our own minds and how these sensations of what neuroscientists and psychologists call “mind time” are created. As disorienting as the concept might seem — after all, we’ve been nursed on the belief that time is one of those few utterly reliable and objective things in life — it is also strangely empowering to think that the very phenomenon depicted as the unforgiving dictator of life is something we might be able to shape and benefit from. Hammond writes:

We construct the experience of time in our minds, so it follows that we are able to change the elements we find troubling — whether it’s trying to stop the years racing past, or speeding up time when we’re stuck in a queue, trying to live more in the present, or working out how long ago we last saw our old friends. Time can be a friend, but it can also be an enemy. The trick is to harness it, whether at home, at work, or even in social policy, and to work in line with our conception of time. Time perception matters because it is the experience of time that roots us in our mental reality. Time is not only at the heart of the way we organize life, but the way we experience it.

Discus chronologicus, a depiction of time by German engraver Christoph Weigel, published in the early 1720s; from Cartographies of Time. (Click for details)

Among the most intriguing illustrations of “mind time” is the incredible elasticity of how we experience time. (“Where is it, this present?,” William James famously wondered“It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming.”) For instance, Hammond points out, we slow time down when gripped by mortal fear — the cliche about the slow-motion car crash is, in fact, a cognitive reality. This plays out even in situations that aren’t life-or-death per se but are still associated with strong feelings of fear. Hammond points to a study in which people with arachnophobia were asked to look at spiders — the very object of their intense fear — for 45 seconds and they overestimated the elapsed time. The same pattern was observed in novice skydivers, who estimated the duration of their peers’ falls as short, whereas their own, from the same altitude, were deemed longer.

Inversely, time seems to speed up as we get older — a phenomenon of which competing theories have attempted to make light. One, known as the “proportionality theory,” uses pure mathematics, holding that a year feels faster when you’re 40 than when you’re 8 because it only constitutes one fortieth of your life rather than a whole eighth. Among its famous proponents are Vladimir Nabokov and William James. But Hammond remains unconvinced:

The problem with the proportionality theory is that it fails to account for the way we experience time at any one moment. We don’t judge one day in the context of our whole lives. If we did, then for a 40-year-old every single day should flash by because it is less than one fourteen-thousandth of the life they’ve had so far. It should be fleeting and inconsequential, yet if you have nothing to do or an enforced wait at an airport for example, a day at 40 can still feel long and boring and surely longer than a fun day at the seaside packed with adventure for a child. … It ignores attention and emotion, which … can have a considerable impact on time perception.

Another theory suggests that perhaps it is the tempo of life in general that has accelerated, making things from the past appear as slower, including the passage of time itself.

But one definite change does take place with age: As we grow older, we tend to feel like the previous decade elapsed more rapidly, while the earlier decades of our lives seem to have lasted longer. Similarly, we tend to think of events that took place in the past 10 years as having happened more recently than they actually did. (Quick: What year did the devastating Japanese tsunami hit? When did we lose Maurice Sendak?) Conversely, we perceive events that took place more than a decade ago as having happened even longer ago. (When did Princess Diana die? What year was the Chernobyl disaster?) This, Hammond points out, is known as “forward telescoping”:

It is as though time has been compressed and — as if looking through a telescope — things seem closer than they really are. The opposite is called backward or reverse telescoping, also known as time expansion. This is when you guess that events happened longer ago than they really did. This is rare for distant events, but not uncommon for recent weeks.

[…]

The most straightforward explanation for it is called the clarity of memory hypothesis, proposed by the psychologist Norman Bradburn in 1987. This is the simple idea that because we know that memories fade over time, we use the clarity of a memory as a guide to its recency. So if a memory seems unclear we assume it happened longer ago.

And yet the brain does keep track of time, even if inaccurately. Hammond explains the factors that come into play with our inner chronometry:

It is clear that however the brain counts time, it has a system that is very flexible. It takes account of [factors like] emotions, absorption, expectations, the demands of a task and even the temperature .The precise sense we are using also makes a difference; an auditory event appears longer than a visual one. Yet somehow the experience of time created by the mind feels very real, so real that we feel we know what to expect from it, and are perpetually surprised whenever it confuses us by warping.

