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Carl Sagan vs. Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Battle For The Cosmos

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The universe has wonders that extend far beyond our wildest dreams. It is hard to conceptualize the actual size of the universe, let alone all of the stars, planets, and galaxies that exist within this massive space. There are two spectacular astronomers in particular who attempt to explain the extraordinary wonders of the cosmos in a way that is engaging for all. These astonishing scientific communicators have used television to pique our interest and expand our knowledge of the astronomical universe, about which most people know so little.

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Cosmos is the platform that both Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson choose as their medium for educating others about the scientific wonders of space, otherwise known as astronomy. In 1980 Carl Sagan hosted a 13-episode series on PBS called Cosmos: A Personal Journey, while in 2014 Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted the the followup series – Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – from National Geographic and Fox. Both hosts make a sincere effort to spread scientific knowledge, specifically about astronomy, to the younger generation of our planet.

They both also follow the same storytelling approach throughout their respective television series’. They use teaching aids which cater to children, such as the “ship of imagination” and the “cosmic calendar,” to make their message accessible and help simplify the universe. In doing so, they allow children to use their imagination to understand the significance of each part of the universe and of the extremely small part we play within it.

Despite sharing an ultimate purpose, there are of course differences between the programs. Their teachings have the same sound science as their basis, but the presentation styles of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson are at different ends of the spectrum. What are some of the noticeable differences between the old Cosmos and the new one?

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Carl Sagan

 

Most of the differences are merely aesthetic. For instance, one key distinction between the programs is that the newer Cosmos features animations that were created by a team supervised by Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy. MacFarlane is, incidentally, also a producer of the new Cosmos. There are other tonal differences, however, that can be attributed to their individual hosting styles. Sagan starts the journey of discovery in space and then moves inwards, coming back to us on earth, implying a personalized voyage that directly interpolates the viewer. Neil deGrasse Tyson does the exact opposite, making us feel small compared to the rest of the universe. The use of the cosmic calendar shows how truly insignificant we are, but Sagan is able to soften that blow through his delivery methods — particularly with his slow, deliberate speech pattern that feels almost like poetry. He pulls you in with a soft, hypnotic voice. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a bit more abrupt with his delivery. He does not give off the impression that he is speaking directly to you; rather, it feels more like attending a college lecture.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson’s delivery is more impersonal, making space travel and astronomy seem like a cold journey through a dark and quiet universe. The “ship of imagination” is depicted as a literal spacecraft that leaves little to the imagination. Carl Sagan believed that a trip through the universe needed to be framed as a very personal experience. He often took a metaphorical approach to delivering scientific information, which we can see in his version of the “ship of imagination.”

Neil Degrasse Tyson

Neil Degrasse Tyson

And for all the aesthetic differences between the two men and their approach to hosting the program, there are many ways that the two men themselves are refreshingly similar. Sagan was never entirely transparent about what his spiritual beliefs were, and never engaged in debate about theology in the way that Tyson has. Nevertheless, it’s safe to infer that the two men were on similar pages with respect to their skepticism. Tyson courts controversy in a way that Sagan never did, even suggesting that scientific literacy should inform political opinions. As Tyson said in an interview with Parade, there are contentious political issues which could be more easily “settled or informed if we [as a culture] became more scientifically literate.” This is the very sort of stance that could easily draw the ire of some creationism advocates.

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Both men are also notable for their environmental advocacy. Sagan wrote about the potential harm of climate change as early as 1980, and Tyson has consistently advocated for the use of alternative energy sources. In this 1990 lecture, as well as in his work Pale Blue Dot, Sagan spoke of the Earth’s fragility and our role as stewards of its care. Tyson, speaking on the topic two decades later, has called out public figures who have openly denied the reality of climate change. Both men realized that the fate of the environment would not be determined by any one individual, but by large groups of individuals, dead set on voting out recalcitrant politicians.

Both scientific communicators excel in different aspects of their delivery. Neither is “better” or “worse,” it all comes down to which you prefer. Do the poetic words of Carl Sagan excite your imagination, or do the brash scientific teachings of Neil deGrasse Tyson tickle your fancy? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter – as long as you’re listening and paying attention to what they’d like to teach you, both of these men can make a profoundly positive impact on your life.

 

About the author:

beth kelly

Beth Kelly is a freelance blogger and writer based in Chicago, IL. With a lifelong passion for both science and literature, she holds a degree in Communications and Media from DePaul University. In her free time she loves training for triathlons and shooting film photography.

