Shopping can bring long-term happiness

In some good news for shopaholics, scientists have found that material purchases can provide more frequent happiness over time.

A new study has shown that material purchases, from sweaters to skateboards, provide more frequent happiness over time, whereas experiential purchases, like a trip to the zoo, provide more intense happiness on individual occasions.

The majority of previous studies examining material and experiential purchases and happiness focused on what people anticipated about shopping or remembered about items and experiences.

The University of British Columbia’s Aaron Weidman and Elizabeth Dunn wanted to know how people felt in the moment, say the first weeks with a new sweater or tablet computer.

Shopping can bring long-term happiness: Study
Material purchases bring repeated doses of happiness over time in the weeks after they are

They assessed the real-time, momentary happiness people got from material and experiential purchases, up to five times per day for two weeks.

Material purchases consisted of items such as reindeer leggings, portable speakers, or coffee makers, and examples of experiential purchases were a weekend ski trip, tickets to a hockey game, or spa gift cards.

By having people record their thoughts in the weeks following their purchases, as well as one month after their purchases, the researchers showed that material and experiential purchases bring happiness in two distinct flavours.

Material purchases bring repeated doses of happiness over time in the weeks after they are bought, whereas experiential purchases offer a more intense but fleeting dose of happiness.

“The decision of whether to buy a material thing or a life experience may therefore boil down to what kind of happiness one desires,” said Weidman.

“Consider a holiday shopper deciding between tickets to a concert or a new couch in the living room. The concert will provide an intense thrill for one spectacular night, but then it will end, and will no longer provide momentary happiness, aside from being a happy memory,” he said.

“In contrast, the new couch will never provide a thrilling moment to match the concert, but will keep the owner snug and comfortable each day throughout the winter months,” Weidman added.

The year in climate change: 2015 may be the beginning of the end

The Earth’s climate has never had a year like 2015.

It’s likely to shatter the record for the hottest year since humans started keeping track. But the most amazing part of 2015 isn’t the heat—it’s the fact that humanity finally agreed to do something about it.

The historic moment arrived on December 13, just after 7 p.m. local time, inside a high-security airplane hangar on the outskirts of Paris. Delegates from nearly 200 nations ratified a universal pact to slow manmade global warming, ending a decades-long political stalemate and – according to the best possible science – lowering the risk of ecological collapse.

President Barack Obama declared it “the most ambitious climate change agreement in history.”

The agreement commits the world to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”; reach a “global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible,” and enact “rapid reductions thereafter”; and provide a minimum of $100 billion a year for developing countries to adapt to the ravages of our already overheated climate.

But all of this could also fall apart, which is why 2015 may go down as epoch-making moment—the end of one era of human history and, quite possibly, the beginning of another. Or, in a darker future, 2015 may simply be the beginning of the end.

Much depends on a series of bold, never-before-seen executive actions by President Obama. The biggest is the Clean Power Plan, which he announced in August. The plan is the first-ever effort to limit the amount of carbon that power plants can pump into the atmosphere.

An area that would be under water if the lake was full is seen in Lake Powell near Page, Ariz., May 26, 2015. Lake Powell on the Colorado River provides water for Nevada, Arizona and California. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)
How climate change has damaged the planet
How has climate change has wrecked the planet? Take a look at its worldwide effects through the lens of photojournalism.

“I don’t want my grandkids to not be able to swim in Hawaii or not be able to climb a mountain and see a glacier because we didn’t do something about it,” Obama said in an emotional press conference announcing the plan. “That’d be shameful of us. This is our moment to get this right and leave something better for our kids.”

The speech already feels like the stuff of slow-mo documentaries, a moment that fundamentally rewrote Obama’s mixed legacy on global warming, and helped him make good on his 2008 inaugural promise to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. It’s a move credited with giving Obama the political capital he needed to wring commitments from the rest of the world.

It’s also a position that other Democrats took up in 2015. All three Democratic candidates running to replace Obama have pledged not only to continue his plans but to deepen them, ratcheting up American ambition and urging other countries to do the same.

This wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started the year to the right of rival and long time climate hawk Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator – along with former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, another climate hawk – took an early position on three acid-test issues for environmentalists.