In fact, memory — which is itself a treacherous act of constant transformation with each recollection — is intricately related to this warping process:

We know that time has an impact on memory, but it is also memory that creates and shapes our experience of time. Our perception of the past moulds our experience of time in the present to a greater degree than we might realize. It is memory that creates the peculiar, elastic properties of time. It not only gives us the ability to conjure up a past experience at will, but to reflect on those thoughts through autonoetic consciousness — the sense that we have of ourselves as existing across time — allowing us to re-experience a situation mentally and to step outside those memories to consider their accuracy.

But, curiously, we are most likely to vividly remember experiences we had between the ages of 15 and 25. What the social sciences might simply call “nostalgia” psychologists have termed the “reminiscence bump” and, Hammond argues, it could be the key to why we feel like time speeds up as we get older:

The reminiscence bump involves not only the recall of incidents; we even remember more scenes from the films we saw and the books we read in our late teens and early twenties. … The bump can be broken down even further — the big news events that we remember best tend to have happened earlier in the bump, while our most memorablepersonal experiences are in the second half.

[…]

The key to the reminiscence bump is novelty. The reason we remember our youth so well is that it is a period where we have more new experiences than in our thirties or forties. It’s a time for firsts — first sexual relationships, first jobs, first travel without parents, first experience of living away from home, the first time we get much real choice over the way we spend our days. Novelty has such a strong impact on memory that even within the bump we remember more from the start of each new experience.

Most fascinating of all, however, is the reason the “reminiscence bump” happens in the first place: Hammond argues that because memory and identity are so closely intertwined, it is in those formative years, when we’re constructing our identity and finding our place in the world, that our memory latches onto particularly vivid details in order to use them later in reinforcing that identity. Interestingly, Hammond points out, people who undergo a major transformation of identity later in life — say, changing careers or coming out — tend to experience a second identity bump, which helps them reconcile and consolidate their new identity.

So what makes us date events more accurately? Hammond sums up the research:

You are most likely to remember the timing of an event if it was distinctive, vivid, personally involving and is a tale you have recounted many times since.

But one of the most enchanting instances of time-warping is what Hammond calls the Holiday Paradox — “the contradictory feeling that a good holiday whizzes by, yet feels long when you look back.” (An “American translation” might term it the Vacation Paradox.) Her explanation of its underlying mechanisms is reminiscent of legendary psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s theory of the clash between the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self”. Hammond explains:

The Holiday Paradox is caused by the fact that we view time in our minds in two very different ways — prospectively and retrospectively. Usually these two perspectives match up, but it is in all the circumstances where we remark on the strangeness of time that they don’t.

[…]

We constantly use both prospective and retrospective estimation to gauge time’s passing. Usually they are in equilibrium, but notable experiences disturb that equilibrium, sometimes dramatically. This is also the reason we never get used to it, and never will. We will continue to perceive time in two ways and continue to be struck by its strangeness every time we go on holiday.

Like the “reminiscence bump,” the Holiday Paradox has to do with the quality and concentration of new experiences, especially in contrast to familiar daily routines. During ordinary life, time appears to pass at a normal pace, and we use markers like the start of the workday, weekends, and bedtime to assess the rhythm of things. But once we go on vacation, the stimulation of new sights, sounds, and experiences injects a disproportionate amount of novelty that causes these two types of time to misalign. The result is a warped perception of time.

Ultimately, this source of great mystery and frustration also holds the promise of great liberation and empowerment. Hammond concludes:

We will never have total control over this extraordinary dimension. Time will warp and confuse and baffle and entertain however much we learn about its capacities. But the more we learn, the more we can shape it to our will and destiny. We can slow it down or speed it up. We can hold on to the past more securely and predict the future more accurately. Mental time-travel is one of the greatest gifts of the mind. It makes us human, and it makes us special.

Time Warped, a fine addition to these essential reads on time, goes on to explore such philosophically intriguing and practically useful questions as howour internal clocks dictate our lives, what the optimal pace of productivitymight be, and why inhabiting life with presence is the only real way to master time. Pair it with this remarkable visual history of humanity’s depictions of time.

Getting a head start on autism.


When Matthew Shumaker was diagnosed with autism in the early 1990s, his parents didn’t know anyone else who had a child with the brain disorder.

How times have changed.

