Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The science of love


When do you know if you fancy someone? What does love do to your brain chemicals, and is falling in love just nature's way to keep our species alive?
We call it love. It feels like love. But the most exhilarating of all human emotions is probably nature’s beautiful way of keeping the human species alive and reproducing.

With an irresistible cocktail of chemicals, our brain entices us to fall in love. We believe we’re choosing a partner. But we may merely be the happy victims of nature’s lovely plan.

It’s not what you say...
Psychologists have shown it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you fancy someone.
Research has shown this has little to do with what is said, rather
  • 55% is through body language
  • 38% is the tone and speed of their voice
  • Only 7% is through what they say

The 3 stages of love
Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in the States has proposed 3 stages of love – lust, attraction and attachment. Each stage might be driven by different hormones and chemicals.

Stage 1: Lust
This is the first stage of love and is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen – in both men and women.

Stage 2: Attraction
This is the amazing time when you are truly love-struck and can think of little else. Scientists think that three main neurotransmitters are involved in this stage; adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin.

The initial stages of falling for someone activates your stress response, increasing your blood levels of adrenalin and cortisol. This has the charming effect that when you unexpectedly bump into your new love, you start to sweat, your heart races and your mouth goes dry.

Helen Fisher asked newly ‘love struck’ couples to have their brains examined and discovered they have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush of pleasure. It has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine!

Fisher suggests “couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” .

And finally, serotonin. One of love's most important chemicals that may explain why when you’re falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts.

Does love change the way you think?
A landmark experiment in Pisa, Italy showed that early love (the attraction phase) really changes the way you think.

Dr Donatella Marazziti, a psychiatrist at the University of Pisa advertised for twenty couples who'd been madly in love for less than six months. She wanted to see if the brain mechanisms that cause you to constantly think about your lover, were related to the brain mechanisms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

By analysing blood samples from the lovers, Dr Marazitti discovered that serotonin levels of new lovers were equivalent to the low serotonin levels of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder patients.

Love needs to be blind
Newly smitten lovers often idealise their partner, magnifying their virtues and explaining away their flaws says Ellen Berscheid, a leading researcher on the psychology of love.

New couples also exalt the relationship itself. “It's very common to think they have a relationship that's closer and more special than anyone else's”. Psychologists think we need this rose-tinted view. It makes us want to stay together to enter the next stage of love – attachment.

Stage 3: Attachment
Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raise children. Scientists think there might be two major hormones involved in this feeling of attachment; oxytocin and vasopressin.

Oxytocin - The cuddle hormone

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm.
It probably deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes.

Oxytocin also seems to help cement the strong bond between mum and baby and is released during childbirth. It is also responsible for a mum’s breast automatically releasing milk at the mere sight or sound of her young baby.

Diane Witt, assistant professor of psychology from New York has showed that if you block the natural release of oxytocin in sheep and rats, they reject their own young.

Conversely, injecting oxytocin into female rats who’ve never had sex, caused them to fawn over another female’s young, nuzzling the pups and protecting them as if they were their own.

Vasopressin is another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex.

Vasopressin (also called anti-diuretic hormone) works with your kidneys to control thirst. Its potential role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole.

Prairie voles indulge in far more sex than is strictly necessary for the purposes of reproduction. They also – like humans - form fairly stable pair-bonds.

When male prairie voles were given a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin, the bond with their partner deteriorated immediately as they lost their devotion and failed to protect their partner from new suitors.
And finally … how to fall in love
  • Find a complete stranger.
  • Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour.
  • Then, stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes.

York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun, has been studying why people fall in love.
He asked his subjects to carry out the above 3 steps and found that many of his couples felt deeply attracted after the 34 minute experiment. Two of his subjects later got married. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Wrinkles Reveal About Women's Health

By Lisa Collier Cool
Jun 16, 2011

A very surprising Yale School of Medicine study reports that wrinkles on a woman’s face may predict her risk for bone fractures later in life. In findings presented on June 6 at the Endocrine Society Meeting in Boston, the researchers said that the severity and pattern of skin wrinkles, as well as overall skin firmness, may offer important clues about bone mineral density in women entering menopause.