Follow her on Twitter @ bkelly_88

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Alternative News

Research Reveals Plants Can Think, Choose & Remember

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    This article was written by Sayer Ji, founder of Greenmedinfo.com where it was originally published. Posted here with permission.

  • Reflect On:

    Does all form of life poses some type of 'consciousness' regardless of its biological structure? If so, what does this mean?

Modern science is only beginning to catch up to the wisdom of the ancients: plants possess sentience and a rudimentary form of intelligence. 

Plants are far more intelligent and capable than we given them credit. In fact, provocative research from 2010 published in Plant Signaling & Behavior proposes that since they cannot escape environmental stresses in the manner of animals, they have developed a “sophisticated, highly responsive and dynamic physiology,” which includes information processes such as “biological quantum computing” and “cellular light memory” which could be described as forms of plant intelligence. Titled, “Secret life of plants: from memory to intelligence,” the study highlights one particular “super power” of plants indicative of their success as intelligent beings:

“There are living trees that germinated long before Jesus Christ was born. What sort of life wisdom evolved in plants to make it possible to survive and propagate for so long a time in the same place they germinated?”

According to the researchers, “plants actually work as a biological quantum computing device that is capable to process quantum information encrypted in light intensity and in its energy.” This information processing includes a mechanism for processing memorized information. For example:

“plants can store and use information from the spectral composition of light for several days or more to anticipate changes that might appear in the near future in the environment, for example, for anticipation of pathogen attack.”

According to the study, “plants can actually think and remember.”

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Moreover, plant not only possess a mechanism for information gathering and processing, but appear to exercise agency or “choice” vis-à-vis different scenarios:

“different group of chloroplasts and cells in the same leaf under identical constant and stable light, temperature and relative humidity condition have different opinion “what to do” in such conditions and tests different scenarios of possible future development.”

The study also offers an explanation for why plants absorb more light energy than is needed for photosynthesis alone:

“Another possible answer to the above question is a light training of young naïve leaves. Let’s imagine when young leaf or flower is emerging out of a plant, it would be nice for that leaf or flower to know about the conditions in which it is going to emerge. Older, more experienced leaves that actually are acclimated to outside conditions can train naïve emerging young leaves with the PEPS [photoelectrophysiological signaling ]and cellular light memory mechanisms. This explains why plants possess a natural capacity to absorb more light energy than that required for photosynthetic CO2 assimilation. They need this absorbed energy in excess for optimization and training of light acclimatory and immune defenses.”

The authors leave us with the provocative conclusion:

“Our results suggest that plants are intelligent organisms capable of performing a sort of thinking process (understood as at the same time and non-stress conditions capable of performing several different scenarios of possible future definitive responses), and capable of memorizing this training.17 Indeed leaves in the dark are able to not only “see” the light,8,34 but also are able to differently remember its spectral composition and use this memorized information to increase their Darwinian fitness.”

Why is this discovery important?

There are many reasons why recognizing the sentience and intelligence of plants may have positive implications for the future of humanity. For one, it helps us all to transcend the dominant worldview that non-human life forms are best defined in strictly mechanistic terms, and that attributing a “life essence” or consciousness to them is a form of magical thinking. French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Pointy called this world view the “Great Object,” namely, that everything in the universe is compromised of material objects externally related to one another, and with consciousness merely an ephemeral subjectivity found only in humans.

To the contrary, if we open ourselves to the possibility that we are all participants in an interconnected web of life, as many indigenous peoples believed and actually experienced things to be, destroying the natural world simply to serve the essentially suicidal infinite economic growth model will be identified for the insanity that it is. If we recognize, as biologist James Lovelock proposed, the Earth as a whole should be looked upon more like a self-regulating organism (Gaia hypothesis), or as mycologist Paul Stamet envisions, that there is a fungi-based internet within the ground connecting all living things on the planet in an information-sharing network, we will be less likely to both perceive and to treat the natural world as “other” to be dominated. We’ve also been reporting on the role of exosomes as cross-kingdom messengers, which provides a plausible mechanism for how all of the Earth’s inhabitants — plant, fungal, bacteria, animal, etc. — are linked together in an open access, information sharing network.