On March 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC for short, delivered surprising news: Autism is far more common than people once thought. The disorder, which disrupts how the brain develops, may now impact as many as one in 68 kids across the United States. That number is nearly 30 percent higher than just two years ago. At that time, the CDC estimated one in 88 kids might be affected. The new number means that about 1.2 million children under the age of 18 may be autistic.

Instead of a single disorder, researchers often use the term “autism spectrum disorders” to refer to a group of closely related disabilities. Some affected children may have trouble interacting with or looking at other people. Instead, they may focus on objects. Matthew, for instance, seldom played with other kids. But when he was little he was fascinated with wheels and lights. He also loved drains — the type found at the bottom of sinks and drinking fountains. (In fact, he once asked Santa to bring him a drain for Christmas.)

No one knows why autism seems to be getting more common. One possible reason is that doctors are getting better at spotting the signs of trouble. New research, in fact, suggests that doctors may be able to diagnose autism earlier in life than previously thought.

These studies “are really interesting and really promising,” says Zachary Warren. A psychologist, Warren is the director of a major autism institute known as TRIAD at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. (TRIAD stands for Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders.) Diagnosing autism earlier, Warren says, means that children also can be treated much sooner. And researchers have known for more than a decade that the earlier a child is treated, the better.

anderbilt University researchers Zachary Warren and Nilanjan Sarkar are developing a robot named Russell to help teach basic comunication skills to children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Finding a treatment that works

In her book, A Regular Guy: Growing Up with Autism, Laura Shumaker writes that after her son Matthew was diagnosed, the family doctor didn’t know how to help him. “When Matthew was young, I raced around and tried all of these freaky therapies,” she says. Desperate to help him, she even changed his diet so that he didn’t eat any more milk or wheat. She had heard from other parents that the change might make him better. It didn’t.

The Shumakers finally figured out that Matthew might need a play therapist: someone who could play with him and relate to him. Recent studies suggest they made the right decision.

One of the best treatments for autism involves one-on-one sessions between the child and a trained teacher, parent or doctor, says Kathy Angkustsiri. She’s a doctor and autism expert who studies child development and behavior at a research center at the University of California, Davis. It’s called the MIND Institute (which stands for Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.)

The sessions can seem like play. But there’s really more to it. “It’s about how to teach that child to make eye contact with other people, how to respond to his or her name and how to focus attention more on people than on objects,” Angkustsiri says.

Researchers at the MIND Institute and several other universities tried this treatment on children who were just 18 months to 30 months old. The scientists then monitored the brain activity of the kids as they looked at pictures of a person’s face. The experts saw big changes: The brain activity looked more like what occurs in a typical child. This suggests the treatment might help “rewire” parts of the brain that hadn’t been connecting properly.

Scientists are encouraged by these results. They suggest that some effects of autism can be reduced or even reversed if they are treated early enough in life.

Learning from robots

One of the most important parts of any treatment is teaching kids with autism how to communicate with other people. “When we think about communication, the first thing that usually pops into our mind is words, right? Because that’s how you and I really interact with each other now,” Warren says during an interview. For very young children, though, learning how to communicate means mastering certain basic skills. One of them is paying attention to what someone else is looking at or doing. Another is copying that person’s behavior and actions.

“If you and I are both looking at a toy and you start labeling that toy with a word, I’m more likely to learn what that toy is and to use that word,” Warren explains. Kids with autism, however, often have trouble looking at someone else or imitating them. As a result, he points out, it can prove harder to teach kids with autism how to communicate.

Laura Shumaker recalls saying Matthew’s name when he was younger. “He would just kind of look around, but not at me,” she says. After years of therapy, however, he learned how to look her in the eye and talk, joke and laugh with her.

To help kids with autism build their communication skills, Warren and other researchers at Vanderbilt have built a specialized system around a small humanoid robot nicknamed Russell.

“Hello, I want to play with you,” Russell says to each child.

This robot is hooked up to a video-game system called Microsoft Kinect. The modified system can detect a child’s movement and gestures. The robot then uses that information to craft follow-up messages. For instance, Russell might ask a child to raise her arms. It then can detect whether she does so, and praise her. But if the girl raises her hands only part of the way, Russell might encourage her to reach a little higher.

