Science Channel - InSCIder

27 Oct

The Controversial Proposal of an Alien Megastructure

The space and science community was buzzing last week about of odd behavior of a star called KIC 8462852. More accurately, the news was about the odd behavior from something near or in transit around the star causing it to dim in irregular patterns and brightness. The buzz was about the theory whether this could be a megastructure or mass of structures created by aliens.

Science Channel will air a special news update about the theories being aired about this strange star: Alien Megastructures tonight at 9/8c. Before you tune-in or set your DVR, here's a little bit about why this odd star has scientists stumped and alien hunters guessing. Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.16.33 PM

The story about the The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy broke in The Atlantic on October 13, but as the story noted, the star’s behavior isn’t exactly breaking news. 

While going about its mission to find exoplanets Kepler Space Telescope found this star in 2009. Kepler does its job by observing far flung stars and tracking any dimming in their brightness, which could signify the presence of an exoplanet. When the dimness happens over a recognizable period and speed, it often signals there is an exoplanet and can even help astronomers estimate the size. In the case of KIC 8462852, the star had dips that followed no precise pattern and vary in intensity.

Kepler could very well be picking up some natural phenomenon such as dust rings or a debris field. After all, Kepler can pick up things other than exoplanets, like flares, said dust or debris, or perhaps even something created specifically to move around the star. Yes, created.

Watch DNews: We're Not Saying The Kepler Discovery Is Aliens, But...

Of course we expect some backlash at this point, and at least one of the meme with the wacky looking dude who has his hair standing up with the text “Aliens” on it. The comments claiming this is pseudo-science have come along with most posts and articles we've seen circulated on the topic. Some people do not believe there is alien life, and do not like mainstream science and cultural media outlets reporting on it.

Here’s why some of us are talking about it.

The source of this story and the follow up pieces are not the result of astronomers just grabbing at straws. The data on this star goes back to 2009 and has been carefully documented; a paper reporting on the data and all plausible theories was just submitted by a Yale post-doctorate researcher to the September 2015 edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The paper also includes the names and interpretation of several citizen scientists from The Planet Hunters, an expert group who regularly studies certain parts of the galaxy to help scientists wade through the massive amount of data the telescopes send back. The combined efforts of the lead at Yale, Tabetha Boyajian, and the Planet Hunters confirmed at least two basic things: the irregular data is NOT coming from flawed data or instrumental error and the behavior was notable, with dips “in flux down to below the 20 percent level.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.18.11 PM

Boyajian and the Planet Hunters offer up several theories, most of which raise additional questions given that none of them are an exact fit with the behavior being observed.

Read More: DNews Has Kepler Discovered an Alien Megastructure?

As Dr. Ian O’Neill notes in his DNews report on the story, Boyajian’s paper focuses only on “…natural and known possible causes of the mystery transit events around KIC 8462852. A second paper is currently being drafted to investigate a completely different transit scenario that focuses around the possibility of a mega-engineering project created by an advanced alien civilization.”

This does NOT mean anyone is immediately suggesting it IS an alien megastructure. What this second paper and some scientists believe is that every possible theory must be explored. Even if it the most remote chance it is something created by an advanced civilization, in the spirit of scientific exploration it must be explored and proven or dis-proven. So we’ll wait for the paper and see.

So what happens next? Well, the scientists at the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute are joining in the search for an explanation in a significant way. They’ve turned their Allen Telescope Array – a field of 42 smaller and highly targeted satellite dishes – off its normal schedule and have focused it on KIC 8462852. They will work day and night looking for transmissions that fall into a specific range of wavelengths.

According to Universe Today, the team is gathering results they hope to publish soon in a scientific journal.

The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) has also joined in, issuing an alert to its members on October 20th to focus on KIC 8462852, with specific parameters to help target their observations. This continues to be a working investigation to find the cause of the erratic dips.

At Science Channel we believe in “questioning everything,” and we’re excited by the depth of research going into confirming a theory, regardless the side of the debate. We’ll be presenting the latest news about the story tonight in a special news report: Alien Megastructures at 9/8c. We hope you’ll join us in exploring the story of this strange signal and the science going into solving this mystery.