Recognizing that plants, for instance, have consciousness, or that their simple presence in our environment has healing effects, reintroduces an element of wonder and mystery back into the experience of the natural world. A perfect example of this can be found in the singing plants of the sacred forest of Damanhur. Damanhurian researchers in the mid-70’s reported using custom equipment to capture electromagnetic changes on the surface of leaves and roots and transforming them into audible signals. The researchers also observed that the plants learned to control their electrical responses, indicating they had some rudimentary awareness of the music they were creating. To learn more visit the Damanhur project website, and watch the video below.


Sayer Ji is founder of Greenmedinfo.com, a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, Co-founder and CEO of Systome Biomed, Vice Chairman of the Board of the National Health Federation, Steering Committee Member of the Global Non-GMO Foundation.


Original Article


If you’d like more information from Greenmedinfo, you can sign up for their newsletter here

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Consciousness

Science Says Silence Is Vital For Our Brains

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Studies have shown that excessive environmental noise not only decreases one's quality of life and cognitive function, but also reduces lifespan. The good news is that spending time in silence can reverse these effects.

  • Reflect On:

    Are you living in an environment that is consistently loud? Do you take much time for intended silence? Have you tried the 5 Days of You Challenge?

If you’re the average person, you wake up to the sound of an alarm. That alarm sends you to the bathroom where you quickly get yourself ready for your workday. If you have the time, you might eat something before jumping into your car to listen to music or the radio while you sit in traffic on your way to work.

Once you get there, it’s all people, customers, co-workers, cars, trucks, planes, lawn mowers, construction, phone calls, and tasks for the next 8 hours. These noises that most of us experience in excess send our bodies into stress states, decreasing our quality of life and potentially reducing our lifespan. It appears that noise, in excess, is not healthy for humans. Silence, on the other hand, can have huge benefits, but let’s explore the damage caused by noise before we get to the benefits of silence.

Before we get into the research, I’d like to note that the word ‘noise’ is said to come from the Latin word nausea, or the Latin word noxia, meaning seasickness, sickness, hurt, damage, or injury. Is it any wonder ‘noise’ is not healthy for us?

The Studies

Outside of your anecdotal reflection, there is scientific evidence that supports the negative effects of noise on our health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) examined and quantified its health burden based on a European study that involved 340 million people living in Western Europe. It found that residents were cumulatively losing about a million years off their lives due to noise every year. That’s like one in every three people losing an entire year off their life due to excessive noise!

A study that was published in 2011 in Psychological Science examined the effects Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Professor Gary W. Evans of Cornell University noted that the children who were exposed to noise developed a stress response that caused them to ignore the noise. These children not only ignored harmful noises, but also regular stimuli that are important to pay attention to like speech. Wonder why people have trouble paying attention these days? Perhaps we are exposed to too much noise and too many sounds.

This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise–even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage–causes stress and is harmful to humans. – Professor Gary Evans

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Going back to anecdotal evidence for a moment, I always find that staying with my friends who live in cities produces a much more uncomfortable situation for myself than when I’m in more quiet situations, or living at my quiet, somewhat isolated home in nature. I always share with friends that the environment of living in a city seems to be unhealthy; not just the air, but the energy, hustle and bustle, and the noise as well. Reading these studies clearly illustrates that it does not appear to be natural or healthy for humans to live or work in loud environments every day.

Noise has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, tinnitus, and loss of sleep. Living in consistently noisy environments will cause you to experience much higher levels of these harmful hormones. Of course, there is something you can do about this should you take action on it, but it requires that–action.

The Benefits of Silence

Again, pointing to anecdotal evidence for a moment, think back to the moments where you were on your own, retreating to the cottage or somewhere else quiet. Did you notice how often you NOTICED the silence? Not only that, but you likely felt a lot better after 3 or 4 hours of being there.

It isn’t just cleaner air or taking some time away from work, it’s the silence and lack of distraction. This can be observed by playing loud music and partying the entire time at a cottage as well. You’ll realize it isn’t relaxing, but simply another distraction. When you contrast the two different experiences, the benefits become more clear.

An interesting study observed the effects of noise, music, and silence on the brain. The study was published in the journal Heart and found that the two minute pauses randomly placed between the ‘relaxing music’  in the study were far more relaxing for the brain than the relaxing music. The longer the silence, the more benefits experienced by the participants. Study author L. Bernardi found that his ‘irrelevant’ blank pauses were the most important aspects of the study. Silence is heightened by contrast.