He and O’Malley opposed the Keystone oil pipeline, the search for oil in the Arctic and rampant drilling for fossil fuels on public lands. Clinton dithered, then joined them, making 2015 the year in which Democrats decided that climate change could be a winning political issue.

By contrast, all the leading GOP candidates spent 2015 skeptical about anthropogenic climate change, or at least skeptical of the claim that it is a serious, multi-level threat to the planet. Their skepticism is dangerous and misplaced, according to scientists. But nonetheless they are pursuing it as a political pose.

They offered almost uniform support the Keystone pipeline, Arctic drilling, and fossil fuel extraction on public land—and almost uniform opposition to the Paris climate agreement and Obama’s Clean Power Plan. What’s certain is that if a Republican is elected president in 2016, President Obama’s climate polices will be clawed back, potentially imperiling the planet in the process.

But this isn’t just about politics. In another milestone, 2015 marked the start of an extraordinary legal, political and even cultural battle over how to address climate change. It’s a fight that could stretch for years, inspiring an escalating level of activism and opposition.

More than two dozen states have sued to block the Clean Power Plan, which means that climate change – like universal health insurance – could end up being decided by the Supreme Court.

That makes 2015 a scary year as well. In the sunnier reading of events, it’s the start of something wondrous. Every five years, according to the Paris agreement, the nations of the world are supposed to return to the negotiating table, raising their intention to slash greenhouse gas emissions. That could mean the end of the era of oil, gas, and coal, the fuels that produce the majority of planet-heating gases.

But the Paris deal is almost totally voluntary, a quirk devised by the U.S. delegation, which calculated that it could never get a binding treaty through Congress. As a result, the era of oil, gas and coal may yet live on – and, if it does, many of the rest of us may not.

35 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime

Books have the profound capacity to stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Whether they’re written for children, sci-fi lovers, mathematicians, or fiction aficionados, certain stories transcend their genre and should be read by everyone.

In a recent Reddit thread, users were asked what is a book that everyone needs to read at least once in their life?

Here are the top 35 books based on Reddit responses.

Neuroscience Confirms Your Subconscious Shapes Your Reality

For the past two years, David Eagleman has been writing and filming a six-hour television series about the inner cosmos that generates our reality. His documentary on the brain begins October 14, 2015 on PBS.


What we believe to be the objective reality surrounding us is actually formed by our subconscious, at least in part. Groundbreaking neuroscience confirms what Sigmund Freud first theorized, whichEagleman explains:

“Neuroscience has drifted off a little bit from the directions that Freud was going in terms of the interpretations of whether your unconscious mind is sending you particular hidden signals and so on.  But the idea that there’s this massive amount happening under the hood, that part was correct and so Freud really nailed that. And he lived before the blossoming of modern neuroscience, so he was able to do this just by outside observation and looking at how people acted.

Nowadays, we’re able to peer noninvasively inside people’s heads as they’re doing tasks, as they’re thinking about things and making decisions, perceiving the world. We’re able to go a lot deeper into understanding this massive machinery under the hood.”

Time, for example, is supposed to be an objective measurement, but we experience it subjectively.

The Recipe For A Black Hole | How The Universe Works

Scientists Now Know How Your Brain Wakes You Up

Neuroscientists discover a brain circuit responsible for rapid waking.

Recent research has made huge strides in demystifying sleep — why we need it,how to get more of it, and what happens when we don’t get enough of it. But there’s still a lot that remains largely unknown, including the way brain circuits control the sleep-wake cycle. Until now, that is.

In a landmark study, neuroscientists at the University of Bern in Switzerland discovered a pattern of brain activity that is responsible for waking us up from light sleep and anesthesia.

“These findings identify a new network and refine our understanding of the brain network that regulates sleep and wake cycle,” Dr. Antoine Adamantidis, a neuroscientist at the university and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email.

The study, which was published on Dec. 21 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, showed that activating the circuit associated with the rhythms of electrical activity that occur during sleep — which is located between the hypothalamus and thalamus brain regions — causes rapid wakefulness. While, inhibiting the circuit deepens sleep.

For the study, the researchers used a new technique called “optogenetics” on mice, inserting light-reactive genes into certain neurons in the rodents’ circuit and then “turning on” those neurons via light pulses.