Interested in these kinds of space mysteries? You might enjoy these related videos:



23 Oct

Why Is Hurricane Patricia the "Most Dangerous Storm" In Recorded History?

Hurricane Patricia is expected to hit the coast of Mexico sometime between 6 - 7P EST this evening. The headlines are already calling this Category 5 hurricane the most dangerous storm in history. We wanted to wrap our heads around what that means. Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 4.53.25 PM

The first reason is wind speed. Patricia appears to be clocking sustained 200mph winds and the residents of Mexico have been told to brace for its force. To put that into perspective, compare that to Hurricane Katrina's winds of 175mph in 2005; the same as Hurricane Andrew's winds in 1992.

The World Meteorological Association has compared Patricia Typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines at 195mph and caused a devastating loss of life.

Hurricanes and typhoons are also officially measured by their "central pressure reading" as it hits landfall. This reading is the weight of the air above the storm and is measure of intensity. Ironically, the lower the pressure, generally the more intense hurricane the hurricane or typhoon will be in terms of winds and destruction.

According to CNN's latest report, the British weather service reports the recording of 879 millibars (the barometric pressure equivalent is 25.96 inches) "is the lowest for any tropical cyclone globally for over 30 years." Hurricanes Katrina, Andrew and Camille - came in between 900 and 922 millibars.

Combine the record winds, the barometric pressure and the sustained rains and Hurricane Patricia looks like it will be cutting a devastating path through Mexico's Pacific Coast. Each hurricane has its own signature in terms of the kind of damage it incurs - whether its flooding or property damage or both. The unspoken danger is the potential loss of life. While mass evacuations have been taking place, the total impact of Hurricane Patricia has yet to be felt. 

We'll be keeping and eye out on developments as the storm progresses and potentially pushes the record books further. Could it become a Category 6 storm? Is there even such a thing? The team at Discovery News have covered that topic in depth for us. Read their excellent piece here, and we'll keep you posted.


See how scientists study hurricanes in the lab:

15 Oct

Meet The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge Winner!

Here at Science Channel we are always completely blown away by the ideas generated by younger kids today. Teenagers are sending things into space, developing apps, and questioning everything about the future. This year’s winner of the 2015 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is no different. She created an energy probe prototype.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.39.23 PMYou read that correctly. 15 year-old Hannah Herbst from Florida Atlantic University High School, in Boca Raton, FL captured the title this year with her prototype that seeks to offer a stable power source to developing countries by using untapped energy from ocean currents. It’s a simple idea that could be revolutionary in the years to come.

Hannah’s inspiration for the project came from her desire to help her nine-year-old pen pal in Ethiopia. Her friend lacks reliable power and electricity; nor is her friend alone in this plight. According to the World Bank, 1.1 billion people around the world do not have access to electricity.

It makes you think how a teenager’s desire to help a friend could be the seed of an idea that helps people worldwide. We think her choice of project is pretty impressive – one that has personal relevance but also casts an eye to “How can I change the future?”

She’s wasn’t alone in her journey to becoming a winner. Herbst and nine other finalists from around the country had the chance over the past three months to work directly with a 3M scientist on their invention as part of a summer internship. Herbst was paired with Jeffrey Emslander, a 3M corporate scientist whose research and patents have helped 3M reduce emissions to the environment and use less energy in the making of products.

We love the ideas that come out of the competition, but we also love the underlying genesis of the competition, which was creating a structure filled with adults passionate about science who could mentor the next generation who are equally as passionate.

During the collaboration the students looked to their 3M expert mentors to help guide them through the scientific method of advancing their ideas from a theoretical concept into an actual prototype. Together they reviewed the scientific process and worked virtually through pre-assigned objectives, with resources and support provided by Discovery Education and 3M.

[149975] HannahHerbstand2014winner2.JPG_lowDuring the final competition hosted by Discovery Education's Lance Rougeux, the finalists shared their completed inventions with a panel of judges, including Hakeem Oluseyi, astrophysicist and star of our own hit show Outrageous Acts of Science.

Along with the title and the knowledge gained, Herbst took home a $25,000 prize. It’s a just reward for the serious challenge that she and her fellow competitors and finalists faced.

