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The Incredible Influential Power of Music

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What is it about music that moves us in so many different ways? The rhythm begins and we slide onto the dancefloor, gyrating to the beats; a guitar strikes a chord and we throw ourselves into the crowd, surfing across a sea of hands; a favourite song comes on the radio and we sing along at the top of our voices, oblivious to the looks of bemusement coming from other drivers stuck in the traffic jam. The right songs can change the way we feel in an instant, as effective as the mood pills consumed in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I recently had the good fortune to attend a live performance of Beethoven’s legendary 9th Symphony. While it is something of a cliché – and perhaps exaggeration – to call this “the greatest music ever written” it’s certainly an intensely powerful experience which has endured the test of time, remaining one of the most popular pieces on the classical repertoire. The impact of “Ode to Joy” may have suffered from its commercial overuse (countless corporations have used it to sell their products and services) it nevertheless still managed to visibly move the audience to tears and, finally, rapturous applause.

This is an example of the immense power music can have over us. Our tastes may differ but music’s ability to move us on a deeply emotional level is universal – like the madeleine cake in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, music can trigger profound memories which previously lay dormant, exciting our sense of nostalgia and creating intense feelings of joy or melancholy. There is something ineffable about the way in which music makes us feel, as if at its most profound level it takes us into the realm of the sacred, where words can no longer do justice and attempts to describe it only sully the experience.

The idea that music connects us to something divine and spiritual is not a new one. Johann Sebastian Bach -arguably the grandfather of the Western musical tradition, whose works including the sublime The Well-Tempered Clavier profoundly influenced generations of composers – once said, “The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God and the refreshment of the spirit.” From Apollo, the Greek god of music and light, to the Gregorian chants of the Roman Catholic Church, the association between music and the divine is deep-rooted in culture and history. For some, music itself is their religion – in the words of the legendary Frank Zappa, “Music is the only religion that delivers the goods.”

But long before Bach asserted that “music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul,” another great historical Western thinker was developing his own theory of music and its place in the cosmos. After hearing the tones emanating from a blacksmith’s forge and observing their musical quality, Pythagoras went home and experimented with his single string instrument the lyre, leading to his discovery of the octave which was to have such a profound impact upon the nature of music. Like Bach, Pythagoras saw music as a force that, in its highest form, offered something transcendental to the human experience, believing that “the highest goal of music is to connect one’s soul to their Divine Nature, not entertainment.”

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His deduction that sound was based on a purely mathematical formula would lead him to propose that music could be used to heal “non-virtuous” thoughts such as anger, as well as physical ailments including sciatica, sitting with the patient while playing the kithara and singing along with it. His ideas reflect what some ancient cultures appear to have known intuitively – music therapy is, after all, of ancient provenance, for example the aboriginals of Australia are known to have used the didgeridoo to heal broken bones.

Pythagoras’ discovery of the “music of the spheres” went beyond its application as a means of physical and psychological healing -he conceived of the universe as a vast lyre in which planets harmonized with other heavenly bodies -an endless, intergalactic mellifluous interaction reverberating through space and time. “Music was number, and the cosmos was music.” There is something mystical about this interpretation which no doubt stems from Pythagoras’ extensive travels and possible initiation into the Egyptian Mystery Schools. Pythagoras was without a doubt a candidate for what we consider a polymath; a man of a higher nature with the ability to reach celestial realms. Did he intuit something about the musical nature of the universe?

His theories had a profound influence on numerous thinkers over the following generations. Philosophers such as Boethius, Johannes Kepler and Robert Fludd took Pythagoras’ monochord – the single string instrument – in new directions, with Kepler in the 17th century attempting to define a harmony of the world in his opus Harmonices Mundi, an attempt to unify music and movement within the solar system.

By the 20th century Pythagoras was influencing Werner Heisenberg and the new field of quantum physics. According to William Irwin Thompson in his book Darkness and Scattered Light, when Heisenberg lectured on Pythagorianism “you will hear him emphasize that the basic building blocks of nature are number and pattern, that the universe is not made out of matter, but music.” The energy of the octave – the magical number 8 – occurs not only in a number of mystical traditions, from the Taoists I Ching to the 8-fold path of Buddhism, but also features prominently in genetic science, with the “language” of DNA and RNA based in groups of 64 codons, or 8×8.

The very words we use to describe music directly correspond to emotional and spiritual principles. When something rings true to us it resonates, often with rich significance evoking a strong emotion. When simultaneous notes combine in a chord in a manner pleasing to the ear we call this harmony, just as when people concur in their opinions and feelings and live their lives in agreeable unison we consider this harmonic. Music which triggers certain emotions is understood universally, with scientific studies confirming that music with happy, sad or fearful emotions in Western music are recognized as such by native Africans, just as Westerners appreciate these same qualities in Hindustani music.