When the researchers activated the neurons in the circuit, they were able to induce rapid awakening from sleep. And when they stimulated these neurons for an extended period, the mice stayed awake. However, when the researchers inhibited the neurons in the circuit, the mice slept longer, more intensely, and with fewer interruptions.

What’s more, the arousing power of this brain circuit was so strong that it even led the mice to regain consciousness after being put under anesthesia.

Adamantidis called the discovery “exciting” as it could lead to new methods for therapeutical approaches to waking someone from a vegetative or minimally conscious state. So far, such methods have been limited.

The researchers say the new discovery may also lead to more targeted treatments for insomnia or sleep disturbances, once they are able to determine how malfunctions in the brain circuit are related to sleep issues.

“It’s a big question in the field,” Adamantidis said. “Possibly those circuits may become hypersensitive to certain inputs, so their hyperactivity may delay the sleep onset, and may also results in fragmented sleep — two hallmarks of insomnia.”

Drones Could Scope Out Martian Real Estate

In October, NASA released its plan for getting to Mars. The trip is a long way off (we’re talking decades), but the agency says it’s gearing up: “Like the Apollo Program, we embark on this journey for all humanity. Unlike Apollo, we will be going to stay.”

Easier said than done. Aside from the unbreathable atmosphere and wonky gravity, the radiation on Mars could cause brain damage, cancer, and death.

Our best bet for survival may be to hunker down in the protection of lava tubes—networks of tunnels created billions of years ago by molten rock. We can’t send rovers in for recon though. The pits can be 100 meters deep, and the thick walls (and lag time) make real-time radio communication impossible.

—William “Red” Whittaker, director of the Field Robotics Center at CMU

Carnegie Mellon University, along with a spinoff called Astrobotic Technology, has set its sights on a more effective scout: an autonomous drone. The team recently won a $125,000 contract from NASA to develop the software. Eventually, they plan to build a robot that can fly and hop through steep passages.

“Safe haven is a huge priority, right from the beginning,” says William “Red” Whittaker, founder and chief science officer of Astrobotic. “And out of that diversity of caves, there are likely to be underground spaces that are incredibly amenable to habitation.”

How It Works

High-Speed Autonomy

Programming a robot to fly itself through unexplored caverns is daunting enough, but Astrobotic’s navigation and perception algorithms need it to “think” at 20 mph. That requires the drone to have a largely unprecedented degree of decision-making without any human input.

Aerial Mobility

The Martian atmosphere is 100 times thinner than Earth’s, making rotors ineffective. Researchers are instead exploring CO2-powered thrusters, which would enable a drone to make the sharp turns necessary in unmapped tunnels.

Recharging System

When the vehicle’s thrusters run out of pressurized CO2, it could land and use an onboard isotope generator (or solar panels if it’s outside the caves) to power a compressor that pulls fuel from the atmosphere.

Ground Game

The drone could catapult through Mars’ low gravity (about 38 percent of Earth’s) using a spring-loaded strut. Hopping would allow it to cover terrain too rough for wheels or treads, without consuming as much fuel as flight.

Roving Base Camp

Astrobotic plans to have rovers that act as rolling motherships for planetary drones—storing them during long treks, launching them at the mouth of promising caves, and transmitting the data they collect back to NASA.

Pupil Size: A Measure of Trust?

Researchers examine why and when we unconsciously mirror another person’s pupil size when we lock eyes

Pupils are a rich source of social information. Although changes in pupil size are automatic and uncontrollable, they can convey interest, arousal, helpful or harmful intentions, and a variety of emotions. According to a new study published in Psychological Science, we even synchronize our pupil size with others—and doing so influences social decisions.

Mariska Kret, a psychologist now at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and her colleagues recruited 69 Dutch university students to take part in an investment game. Each participant decided whether to transfer zero or five euros to a virtual partner after viewing a video of their eyes for four seconds. The invested money is tripled, and the receiver chooses how much to give back to the donor—so subjects had to make quick decisions about how trustworthy each virtual partner seemed.

Using an eye tracker, the investigators found that the participants’ pupils tended to mimic the changes in the partners’ pupils, whether they dilated, constricted or remained static. As expected, subjects were more likely to give more money to partners with dilating pupils, a well-established signal of nonthreatening intentions. The more a subject mirrored the dilating pupils of a partner, the more likely he or she was to invest—but only if they were of the same race. The Caucasian participants trusted Caucasian eyes more than Asian eyes—which suggests that group membership is important when interpreting these subtle signals.