All of us here at Science Channel just wanted to say: “You Go Hannah!”

About The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge:

Since its inception, the Young Scientist Challenge has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in student scholarships and prizes, paired students with world-renowned scientists to give them real-world insights and delivered much-needed science resources to millions of students, teachers and families across the country. Previous winners have met the President of the United States, addressed members of Congress, worked with the nation's top scientists and been featured in Forbes magazine's annual "30 Under 30" list.

Want to Make A Difference In A Young Person's Life? Get Involved In Support Our Science

Science is everywhere. It’s the DNA for progress and possibility.  Support Our Science is committed to igniting students’ passion for science, technology, engineering and math on-air, online, in the classroom and in local communities.  Science Channel and Discovery Education, together with partners, The Planetary Society, Girls Inc, and Maker Ed will ensure our kids are the next generation of innovators, problem solvers, and game changers.

15 Oct

What’s So Important About Being Awe-Struck?

We’ve all the heart pounding moment. Maybe it is from a cloud formation or water spout in the ocean you’ve never seen before, hearing an astronaut tell a story of near death, seeing your child be born, or perhaps it’s show on how the universe came into being. It’s that mind-blowing, “wow” moment where you are awe-struck.

You may not think of it this way, but awe is actually an emotion. Many in science and psychology didn’t think much about it until studies were done about 10 Years ago to find out what it really meant to be awestruck and whether it was important to us as a part of our other range of emotions.

What exactly IS awe? According to researchers, awe is having a feeling you’ve seen, heard, or met someone or something much larger than your everyday experience. It stops you and makes you think. With it goes seems to go the sense of needing to pay it forward and tell someone about it. To spread the knowledge or vision gained.

This insight comes from psychologists Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt decided to try and decipher the science of awe in 2003. After asking people to make a face describing awe, it was eyes wide open and mouth dropped. It seems awe is not funny or smile producing. It’s something serious and can be triggered by seeing something positive or negative, but the one result is this emotion makes you think when you experience it and want to discuss it with others in an attempt to understand or rationalize what you’ve experienced.

Other researchers noted it’s also not necessarily a “comfortable” emotion because you are processing and thinking about something you’ve never seen or heard before and you don’t necessarily know the the outcome. Is awe the recognition of the unknown?

Another researcher, Melanie Rudd, assistant professor of the University of Houston found people described it as “timeless.” When experiencing awe time seems to stand still or not exist at all reported study subjects.<< cont. below>>


So we know awe is an emotion tied to thought, understanding and needing to understand and share something we don’t understand. A wow moment can be beautiful or terrifying, like seeing an eclipse for the first time, or a tornado starting to form. What purpose could being stopped in our tracks possibly serve?

The researchers studying awe came up with two evolutionary explanations. If you are awe-struck you may pause to think about danger, cause, and the best possible reaction. From an evolutionary level being awed and cautious may have saved us from life or death situations, allowing humankind to survive and evolve, gathering knowledge along the way.

The other explanation is the need to explain the awe inspiring experience and to involve others. In other words, at a basic level it is a way of pulling a group together to understand a phenomenon. It could be defensive and for self preservation as spreading the word about a giant tornado formation might be. Or, it could be the twinge of curiosity about something and the desire to gain knowledge for others – such as studying the movement of the heavens to define time.

Whether awe causes us to be cautious or curious, the primal outcome is the same. Being awe-struck helps us come together and continue to evolve as a species.

If the basic outcome of awe is coming together, researchers such as Rudd and Keltner continue to study how this shapes our every day behavior. It is linked to every day curiosity, listening to each other and a sense of humility, open-mindedness, and connection.

Awe is something we can see hard enough if we look everyday as well. It doesn’t have to be the large, Earth changing event. It could be visiting a new country, or learning about how something complex is made – we certainly see that in Mike North’s face as he visits the LG TV factory in Korea and gets a lesson in the new OLED technology. His curiosity for “How does this work??” is paid forward to us as he dives into questioning the LG Team.