Just as music can provoke positive reactions in people, some argue that it can be used negatively in order to detune us from our natural harmonic relationship with the world around us. Since 1953 the International Standards Organization (ISO) has tuned music to 440 hertz, changing it from the previous 432 Hz which was thought to transmit beneficial healing energy. One theory is that this change in frequency was brought about by Nazi Joseph Goebbels, who sought to alter the collective mood and make the populace prisoners of negative consciousness. Music pioneer Leonard Horowitz stated in a paper entitled Musical Cult Control:

The music industry features this imposed frequency that is ‘herding’ populations into greater aggression, psycho social agitation, and emotional distress predisposing people to physical illness.

It isn’t hard to see the negative impact popular music has on contemporary society – corporate music today is an anathema to the principles of music expounded by the likes of Pythagoras, proposing a crude value system of self-adulation, materialism and greed; manufactured music set the videos replete with negative occult imagery which sexualizes and debases the performer and, by association, the viewer. The power of frequencies to affect the universe has long been understood, and just as it can be used for our benefit so too can it be turned against us. Indeed, sound has already been weaponized in the form of the Long Range Accoustic Device (LRAD), a truck-mounted device which emits pain inducing tones which has already been deployed in numerous war zones in the Middle East as well as the streets of America to use against protesters.

The power of frequencies to affect the world is vast, with the potential to trigger earthquakes and radically alter the geological make-up of the planet. Low frequency bass sounds can alter the path of flowing water so that it falls in a corkscrew, seemingly defying gravity.

This is, of course, an optical illusion – more impressive are the Cymatic experiments, which study the effects of sound waves on water, producing some incredible patterns which bear a striking resemblance to those found in sacred geometry:

The power of music and sound may be far more profound than we realise – the word “universe” itself implies the totality of everything singing together in a unified verse. As Nikola Tesla once said,

If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.

Andrew Dilks writes at orwellwasright. His Kindle books Goliath and Flow are available for free on Friday 20th September.

Prehistoric Highs: Mind-Altering Plants and the Birth of Civilization will be available in 2014.

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Consciousness

The Study of Fundamental Consciousness Entering the Mainstream

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Consciousness is appearing to be a fundamental property, just like liquids, solids and gas, consciousness and its connection to the physical material world is now gaining big time credibility.

  • Reflect On:

    How much do we have yet to discover? Are we ready to abandon what we thought we knew in light of new discoveries and evidence?

The world-renowned neuroscientist Christof Koch, spent nearly two decades working alongside the co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, Francis Crick. Their mission was to find the neurobiological basis of consciousness. They discovered many insights into cognition and the functioning of perception, yet the central enigma, the nature of consciousness itself, remained mysteriously elusive.

In 2009, Koch shocked the scientific community by publishing his conviction that consciousness probably isn’t just in brains, but is a fundamental feature of reality. This is a view known to philosophers as ‘panpsychism.’ The theory Koch is now dedicating his research to is called ‘Integrated Information Theory’ or ‘IIT.’ It is the brainchild of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In explaining his theory, Tononi asks us to consider a simple light sensitive photo diode like those found in a digital camera. A simple diode might respond to just two states: light or dark. We could present our diode with any number of images, yet regardless of the picture, the diode conforms to one of only two possible states. Is it light, or is it dark?

Now consider yourself looking at the same picture, lets say, of the Eiffel Tower on a beautiful spring day in Paris. For us, looking at this image results in a reduction from a near infinity of possible states. Not an image of the Andromeda galaxy, not a childhood picture of your mother, not cells dividing in a Petri dish and so on.  Because of the vast number of images we are capable of recognizing, each one is highly informative. For Tononi, the vast amount of information capable of being integrated in the brain means that we have a comparatively huge capacity for consciousness.

Tononi’s theory, that consciousness is born out of networks with high integrated information, has novel ways of being tested in the laboratory.

In studies with sleeping participants, Tononi and his colleagues used transcranial magnetic stimulation to send a ripple of activity through the cortex of sleeping participants. The researchers found that when dreaming, this ripple reverberated through the cortex longer than when participants were in stages of dreamless sleep. This demonstrated that during dreaming, when the brain is conscious, the cortex has a higher degree of integration.

In another experiment, the researchers built tiny robots known as ‘animats’ that were placed into mazes. The animats used simple integrated networks capable of evolving over sequential generations. To their surprise, the greater the degree of integration that the animats evolved, the quicker they were able to escape the mazes. For Tononi this finding suggested that consciousness may play a more central role in evolution than had previously been thought.