Mimicry is common in social interactions. We establish rapport by adopting another’s postures, facial expressions and even heartbeat. “In emotion research, there’s a lot of focus on facial expressions,” Kret says. “Given that we spend so much time looking at each other’s eyes, I think we can learn a lot more from the pupils.”


Radishes are antibacterial, anti-fungal, and diuretic. They are rich in Vitamin C, folic acid, and anthocyanins and are excellent for sinus congestion, sore throats, chest colds, asthma, and hoarseness. Radishes have the ability to dissolve mucus and acids within the body and expel gallstones from the bladder as well as cleanse the kidneys.

Radish is also very helpful in preventing and fighting urinary tract and bladder infections. Eating radishes on a regular basis can help prevent colds and flus and they are a great anti-cancer food and are known to specifically benefit stomach, kidney, mouth, and colon cancer. Radishes are also good to eat with starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes, and grains as they have enzymes that aid in the secretion of digestive juices.

The green leafy tops to the radishes are not only edible, but actually contain more vitamin C, protein, and calcium than the the radish itself. The green tops are highly nutritious and mineral rich and should be valued as much if not more than their roots. Radishes and their greens can be juiced for an excellent detoxifying drink that can soothe the digestive tract and cleanse the entire body. Added to salads, sandwiches, wraps, soups, and stews, radishes and their greens can add vibrant flavor and fantastic nutrition to support your health and body.

A fungal infection in the brain could be linked to Alzheimer’s, study suggests

A simple brain fungus could be behind some forms of Alzheimer’s, a controversial new study suggests, after the same type of fungal infection was found in brains affected by the degenerative disease. While the results are intriguing, and anti-fungal treatments are now being explored, critics are saying it’s too soon to tell if this could be one of possibly many underlying causes of Alzheimer’s.

“The possibility that AD [Alzheimer’s Disease] is a fungal disease, or that fungal infection is a risk factor for the disease, opens new perspectives for effective therapy for these patients,” concludes the report, published in Scientific Reports. “The slow progression of the disease fits well with the chronic nature of fungal infections if they remain untreated. Moreover, inflammation and activation of the immune system may be due to an infectious fungal agent.”

A team of molecular biologists led by Luis Carrasco from the University of Madrid in Spain examined the brains of 25 cadavers, 14 of which had the degenerative disease. All 14 brains were found to have the same fungus, whereas the other 11 healthy brains showed no trace of it at all. Even with such a small sample size, that’s a strong correlation, and the team is trying to figure out what it means.

At this stage, it’s not clear whether the fungus could be causing the disease or vice versa – but it has the potential to give doctors a clear target for treatment. There are already many anti-fungal drug treatments available for various conditions, and one of these could be adapted in order to treat or slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Scientists have already come to understand how misshapen proteins can kill off nerve cells in the brain, creating pockets of dead tissue that are responsible for the effects of Alzheimer’s. Whether these rogue proteins are just a natural consequence of getting older, or whether there’s some external cause remains to be seen, and the body of research amassed so far has yet to conclude the matter one way or the other.

As other researchers have pointed out, it seems unlikely that the fungus explanation is behind all cases of dementia – previous studies have found hereditary links, suggesting that a gene defect, rather than something external, is to blame. As The Economist explains:

“John Hardy, a neuroscientist at University College, London, points out that one (albeit rare) cause of Alzheimer’s is well-understood. In a few unlucky families the disease appears to be an inherited disorder, caused by mutations of one of three genes. If a fungal infection were the ultimate cause, then those genetic mutations would have to make their carriers so susceptible that 100 percent of them end up infected – something he believes is unlikely. And the very clarity of Carrasco’s result also makes Hardy suspicious.

If that result is right, though, it is still possible that the correlation runs the other way, with Alzheimer’s opening the brain to fungal infection.”

It’s hoped that further research will identify the influence – if any – of fungal infection on the development of Alzheimer’s. Carrasco’s team now wants to trial anti-fungal drugs to see if they have an effect on the onset of the disease in living organisms.

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