We get “wow, so that’s how it works!” moments of learning why an OLED TV can deliver a “true black.” This new category of televisions use LEDs in them to create the true definition by being able to turning off the light in the pixels that don’t need them. It’s the absence of light, not a dimming or projection of black that makes the difference. Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 3.03.58 PM

Seeing how thin and flexible they are is also amazing. Doc North can actually bend the screen with his hands! To think we’ve come from giant consoles using cathode tubes, to wafer-thin, see-through screens is a pretty awe-inspiring example in the evolution of technology.

LG OLED TVs have been called “perfect” for gamers and movie buffs. Why? It gets back to the awe thing. By being able to play a game that renders the virtual world with such realism and by showing movies with the beautiful, colorful pictures the directors could see in their mind is incredible. You want to play with your buddies and you want to gather your friends to enjoy a brilliant movie so you can all leave with open mouths at whatever your experience of choice was. Far from isolating us like some would claim about new technology, this one actually brings people together.

What does all this prove? That awe is an emotion that can be generated by many things. It depends on the person whether it’s a rainbow or experiencing the vastness of a modern factory. What remains the same is that we all have that twinge that stops us in our tracks, that makes us think, and perhaps build on what has excited us.

It is awe that may spur us to inhabit the Moon or Mars, and combined with curiosity it is an emotion researchers are proving should be respected and nurtured.

Enjoy some other moments of awe:

The History of Television

Ten TV Milestones

14 Oct

Hubble’s Images of Jupiter Bring Surprises

Using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, planetary scientists at NASA’s have captured Jupiter in an annual photo, and this year the very high-res images are showing some interesting new things.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 9.39.04 AMPlanetary scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory created two global maps on the planet to essentially show back-to-back rotations. This helps them calculate the speed of the movement they see occurring on the surface.

Focusing first on the famous Red Spot, actually a giant storm, the team confirmed the spot is still shrinking and becoming more circular. It’s also more orange than red. These changes have been occurring in previous photos, but what they did uncover that was different is a “filament” or streamer stretching for most of the width of the Spot, which rotates and is blown about by the high winds.

Additionally, when looking at the North Equatorial Belt, the team found a wave that had only previously been spotted long ago by Voyager 2. This image confirms the rare wave’s existence. It is found in a region noted for cyclones and anti-cyclones, and appears to be similar to baroclinic waves which are found in the Earth’s atmosphere prior to cyclones forming.

The reasons for its elusive behavior may be due to the wave beginning in the layers beneath the visible clouds and only becoming visible when surfacing to the cloud layer.

The annual photos contain a wealth of other information the scientists are still exploring. The yearly photos are invaluable and will continue as they provide a way to show how the planet changes over time and provide clues as to what they might mean about the weather, geology, chemistry and more of this giant planet.

Be sure to visit NASA’s Press Release about images to get more in-depth information and incredible video and photography.

For more story on The Red Spot, check out this in-depth look from HOW THE UNIVERSE WORKS:


9 Oct

Giant Lakes On Mars?

Imagine standing on the shore of Lake Michigan. You see nothing but a vast expanse of water, deep and alive with currents. Now imagine that isn’t Lake Michigan, but the shore of the Gale Crater on Mars. Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 3.01.15 PM

New pictures, taken by NASA's Curiosity Rover show thick slabs of dried sediment that look familiar to anyone who has seen a long dried up patch of water like a creek bed or a lake. Only this patch is on a massive scale. This is exciting to scientists who are looking forward to studying the sediment to find out just what happened to the water.

“You don’t need magic new science to understand the geology of Mars,” notes Janok Bhattacharya, a sedimentary geologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, as quoted in Science Magazine. Basically, geologists here on Earth can study the pictures and sample analysis sent back and make strong assumptions about the Martian climate based on how it matches up with what they’ve modeled here on Earth.

So far they do believe the water was in large bodies, with currents powerful enough to move the larger, more rounded rock sediment they've seen. They can also see how the sediment piled up over what could be millions of years, and possibly decipher what the layers meant about the changing climate on Mars’ surface and if there were different climates like here on Earth.

It goes without saying that scientists, geologists, and astronomy buffs are beyond excited about what the Curiosity Rover has been able to show us. This is big news and a big step in understanding other worlds. The geology discovery that lies ahead is going to be rich in data thanks to the Rover, and we can't wait to see what comes next!