The mathematical value of integrated information in a network is known as phi. But Tononi’s theory, now the topic of serious mainstream discussion, has an extraordinary implication. Phi didn’t just occur in brains, -it is a property of any network with a total informational content greater than its individual parts. Every living cell, every electronic circuit, even a proton consisting of just three elementary particles have a value of phi greater than zero. According to Integrated Information Theory, all of these things possess something, albeit but a glimmer of ‘what it is like’ to be them. Tononi states:

“Consciousness is a fundamental property, like mass or charge. Wherever there is an entity with multiple states, there is some consciousness. You need a special structure to get a lot of it but consciousness is everywhere, it is a fundamental property.”

Integrated information theory is in its infancy and there are still many questions it must face. Did the information of brains operate at the level of the neuron, or the protein, or something deeper still? The electromagnetic field of the brain, as observed by psi researcher Dean Radin, is always re-establishing its quantum connection to the entire universe. Could a much richer informational interaction exist than has yet been imagined?

Physicists such as John Wheeler have laid the groundwork for a radical new understanding of reality, in which matter, the laws and constants of nature, and indeed the entire universe is best described, not in terms of physical objects, but through the play and display of a fundamental dynamic information.

Quantum mechanics suggests that at the deepest level of nature, the entire physical universe is interconnected. Might the total information of the universe be integrated in some deep sense? Is it in a mysterious way conscious of itself?

As spiritual traditions throughout the ages have long asserted, instead of isolated and separate experiencing beings, we may experience on behalf of the greater evolving system in which we find ourselves.

In Koch’s highly anticipated 2012 book, ‘Consciousness – Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist’, he states:

“I do believe that the laws of physics overwhelmingly favored the emergence of consciousness. The universe is a work in progress. Such a belief evokes jeremiads from many biologists and philosophers but the evidence from cosmology, biology and history is compelling.”

Regardless of the validity of Tononi’s theory, today increasing numbers of scientists and academics are convinced that the existence of consciousness simply cannot be sensibly denied. The study of fundamental consciousness is now entering the mainstream. This movement consists of thinkers in and outside of the mind sciences. Yet despite their different academic backgrounds, they are united by two common convictions: that consciousness is an intrinsic rather than incidental emergence in the universe, and that any complete account of reality must include an explanation of it.

 Sources:

 Koch, C. (2009, August 18). A complex theory of consciousness: Is complexity the secret to sentience, to a panpsychic view of consciousness? Scientific American.

 Tononi, G. (2008). Consciousness as integrated information: A provisional manifesto. Biological Bulletin, 215(3), 216-242.

 Edlund, J. A., Chaumont, N., Hintze, A., Koch C., Tononi G., & Adami, C. (2011). Integrated information increases with fitness in the evolution of animats. PLoS Computational Biology, 7(10).

 Radin, D. I. (2006). Entangled Minds: Extrasensory experiences in quantum reality. New York: Simon & Schuster.

 Koch, C. (2012). Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. MIT Press Books.

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Alternative News

If You Could Power Your Entire Home With 60 Minutes Of Cycling, Would You Do It?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Mechanical energy, converted into kinetic energy can provide the energy that we use on a regular basis to power our homes and electronic devices.

  • Reflect On:

    Rather than focusing on the current problems in our world it is great to change gears and have a look at all of the solutions that are popping up all over the world.

Imagine if your morning workout could power your home for the entire day, all the way until your next morning workout. Well, you may not have to imagine, as this technology exists now. Manoj Bhargava has invented a new exercise bike that can power some homes for 24 hours after use for only sixty minutes per day.

This invention was a part of a new initiative to bring electricity to places that undergo frequent power outages or may only have access to power for a few hours during the day. In our modern age, going without electricity can really separate a person from the rest of the world. Bhargava’s mission is to bridge the gap for those who suffer from poverty and make it easier for them to access the same information as the rest of the world, potentially giving them more opportunities in life.

The Free Electric

The above heading is also the name of this awesome and innovative bike serving as a solution to a pretty significant issue in the underdeveloped nations of the world.

According to Bhargava, the Free Electric is meant to lead to “better health, more leisure time, better access to education and opportunities for entrepreneurship.” He also feels that it could, “literally change the world.”

Power to change the world? Bold statement, but if this is able to be implemented worldwide, I would absolutely have to agree with him. This technology not only has the capacity to assist those in poverty, but can also be used by the rest of the world as well as more and more people around the world who are aiming to reduce their usee of fossil fuels. I have a feeling that Millennials (such as myself) and younger generations would be all over this if its made available! Not only is it a great way to get your cardio in, but it provides FREE electricity that produces no other pollution.

As mentioned in the video, it is also a great solution in the face of natural, or even man made disasters because this type of electricity would not rely on that generated and sold by power companies. Perhaps even one day a way to stock up and store this energy will be possible — then, the opportunities here will be much more plentiful and could be a huge factor in reducing the amount of pollution our current methods of energy production are creating.