Some children with autism who don’t respond to their parents or other adults will pay close attention to the robot, Warren has found. Many research groups, in fact, find that kids with autism seem to prefer interacting with computers and other technology. No one knows exactly why. But some scientists think these kids relate better to computers because they are more predictable.

Many researchers have begun using robots, video games, iPads and other devices to help kids with autism learn and communicate. Russell the robot, for example, can point out an object in another part of a room —and also determine whether a child looks in that direction. Eventually, Warren hopes that the robot might help teach kids the skills they’ll need to interact with people, too.

Some scientists are using video games to teach children with autism how to both read facial expressions and interact with others. When children pay attention to the right details or signals, the interactive games reward them by letting them move on to the next level.

Help from virtual reality — and other tech

At the Davis MIND Institute, researchers are using another technology, called virtual reality. This computer-based system can make it seem like a child is in the middle of a busy classroom, for example. With it, “kids wear a headset and ‘see’ other kids in the classroom. It’s kind of like a safe space to practice social skills,” Angkustsiri says.

Such technology can help guide kids through tricky social situations like those they might encounter at school.

In some cases, technology has given kids with autism a life-changing way to communicate. One girl living with autism, teenager Carly Fleischmann, cannot speak. “Autism has locked me inside a body I cannot control,” she has written. But one day when she was 10, she had a breakthrough. She felt sick and spelled out the first words she had ever used to reach out to others: “HELP TEETH HURT.”

In a 2012 book that she wrote with her dad, Carly’s Voice, and in a series of videos, she describes how she has used a keyboard and other forms of technology to find her own voice. Carly now has her own blog and tens of thousands of Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

As they get older, many kids with milder forms of autism learn to focus on specific jobs or interests. Matthew Shumaker, for example, loves landscaping and singing karaoke songs such as “Born to Be Wild.” With treatment, he also has learned how to interact much better with others. Now 27, he runs a landscaping business.

“It is not easy to be Matthew, someone who wants desperately just to be a regular guy,” Laura Shumaker writes in her book. “But I admire him for trying.” With their many research projects, scientists are hoping to make that goal far easier to reach for the next generation of kids growing up with autism.

Power Words

autism spectrum disorders  A set of developmental disorders that interfere with how certain parts of the brain develop. Affected regions of the brain control how people behave, interact and communicate with others and the world around them. Autism disorders can range from being very mild to being very severe. And even a fairly mild form can limit an individual’s ability to interact socially or communicate effectively.

development   (in biology) The growth of an organism from conception through adulthood, often undergoing changes in chemistry, size and sometimes even shape. When preceded by neuro, it refers to the growth and maturation of the brain.

gene  A segment of DNA that contains the instructions for making a protein. Those proteins govern the behavior of a cell — or large groups of cells. Offspring inherit genes from their parents. Genes influence how an organism looks and behaves.

neuro   An adjective that refers to neurons, the impulse-conducting cells that make up the brain, spinal column and nervous system.

psychology  The study of the human mind, especially in relation to actions and behavior. Scientists and mental-health professionals who work in this field are known as psychologists.

technology   The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.

virtual reality A three-dimensional simulation of the real world that seems very realistic and allows people to interact with it. To do so, they usually wear a special helmet or glasses with sensors.

10 Mind-Bending Implications of the Many Worlds Theory


In quantum physics—the scientific study of the nature of physical reality—there is plenty of room for interpretation within the realm of what is known. The most popular mainstream interpretation, the Copenhagen interpretation, has as one of its central tenets the concept of wave function collapse. That is to say, every event exists as a “wave function” which contains every possible outcome of that event, which “collapses”—distilling into the actual outcome, once it is observed. For example, if a room is unobserved, anything and everything that could possibly be in that room exists in “quantum superposition”—an indeterminate state, full of every possibility, at least until someone enters the room and observes it, thereby collapsing the wave function and solidifying the reality.

The role of the observer has long been a source of contention for those who disagree with the theory. The strongest competition to this interpretation, and probably the second most popular mainstream interpretation (meaning, a lot of incredibly smart people think it’s a sound theory) is called the Everett interpretation after Hugh Everett, who first proposed it in 1957. It’s known colloquially as the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI), because it postulates simply that the wave function never collapses; it simply branches into its own unique world-line, resulting in every possible outcome of every situation existing in physical reality. If you’re having a hard time getting your head around that statement (and the fact that it’s held to be correct by the likes of Stephen Hawking), allow us to spell out some of the implications for you—but first, you may want to plug your ears to hold your brains in.