As we ponder a now mostly dry planet and what it will tell us about life on Mars, or perhaps if we are seeing the future of our own planet, we should also stop and appreciate the tremendous feat of technology and engineering the is the Curiosity Mars Rover.

If you want to understand what an achievement it is to have these pictures and data coming back from Mars you won’t want to miss Red Planet Rover Tuesday night at 9P on Science Channel. You’ll get to follow the build and the journey to Mars from the eyes of the mission control team. This is their baby and they’ve invested their time, theories, and hope in this amazing spacecraft.

It’s all part of a night of intense space exploration. There is truly something for everyone who is wondering about the universe.

What’s On Tuesday:

8P - How the Universe Works: Forces of Mass Construction

9P – Red Planet Rover: See the Mars Curiosity Rover as You Never Have Before

10P – Space’s Darkest Secret: Can Scientists Crack the Mystery of Dark Matter?

Want to learn more about the geology of Mars? Turn to Science Magazine's in-depth feature.


29 Sep

Mars Mystery Solved: A Special Report

Tonight at 9p EST, Science Channel will be airing a special segment, including post-analysis from the confirmation there is liquid water on Mars. Mars: A Special Report discussing how they made the discovery and what it means for future Mars exploration.

I can’t wait to hear what the #NASA experts have to say. After viewing the NASA press conference and Q&A yesterday, it seems like at a basic level the mission is to keep moving forward and exploring just what liquid water on Mars means. In short, the discovery opens up more questions than there are answers.

The 900 lb. gorilla of a question in the room, on our website, and on our social media pages is: if there is water, is there life?

BlueMarsAliens. It seems to always comes back to that concept for many of us. My parents read comics about canals on Mars being made by a powerful civilization. I’m of the generation that has seen Hubble open up the vastness of the universe where the sheer odds point to the fact there must be some kind of life out there. Now scientists have done studies that show microbial life doesn’t always have to have oxygen and water to live. Still, if you’ve got water you are likely one step closer to finding something that could be defined as life.

That’s what had the scientists so excited about the future. Now they have been able to secure enough information to confirm the liquid water, they can focus on its composition, its activity, and how we might use it on future missions. There are just so many things to find out about our own life and planet as we start understanding Mars more. There are also new hopes of colonizing the planet in a different way than we might have before. Of course, even many scientists whoooped over the possibility of finding new life - even microbes to start!

I’m going to pump the brakes on speculating about the future for a minute and go back to the mystery and beauty of what we have just found out simply about the topography and nature of Mars.

They finally understand these dark streaks – called recurring slope lineae (RSL) – as being indicators of liquid water that drip down the sides of craters and slopes. This is something scientists had begun to observe and discuss for a few years with data from the Phoenix Lander and pictures from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) showing the RSL over various sites.


Add the Curiosity Rover into the mix and you have the perfect scientific storm for confirmation of liquid water. As the pictures got clearer, and the Curiosity Rover could take soil samples the story started to take shape. The NASA team mineral mapped the site from the MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). This data revealed hydrated salts and that brings us to the press conference yesterday and the beautiful photos we have been seeing.

So for all of you who in our forums who have said we’ve known about water on Mars for years, you are right in some ways. We HAVE known about ancient frozen water – not liquid. It is also true NASA has also been studying this current phenomenon since 2010. The announcement was not held for any other reason than it is only now when the perfect mix of technology and research allowed the scientists to put the pieces together. They like being right. They're funny like that.

As I saw how the pieces came together for them I took a moment to look out my window into the sky. I am so incredibly proud of NASA and the science community. The collective work of hundreds of people (likely a lot more) went into to this discovery and a few of the others I picked up yesterday. This is the information that will one day allow the next generation to explore Mars and beyond.

  • There is a water cycle on Mars; it doesn’t rain but it does snow
  • Mars has seasons, just like Earth. The RSL change dependent on the seasons, which was another clue.
  • The water probably pretty shallow more like trickles and drips rather than rolling streams – but we don’t know that didn’t happen in the past or what is happening under the surface.