The Future Is Friendly

As much as there is sometimes destruction all around us, there is also innovation and ingenuity. Human beings have tremendous potential. Even though there are many problems that we as a society are facing, solutions are popping up and fast, and in most cases they already exist. Finding solutions doesn’t seem to be the problem, so ask yourself, what is?  It’s so great to see ideas such as these being conceptualized and then created and put into use so efficiently, it shows how our species is capable of stopping and potentially reversing some of the destruction that we have caused over the years.

This is absolutely a double win! We are constantly bombarded with news stories and articles that are telling us to be more active, stop sitting so much, and now with the Free Electric, we will have to be active before we can relax and enjoy the use of our precious technology.

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Discover

Physicists ‘Grow’ A Man Made Diamond From Nuclear Waste That’s Able To Generate Electricity

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Scientists have developed a technology that can convert leftover radioactive materials into diamond batteries to power a wide range of electronics.

  • Reflect On:

    Could this be the solution to use op all the radioactive materials on the planet and shut down nuclear power plants worldwide?

Currently there is more than 2 billion tons of nuclear waste across the globe. This nuclear waste is a hazardous threat to the environment if not disposed of correctly. Scientists have recently begun attempting to transform nuclear waste into batteries that could last for thousands of years. If they are successful with this conversion project it would be a double win, less nuclear waste contaminating our environment, and a way to reuse energy that was generated to give power to whatever requires it.

Diamond batteries that use the energy from leftover radioactive materials have been developed and tested by researchers at the University of Bristol. They are now hoping to be able to recycle the waste leftover from decommissioned nuclear power plants in the UK. According to the University, “New technology has been developed that uses nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery….A team of physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol have grown a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radioactive field, is able to generate a small electrical current.” (source)

How Does This Work?

According to The Independent,

Carbon-14 isotopes extracted from graphite blocks produced by the plant are infused with wafer-thin diamonds to create the batteries, which researchers say are capable of providing power on a “near-infinite basis”.

Potential applications range from powering hearing aids and pacemakers, to extending the range of spacecraft to distances much further than are currently possible.

“Eventually, a highly powerful version of a diamond battery could power a mobile phone,” James Barker, from the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering, told The Independent.

“Primarily though, they are best for devices requiring long lifetime, low power and where it is difficult to replace energy sources.”

In order to make these diamond batteries safe for medical and consumer use they are encased in a non-radioactive diamond layer, which will absorb any radiation given off by the C14 source.

According to the University,

Unlike the majority of electricity-generation technologies, which use energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current, the man-made diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being placed in close proximity to a radioactive source.

Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University’s Interface Analysis Centre and a member of the Cabot Institute, said: “There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation.  By encapsulating radioactive material inside diamonds, we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy.”

Could This Be The Solution We’ve Been Searching For?

“The ultimate aim is to have a factory based at one of the former power stations in the South West that takes Carbon-14 isotopes directly from the graphite blocks for use in diamond batteries. This would significantly reduce the radioactivity of the remaining material, making it easier and safer to manage,” said Professor Tom Scott, director of the South West Nuclear Hub.

“With the majority of the UK’s nuclear power plants set to go offline in the next 10-15 years this presents a huge opportunity to recycle a large amount of material to generate power for so many great uses.”

Time will tell how effective this method that scientists have come up with will be able to be implemented worldwide, but if it is, just imagine the implications of what this technology could represent.

Is It Time To Move Away From Nuclear Energy?

You’d think since the Fukushima disaster there would be a worldwide agreement for countries to stop generating power from nuclear reactors and to safely shut down these plants. Nuclear disasters have devastating effects on our planet and all of it’s inhabitants, recovery from such accidents can take tens of thousands of years to lose their hazardous radioactivity. Take the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in 1986 and is now contained under a metal shell, this site will likely remain radioactive for up to 20,000 years.

Instead of waiting for these disasters to occur, shouldn’t we be safely dismantling these sites before any more devastating disasters occur? Thankfully many countries are vowing to shut down their nuclear power plants and we can only hope that the rest of the world will follow suit.

The Future Is Here

There are so many amazing technologies that have the capacity to revolutionize the way we use energy on this planet. Of course many of those are hidden from us, especially if they cannot be in some way profited from, and unfortunately as it seems, if they don’t exploit the environment and our resources in some way.

As innovative ideas abound and technology continues to rapidly develop, we have to assume that safer and more innovative means of producing electricity will be uncovered. Hopefully these technologies will also have the capacity to undo some of the damage that we have done to our planet.

At the end of the day, using nuclear energy is not needed anymore, and in reality nuclear waste should not even exist at this point in our development as a collective.

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