10. THERE IS A MULTIVERSE, AN INFINITE NUMBER OF PARALLEL PHYSICAL REALITIES

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You’re probably familiar with the concept of “alternate universes,” and if so, probably because you’ve seen it in fiction. After all, one of the very first instances of the concept appeared in DC comics, first touched upon in a couple of issues of Wonder Woman, but firmly established in a 1961 issue ofThe Flash. The fictional “Multiverse” concept established by DC, and taken further by Marvel, is simply the concept that there exists infinite alternate realities, each containing separate and unique versions of their characters, which exist outside one another and often cross over.

This is the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics in a nutshell (without the crossing over, so far as we know). It states that since the wave function never collapses, every possible outcome of any event is realized in a separate and non-communicating physical reality, which actually exists alongside our own. It is interesting to note that this seemingly coincidental use of alternate realities, perfectly describing MWI, was put forth in a fictional medium just four years after Everett’s initial proposal of the interpretation. If MWI is correct, it is certainly not a coincidence—for fiction may be more than just made-up stories, as we’ll see later.

At any rate, this means that there is a version of you whose car broke down this morning, forcing you to take the bus (or, if that happened this morning, then vice versa). There’s also a version of you who was attacked by a dive-bombing kamikaze bald eagle, for this doesn’t just apply to mundane stuff; as a necessary consequence of Many Worlds, it must hold that…

9. HIGHLY UNUSUAL, UNLIKELY EVENTS MUST HAPPEN

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Let’s consider an NFL football game being played. Assume that every time the quarterback throws the ball, there is a gigantic invisible die being rolled, a die which contains an infinite amount of values. The most common, likely outcomes—receiver catches the ball and scores, catches the ball but gets tackled, ball is intercepted, and so on—are assigned to a very high number, perhaps billions, of values. Very unlikely outcomes—say, the ball bounces off of the sole of the sprinting receiver’s shoe as he is hit by a linebacker, is barely scooped up off the turf by a running back, who somehow eludes all the tacklers and scores—are assigned to a low number of values. But crucially, they are still assigned.

MWI concludes that all values are rolled in some timeline somewhere, even the most unlikely ones—and inevitably, the timeline where the low-probability value gets rolled will be ours. As evidenced by the play described above, which totally happened and decided the outcome of a divisional playoff game.
And there is no ceiling of improbability, other than physics—whatever could possibly occur.

We have no way of knowing whether or not even those physical laws remain consistent across all possible world-lines, because we unfortunately can’t communicate with or visit them to ask. So even when confronted with circumstances that appear to be impossible, like a glowing ball of light that shoots fireballs at a police helicopter, or a missing woman unknowingly standing in the background of a photo being taken of her family for a newspaper story about her disappearance, it helps to remember that nothing is impossible on a large enough scale—indeed, given an infinite number of chances, literally anything you can imagine is not only possible, but inevitable. And just as inevitably, the impossible or unimaginable—given billions upon billions of chances—will happen here in our world-line. Which leads to a couple of interesting observations about human nature…

8. YOU HAVE DONE AND/OR WILL DO EVERYTHING YOU COULD EVER CONCEIVE OF

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If you find it impossible to imagine a man inexplicably killing a bunch of people for no reason, or someone surviving injuries that would destroy a normal person five times over, or a pilot managing to land an airplane with all controls restricted or disabled without incurring any major injuries, you may be finding it a little less impossible now—considering what we know about how probability works in a Multiverse. But as soon as we begin to apply this to ourselves personally, the implications threaten to become overwhelming; for there are billions of versions of you—all of which are undeniably you—but many of which are very, very different from the “you” of this world-line.

The differences between those versions are as staggering and vast as your imagination, and the reality of their existence forces us to examine human nature a bit differently. Of course, you would never kill anybody (we hope), but have you ever thought about it? There is a world-line where you did. In fact, there’s a world-line where you’re the worst mass murderer ever. Conversely, there’s another where your tireless efforts and dedication to the cause brought about world peace. Did you have a band in high school? That band is the dominant musical force on the planet, somewhere. Have you always kind of wondered what would have happened had you mustered the guts to ask out that one girl or guy that one time? Well, you get the idea.