That's what wowed little old me; what wowed you?

As you'd expect, we were all smiles here at Science Channel yesterday during the live broadcast because we loved seeing the scientists be able to share this breakthrough, and we loved being a part of sharing it. We can't resist sharing the faces of of those who produce such exciting live events and those who stand watch in our broadcast center to make sure everything is beautiful on our air!   Image1

We also love being able to bring you the update at 9P, will explain more about how they found the water, why is is so important to the future, what are they going to do next?

It’s also exciting we could share this experience with our colleagues around the globe. We have video from our colleagues at Discovery News. We’ve seen people in our worldwide divisions talk about it on social media. Here are a few posts for you to enjoy, and we hope to see you for a night of Mars programming, with our special update at 9P.

Discovery News Video

Discovery Networks International:

Discovery Science France:



Discovery Channel Turkey:


Discovery Channel South Africa: Photos

Discovery Channel Arabia: Photos


28 Sep

TestTube: Definitive Signs of Liquid Water Found on Mars

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 11.41.19 AMOur colleagues from TestTube hit the nail on the head in their blog when they commented it might be the best marketing promotion ever dreamed up if this announcement from NASA was to promote The Martian. We were saying the same thing as the #NASA panel slowly built up to the big reveal: there is evidence of flowing water on Mars. It wasn't a movie; it's what #NASA has been searching for for years, finally confirmed after careful study of the surface geology and samples from the #CuriosityRover.

Get the full TestTube blog, and stick with us as we will be checking in with them throughout the day for more of their thoughts and perhaps some video.


TestTube on Facebook

TestTube on Twitter

TestTube on YouTube



26 Sep

Evolving Technology and the Art of Being Human

Mark Burstiner at TechnoBuffalo is always getting his hands on the latest and greatest tech stuff. Whether it’s the latest smartphone or TV, he examines every aspect of a product and fills us in on what puts them at the cutting edge. In the video below, gets up close with the new LG OLED TV and explains what the technology means both on phones and on the new smart TV from LG. 

A short way of describing the difference is the OLED TVs do not require the backlighting that LCD panels do. The “organic light emitting diodes” are so efficient they are only activated when they need to be; when not in use they dim or turn themselves off. What that means for you and me is the black is a true black, and when you have that you have a picture with amazing contrast and clarity.

When I (Science Channel's Geek in Residence) first saw it my jaw nearly dropped to the floor. I couldn’t look away when I saw scenes where stars and galaxies popped. That got me to thinking, if I can’t look away, it’s likely others will have the same reaction and will be glued to this new TV.


Being the science geek I am, I remembered the debate that has been raging for a few years now. It’s about the sociology around adopting new technology; the root of the debate is the question of dehumanization.

Will we become so tethered to our devices and technology, that we will become less sociable and less personally invested in each other and our communities? As we stare at our screens – whether it’s our phones or our TV’s, will we no longer be able to relate to each other in real life? Will our only connections be in the virtual world – and can you really call those human relationships?

It almost goes without saying there are many people on the other side of the debate over the latest technology in phones, devices, and TVs. Rather than being the death of human interaction, they argue the new social platforms that develop with technology takes our connection to others to another level. It’s easier to keep up with people, be a part of shared world experiences like watching and tweeting the World Cup, or finding relevant communities and causes that drive us to action in real life.

It’s an interesting question, so I set out to find some answers. What I found were observations and studies that had numbers to back up BOTH sides of the debate.

Not surprisingly I’m not the only one stymied by the lack of clarity. In July 2015, The Wall Street Journal ran an article, “Is Technology Making People Less Sociable?” They had researchers from both sides make their case for the growth of technology and its effect on our relationships.

In a widely circulated, 2015 Wall Street Journal article, “Is technology making people less sociable?” professors Dr. Larry Rosen and Dr. Keith Hampton argue the pros and cons of technology and its effect on our relationships.

In the ‘cons’ corner, Dr. Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University who says, “Technology is distracting us from our real world relationships.” Rosen argues there is a big difference between connecting or checking in with someone on social media than there is an actually communicating face to face. 