What You Can Do & The Takeaway

So, what can you do if you experience a lot of noise and are looking to avoid loud noises or simply take a break? Firstly, the good news is that the brain recovers from too much noise over time. According to the attention restoration theory, the brain’s finite cognitive resources can begin restoring when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input. In silence, the brain essentially lets down its sensory guard and restores some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.

The practical end of this would look like making an extra effort to be or spend time in silence. This means no music, movies, friends, conversations, phone chimes, etc, even if it’s only for 30 minutes or an hour each day.

This silence would not only allow your brain to restore its cognitive functions like creativity, but it can give you the opportunity to disconnect, quiet down and connect with yourself as well.

Years ago, I created a challenge called the 5 Days of You Challenge that’s designed to do just that – help people slow down, reduce noise and distraction, and connect deeper with themselves. Over the years, I have sent 180,000 people through this challenge and it has resulted in an incredible number of positive transformations.

If you’re looking to:

  • Clear emotional blocks
  • Connect deeply with yourself
  • Find more peace in your life
  • Develop greater self-awareness and presence
  • Slow down and enjoy life more

Then this challenge is something I highly recommend. I’ve made this challenge available to everyone to experience for free. You can check it out on CETV here.

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Discover

Meet The Kenyan Engineer Who Created Gloves That Turn Sign Language Into Audible Speech

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Innovator Roy Allela has invented gloves that read the unique hand movements involved in sign language and turn them into audible speech through an Android app. He calls his gloves Sign-IO.

  • Reflect On:

    We are creating a world where we can all truly communicate, but imagine what our world could be like if inventions like these, and many others, were not limited by costs and start-up processes. Think of what we'd solve if we all worked together.

Imagine a world where communication between everyone is THAT much easier. Well, we’re getting closer and closer to that as every year passes by.

25-year-old Kenyan engineer and innovator, Roy Allela, recently helped humanity take another step in this direction. Allela designed new gloves that will improve communication between those who are deaf and those who cannot understand sign language. His new invention is called the ‘Sign-IO’ gloves, which can translate sign language movements into audible speech.

Allela’s gloves contain sensors located on each finger that are able to detect the positioning of each finger, including how much each finger bends into a given position. This is important, as sign language contains many unique movements that require small details to be detected accurately. The gloves connect via Bluetooth to an Android phone, which then uses text-to-speech technology to allow the person witnessing the sign language to understand what is being said through audio.

Roy was inspired to create the gloves because he has a young niece who is deaf. No one in his family including Roy knows sign language, and thus they often struggled to communicate with her.

“My niece wears the gloves, pairs them with her phone or mine, then starts signing. I’m able to understand what she’s saying,” Allela said.

“People speak at different speeds and it’s the same with people who sign: some are really fast, others are slow, so we integrated that into the mobile application so that it’s comfortable for anyone to use it,” he continued, referring to the creative engineering involved in his project.

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The Sign-IO app, which vocalises words signed by the person wearing the gloves. Photograph: Brett Eloff/Royal Academy of Engineering.

Early on, Allela sees his gloves in schools for special needs children throughout his home country of Kenya. From there, he hopes to expand his business and invention to impact as many deaf people and children around the world as possible. As mentioned, the Sign-IO gloves are just one of many innovations furthering the connection of humanity, no matter what unique aspects of life we are experiencing.

Allela’s gloves are currently in the prototype phase of development and are not yet available to the public. Regardless, they are creating quite the buzz around the world given what they propose to do. Sign-IO was the 2018 grand winner of the “Hardware Trailblazer Award” at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) global finals in New York, and also took home a second runner-up acknowledgement at the Royal Academy of Engineering Leaders in Innovation Fellowship in London.

The Takeaway

Imagine the world we could create if we did not have the limitations imposed by businesses, start-up costs, and so forth. There are incredible people out there who are able to do incredible things for the world, and they’re finding ways to do so even within a society that limits humanity’s potential. If we could bring these amazing minds together and blow off these limitations, then we could truly create a world where communication is not only possible for all, but that would just be the beginning!

As we discussed in our Hidden Energy technologies interview with Susan Manewich on CETV, it’s important to note that the suppression of new, life-changing technologies is not just as a result of the elite, it’s due to our level of consciousness as well. You can check out the interview to learn more on CETV. 

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