This could actually explain a lot: strong feelings of deja vu, feelings of a close connection with someone you’ve never met, morbid fascinations with things that should repulse us, or even instances of people acting strongly “out of character” in our own worldline. For as we will see, some may have a degree of “resonance” with other world-lines or versions of themselves, which can bring about the knowledge that:

7. YOU’RE NO DIFFERENT FROM ANYONE

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Hinduism, along with some other schools of religious and philosophical thought, teaches the concept of reincarnation—that we as human beings manifest physically on Earth multiple times, that we can learn from our past and future “lives,” and that such learning is in fact the purpose of our existence. This belief system can be seen as an intuitive understanding of the Multiverse; and given our previous assertion about you being a mass murderer, it can be comforting to know that the experience of all facets of human nature is an explicit part of our growth.

Of course, this is not to say that anyone should kill people or engage in any other immoral behavior—after all, the purpose of this continued cycle of learning (according to Hindu belief) is to eventually learn all that there is to learn, and transcend our physical existence. Ideally, we learned many lifetimes (world-lines) ago all there was to learn from indulging the dark side of our nature.
But the kicker here is that our experience is our experience (an idea we’ll get to in a little more detail shortly)—and that all of human experience must be realized by every one of us before we can move on to wherever it is we’re moving on to.

While some believe that our destination is a type of eventual godhood, wherein we all get to preside over a universe of our own creation, others believe that the cycle simply repeats—that once everything runs down and heat death results in the destruction of all realities, our accumulated knowledge will be used to restart the cycle and create the next Multiverse. Which, of course, means that…

6. ALL OF THIS MAY HAVE HAPPENED BEFORE (AND MAY HAPPEN AGAIN)

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If reality is a continuous cycle—along the lines of “Big Bang, expansion, contraction, collapse, Big Bang again”—then, given what we believe about the Multiverse and its infinite world-lines, you have existed before. In fact, all the infinite versions of you have existed before, and will exist again—and the same goes for all of us, along with every possible idea, creation and situation throughout all of our past and future, across all realities.

In one fell swoop, this concept explains instances of both deja vu and strong feelings of predestination. Even if deja vu seems meaningless and random, and the premonition turns out to be incorrect, these things are only true of our particular world-line—and it appears that some people (or all people, just to varying degrees) are able to achieve some degree of “resonance” with alternate world-lines—another concept that first appeared in comic books.

Indeed, one of the more common forms of deja vu involves experiencing an event which we recognize from having previously dreamed it. While seen by some as precognition, this really suggests resonance with alternate (or identical but previous) world-lines—especially when you consider that the“dream world” may be seen as an alternate world-line itself, and one just as real as the waking world.

Of course, if everything that exists or will exist has already existed, this leads to the conclusion that…

 5. THERE ARE NO NEW STORIES, SONGS, EVENTS OR ANYTHING ELSE

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Many writers of storiessongs and other artistic types describe a feeling of the pieces that they craft already existing, fully formed, waiting for the artist to come along and excavate them like fossils. In an infinite Multiverse, this makes perfect sense, for this is exactly what the pieces are.

Art is a uniquely human endeavor, and one that strives to communicate aspects of the human experience that may be difficult or impossible to communicate by other means. While it is not possible to accurately describe in any language what love “feels like,” there are plenty of ways to communicate this in art—indeed, it is through artistic expressions that resonate with us (that word again) that many of us develop our first notions of the nature of love—and that’s only one example. How should it be possible for an artist to communicate effectively, through a story, song or painting, an emotion that the reader, listener or observer has never felt before?

In our Multiverse, this is explained by the fact that these expressions of human emotion, thought, and perspective have essentially always existed, for as long as the impulses that spawned them have existed. This very piece of writing, which has been written before in order to guide another version of you to knowledge that you already have, can stand as a perfect example.

For that matter, consider the possibility that stories aren’t just stories. The Marvel Comics Multiverse acknowledges the existence of our world-line, one where superheroes don’t exist but are merely stories in books and movies. It could very well be that—since physical laws may be very different in other world-lines—these are not stories at all, but actual people and events transcribed from other realities. This goes for anything ever “imagined” or “created”—there exist world-lines where Hogwarts School and Harry Potter, Camp Crystal Lake and Jason Voorhees, Gotham City and Batman, all exist in physical reality.