Backing that up, Dr. Rosen pointed to a study they conducted, which showed even though we can communicate emotions in the virtual world, it’s just a virtual sentiment. The study showed offering empathy online “is only one-sixth as effective in making the recipient feel socially supported compared with that empathy which was proffered in the real world. A hug feels six times more supportive than an emoji.”

In the ‘pros’ corner. Dr. Keith Hampton, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, worked with the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project in 2011. Their study indicated we are not losing our ability to truly communicate and share with each other it’s just that we are doing it differently as a natural adaptation to rapidly growing technology.  Hacking-the-universe-homepage

The Life Project found that people who used Facebook regularly throughout the day were 43% more likely than other Internet users to trust others and 9% said they had close relationships with others on Facebook. 43% said they would be more likely to vote.

The ability for technology to get us talking and connecting, also seems to have the long tail effect of encouraging us to take action, which is pretty amazing.

The Pew Center followed up with another study in July 2015, which addressed the gaming aspects of online social interaction. The research found that 83% of teen gamers played with others in person. 75% also played with others online. That indicates these heavy technology consumers don’t feel alone or isolated at all.

Plus it’s not just gaming technology that pulls people together. The growth of technology and social platforms has fundamentally changed the way we receive our news and information, and what we do with it. 

People can tweet or take video of a random event and it could become worldwide news. Anyone can stream an event live and we can talk to them in real time about what’s happening on the other side of the world. In doing so it could be said we become part of a group making history, via an online conversation.

Many would argue our being able to use our technology to become part of world events is what helps us actually become more human.

A good example is the Syrian Refugee Crisis. We watch footage on TV of the desperate people with nowhere to go on the news as we eat our breakfast. Or while sitting on the bus on the way to work you get an email on your phone from a friend who has sent another video with a link on how to help. At work, you head to a news website which has additional stories about the crisis, curated by a human behind the scenes who knows it’s a trending topic. You read about a few charities and reach out to one of your social media groups to confirm they do good work. Then you donate through an app or hashtag.

At the end of the day however, looking strictly at the research, it becomes a he said/she said story. Looking just at the science we can only say that each side has its numbers and studies that are very real for those who participated. 

Until the official journal is called for and published, one can honestly to come to the conclusion that technology is taking our attention away from humanity and making us less sociable. What we can say is it likely a question of perspective.

We keep creating new technology and we use it in myriad of different ways. In the end, the choice of how to engage with new platforms and new devices is up to the individual and likely how they interact their peer group, and their influencers.  

You know what? Sometimes it’s ok to not have a definitive answer to a complex question like whether a new phone or TV will make you less sociable. If you want to watch your OLED with some friends because the football game looks amazing on it, that’s fine. If you just want to use your smartphone to check in on your parents, that’s fine too. You don't have to live tweet the game just because you can, nor do you need to insist your parents get Skype. Trust me.

In my humble opinion, it’s having the ability to make a choice on how we use our technology that defines us a human and how we choose to socialize in the first place.

For me, my choice is to keep leaning in to new technology and learning everything I can about it. I’ve found friends, support groups, and entertainment I would never have expected to find even five years ago.

So when I first saw the new LG OLED, and Mark was remarking it was a gamer's dream, my very first thought was it would be amazing to binge watch The West Wing on it with a few friends.

Mark and I are two people who by the nature of our jobs use a lot of technology every day, but when we thought about what we'd do with a new TV you got two different ideas. Even if you have two people on the same side of the debate that technology makes us more social, you still see the human side come out as we made choices.

Fortunately, the new LG OLED does what new technology should do best, and delivers for many different desires.


Business Insider

Digital Trends

The New York Times

Pew Institute

Smithsonian Magazine

The Wall Street Journal





21 Aug

Ten Things to Love About Lemons

National-lemonade-day1-blogDid you know that, yesterday August 20th was National Lemonade Day? Lemonade is probably the most popular thing we think of when it comes to lemons. There are fewer things nicer on a hot summer day than an ice-cold glass of inexplicably sweet-tart lemonade.

There’s much more to lemons than just lemonade however, and just because summer comes to an end doesn’t mean we should stop loving and celebrating them. Lemons are gifted with some pretty powerful natural substances that make them not only smell and taste good, but can do some amazing things for your body, inside and out.