What’s the link between a furrowed brow and risk for broken bones? “Skin and bones share common building blocks - proteins,” said Lubna Pal, associate professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at Yale, in a statement. She and the rest of the research team found that the more severe facial and neck wrinkling was in early post-menopausal women, the lower their bone density was likely to be, an indication of risk for future fractures. Here’s a closer look at this intriguing study—and how women can protect bone health as they age.

How was the study conducted? As part of an ongoing study, the Yale researchers examined the skin of 114 post-menopausal women who were within three years of their last period. Measurements of skin firmness were made in 11 areas of the face and neck, both visually and with a device called a durometer. Bone mass and density were checked with a portable ultrasound machine and X-ray.

What did the researchers learn? “We found that the worse the wrinkles, the lesser the bone density,” adds Pal. “This relationship was independent of age or factors known to influence bone mass,” such as smoking, age, multi-vitamin use, race and ethnicity (African-American women in the study, on average, had fewer winkles in the facial and neck areas examined). Conversely, women with firmer skin had better bone density, suggesting lower risk for fractures later in life.

Why might wrinkles be linked to bone health? These results suggest that skin and bones may age on parallel tracks after menopause. The study is the first to find any connection between women’s skin quality (wrinkles and firmness) and their bones (density and mass), according to the researchers. The researchers say that skin and bones share common building blocks, proteins called collagens, which might explain the link observed between wrinkles and bone mass and density.

How might these findings affect healthcare? If further studies confirm that skin quality and bone health are indeed related, then in the future, MDs might be able to screen for osteoporosis—the brittle bone disease that can lead to fractures later in life--by checking patients’ skin, instead of using the costly X-ray test now considered the gold standard: DXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry). To find out if women with worse wrinkles lose bone mass at a faster rate after menopause than do women with firmer skin, the researchers plan to continue their study.

How serious is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis leads to fractures in 1 in 3 women over age 50, and 1 in 5 men over 50, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Since it’s a silent disease with no symptoms until it gets bad enough to cause fractures, screening is the only way to detect early, so patients can be treated to reduce risk for broken bones. Osteoporosis can also lead to stooped posture, loss of height, disability and deformity, such as “dowager’s hump,” a severe rounding of the upper back, due to compression fractures in the vertebrae weakened by the disease.

Who should be screened? The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends getting a bone density test if you are a woman age 65 or older, a man age 70 or older, or if you break a bone after age 50 due to a relatively minor injury. NOF also advises testing for post-menopausal women under age 65 if they have risk factors for the disease, which include smoking, family history, eating disorders, deficiencies of calcium or vitamin D, excessive alcohol consumption, and use of certain medications.

What’s the best prevention? It may surprise you that your skeleton isn’t a rigid, unchanging frame. Your body continuously tears down old sections of bone and replaces them with new sections, a process called remodeling. Until age 25, bone is built faster than it is lost and after menopause, the opposite in true in women. Think of it as a retirement account: the more bone you “bank” when you’re young, the more reserves you’ll have to draw on when you’re older. Genes also play a role in determining your peak bone mass. To keep your bones as healthy, avoid smoking, eat a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium, and engage in regular weight-bearing exercise, such as jogging, walking, or jumping rope.


Get the information you need to improve your health and wellness on

Friday, June 10, 2011



What is your Batman name??

I'll watch the weather news every day, except when I'm in Finland


10 Things You Can Do to Save the Ocean


Photo: Sunlight streaming through water
Photograph by Sebastian Meckelmann

1. Mind Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption
Reduce the effects of climate change on the ocean by leaving the car at home when you can and being conscious of your energy use at home and work. A few things you can do to get started today: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, take the stairs, and bundle up or use a fan to avoid oversetting your thermostat.

2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices
Global fish populations are rapidly being depleted due to demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable.

3. Use Fewer Plastic Products
Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. To limit your impact, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in nondisposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible.

4. Help Take Care of the Beach
Whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or relaxing on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups.

5. Don't Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life
Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products.

6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner
Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.

7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean
Many institutes and organizations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organization and consider giving financial support or volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home.