And if you’re thinking that this line of reasoning—everything exists, nothing is ever created—implies that nothing is ever destroyed, well.

4. YOU ARE TECHNICALLY IMMORTAL

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That is exactly what it implies. The fact of our immortality in a Multiverse can be illustrated in various ways. For one thing, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy (such as the electrical charges generated by your brain, or the heat your body produces) cannot be created or destroyed, but simply changes form—implying that the energy that powers your body must go somewhere when it leaves, and that consciousness cannot be destroyed, but is infinite. For another, consider the thought experiment known as Quantum Immortality.

In this experiment (preceded by “thought” for a reason; for crying out loud, don’t try this), an experimenter sits in front of a device which is programmed, with 50/50 probability, to either discharge a device which kills the experimenter, or produce a click (in which case, of course, the experimenter survives). In the second case, the experimenter and all observers experience the same outcome- a click, and nothing else. But in the first—since (assuming MWI is correct) it is not possible for the experimenter to experience termination of consciousness (because consciousness is infinite)—while any observers will see the experimenter killed, the experimenter himself will experience the first outcome, the harmless click, on another world-line. Said experimenter can never experience a different outcome, and thus—no matter how unlikely it becomes after repeated attempts—will always survive the experiment, from his point of view.

This means that while we will all experience dying, we will never experience death—the termination of our consciousness. How can this be? It calls into question the very nature of consciousness, which leads us to the very real possibility that…

3. WE ARE A PROJECTION OF OURSELVES

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In the late 1970s, physicist David Bohm formulated a theory describing what he called the Implicate and Explicate orders of existence. This theory, which is consistent with MWI, states that there is an enfolded or “Implicate” order of existence which encapsulates all of consciousness, and that there is a corresponding “Explicate” order of existence which comprises all that we physically see and experience, and is the projection of the enfolded “Implicate” order.

Bohm arrived at the controversial conclusion (along with physicist Karl Pribram, who arrived at the same conclusion independently) that the entirety of observable existence is basically the mother of all holograms. Just as a laser filtered through an encoded film produces a hologram, our collective energy of the implicate order (the laser) filtered through our human consciousness (the film) produces the explicate, physical reality (hologram).

Michael Talbot’s excellent book The Holographic Universe examines this and many other aspects of Bohm and Pribram’s theories in detail, but the overarching and inescapable conclusion—which you have likely already drawn yourself—is that:

2. WE COLLECTIVELY CREATE PHYSICAL REALITY

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If the Explicate is but a “projection” of the Implicate, then we—our physical selves, and indeed all of physical reality—are a “projection” of our true, unfiltered consciousness. One that we all play a hand in creating, whether we know it or not, all the time.

This one notion explains practically everything that “can’t be explained” about the world we see. Supernatural phenomena, meaningful coincidences, psychic activity—literally anything and everything makes sense when one realizes that this reality is essentially a dream, dreamed by the most powerful consciousness imaginable.

If this is the true nature of physical reality—as suggested for centuries by Hindu scholars, intuited by generations of artists and philosophers, and articulated as well as possible by our most brilliant scientific minds—then there is only one statement left to be made. Probably not coincidentally, one that was made previously as a seemingly throwaway lyric in a 1967 song, by one of our greatest artists…

1. NOTHING IS REAL

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Throughout the history of artistic and philosophical expression, one concept rises to the surface, especially in works that are particularly influential or have a great deal of longevity. From “Strawberry Fields Forever” to Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi’s butterfly dream, to Descartes’ assertion that “I think, therefore I am” to Bill Hicks’ great “Life Is A Ride” speech, and even inchildren’s nursery rhymes—life is but a dream. A powerful dream, and one containing an infinite number of lessons for us—but a dream nonetheless.

After all, if everything—Atlantis, Luke Skywalker, your neighbor Bill—is as real as everything else, then what is reality but what we perceive? And what is our perception, if not our creation?

I know that we have to process a lot here, but do keep in mind that there are almost certainly billions of versions of you mulling over the answer to this question; and that given billions of chances to find the answer, one of your versions eventually will—as will we all.

– See more at: http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/10-mind-bending-implications-of-the-many-worlds-theory/#sthash.2SLgT3Dq.dpuf