8. Influence Change in Your Community
Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects. Consider patronizing restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood, and speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter.

9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly

Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life
All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health—then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

10 More Amazing Weather Phenomena

by James Finnerty

Our atmosphere shows off so many strange and wonderful displays, but often times these brilliant phenomena happen so rarely, and in places all over the world (insert lame ‘once in a blue moon’ pun here). Now then, onto the list!

10  Lunar Corona Formation

This item, a personal favorite of mine and one that’s amazing in itself starts off the list. A Lunar Corona formation is formed through a mix of thin cloud and small droplets in the air. These small droplets scatter the light rays from the moon creating this sort of multicolored moon halo. Interestingly the size of these small droplets define the size of the corona that forms, with the smaller droplets forming the larger radii.

9  Fogbows

There are various different names for fogbows; mariners call them sea dogs, pilots call them cloudbows, some people call them white rainbows because of their lack of color (they do have some red and blue in them though, sometimes). Like a normal rainbow, a fogbow is created with the diffraction of light through water droplets, but, in the case of fogbows, very small water droplets create the effect seen above.

8  Triple Sunrise Illusion

It’s a little hard to see but there are 3 side by side suns in this illusion. It’s unknown what exactly created this double mirage-like illusion but it’s been suggested that it may be any number of things such as standard reflections, atmospheric lensing or something else entirely. It’s unlikely that most people would notice this illusion since it’s so tricky to actually see from afar, as you would of course view it.

7  Anticrepuscular rays

You might describe these sun rays as god rays, in a particular formation. They are formed at either sunrise or sunset when the sun casts rays up from the horizon through some well placed clouds. And if you liked this item then make sure to also check out its brother formation, crepuscular rays which are very similar in appearance.

6  Morning glory clouds

These rare cloud formations are low lying (at around 100-200 meters high) and can only be predicted in one particular place on earth, but can occur in various places around the world. These clouds are classed as types of roll clouds and whilst having a lot of the same characteristics they can come in rows, and less is known about this particular cloud formation. Some people say that they form in areas of high humidity, but it is not known for sure what brings them about.

5  Lenticular clouds

Aliens! Okay, maybe not, but the shape of these clouds will sure make you take a second look. These clouds aren’t always shaped like alien spaceships from 50s sci-fi movies though, but sometimes rather like a stack of lens shapes, a single large lens shape, or even just a particularly long cloud. Lenticular clouds are formed through air moisture that condenses from an updraft that has been interrupted by a mountain or other large formation and has come back down. And after this air moisture condenses and forms a cloud it evaporates again, leaving behind the lens shaped cloud formation you see in the picture above.

4  Gravity waves

The reason these clouds are described as waves is because they look like waves in general, but they look like waves especially in motion (see timelapse above). The way these clouds are formed is by a trigger to start off with (such as a thunderstorm updraft), and after the air rises into stable air it sinks again (so up and down just like a wave formation), which creates this momentum in the clouds. Another interesting view of gravity waves in the clouds can be seen from above where you get these rows of clouds.

3  Multiple fogbows

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?! It means that there’s an optical illusion going on, but the illusion breaks if you try to get a closer look. What you can see in the picture is a hall of fogbows, created by sunlight backscattering off a cloud passing below the peak of the mountain from which this picture was taken. These ‘supernumeraries arcs’ have only been understood recently and they also occur in regular rainbows as well (so somebody get the word out to the double rainbow guy!).

2  Kelvin Helmholtz cloud formations

As it turns out those strange looking clouds you probably drew in school when you were little may have been more realistic than you first thought. This formation is very unusual and a bit surreal. They are also rarely observed as they don’t retain this shape for very long, and they don’t occur very often either. These cloud formations come about because of shearing winds up at cloud level.

1  Roll Clouds

A personal favorite of mine, roll clouds can be hundreds of kilometers long, and, just as the name suggests, they roll. This is because of cold air rushing out of a downdraft from a storm front, lifting warm air which cools and sometimes forms this type of cloud. If you want to get an idea of what this actually looks like in motion then the video above shows a brilliant demonstration of this, so watch and be in awe.