Let’s get to know the four key ingredients in lemon juice and then break down just ten of the many things they can do. Lemon juice contains:

  • Citric acid – Citric acid is a weak organic acid that acts as a preservative and a part of the metabolic process in aerobic organisms. In addition to being a preservative, it also adds taste to certain foods.
  • Limonene – Limonene is a colorless, liquid hydrocarbon with a strong smell, found concentrated in the rinds of citrus. In various molecular forms, it can be used in everything from solvents to medical applications, including new research on battling cancer cells.
  • Ascorbic Acid – Ascorbic acid is a naturally occurring compound that has anti-oxidant properties. It is also known as Vitamin C, which has countless health benefits.
  • Lemon Oil – Lemon oil is a naturally occurring oil found in the rind of the lemon; unlike many other oils it is generally not distilled from the fruit but cold-pressed. In addition to being valued for its strong smell, it is also said to have antibiotic properties.

Together the ingredients in lemon juice have a very low pH number, meaning they are acidic – which is no surprise to anyone. Some people love the sour tang of lemons, but beyond taste, the acid in lemon juice can have an effect on the body, even at a cellular level.

So should we see lemons as a magic food waiting in the wings to be consumed en masse? It’s true that lemons and lemon juice is the subject of ongoing cancer research, including some interesting new tests involving other compounds they’ve been found to carry. To add perspective, remember lemons are relatively small and provide a small amount of juice. You’d have to eat a lot of lemons for their juice to have a clinical impact.

Lemons CAN be a great addition to your daily diet and routine. They help aid with some common health problems, and research may prove eating them regularly may even prove to have some important preventative effects.


We love them not only for the health problems they can address, but they are a great to add to your arsenal of sustainable living practices. How? Once you’re done with the juice or the zest, you can cut the lemon into wedges and use them to deodorize and clean everything from your garbage disposal and trash cans to making your fridge smell nice and help scrub your pots and pans. Nothing goes to waste!

So let’s get to it and geek out on just some of the ways the lemon shows us some love.

Acne – While most of our body has a naturally regulated neutral pH balance, it turns out our skin really likes the acid in lemons. Bacteria living on our skin and in our pores often cause nasty breakouts, inflammation and acne. For some, the addition of lemon juice on a cotton swab makes the skin a less of a breeding ground for overactive bacteria on the skin’s surface. Scientists in Korea have found that lemon juice not only curbs the bacteria, but also acts on chemical messengers within that triggers our immune systems to overreact to the bacteria by creating redness and even killing skin cells.

Anti-Aging – All that vitamin C in lemons can help to battle free radicals – highly unstable, quick moving molecules formed from weak chemical bonds that break apart. That creates some hungry molecules looking to repair their own bonds and when our skin cells are in their path they work to steal molecules from our tissue, breaking down cells in the process. Aging. While some of this happens naturally during metabolism, there are a lot of environmental free radicals attacking our skin that pushes the aging process along. By arming out skin, and our bodies in general, with enough vitamin C it can help slow down that process and in some cases help repair it to a degree. While you’ll now see vitamin C added to face creams and beauty treatments, you can also do a lot of good with a daily glass of warm lemon water.

Anti-Bacterial – Have you ever seen a person at the grocery store or in a tollbooth wiping their fingers on a half a lemon? Many people who handle money will use the lemon juice to wet their fingers to make the money easier to handle. There’s another reason, however. We know that the acidity from the citric acid and vitamin C of the lemon juice acts as a natural anti-bacterial agent, and frankly, who knows where that money’s been? Many people even use lemon juice as a disinfectant due to its anti-bacterial properties, but scientists say that on a large scale it may not truly kill all types of bacteria. The acid in small amounts of lemon juice have been shown to kill some bacteria, but its real strength lies in creating an atmosphere where they just don’t want to reproduce and grow. So think of the lemon juice or lemon water on your hands or fingers as a really great retardant for common bacteria.

Cancer – Can lemons cure cancer? No, not as such, but studies have shown that people with a high vitamin C intake do have lower instances of some forms of cancer. Plus we know vitamin C works against those free radicals in the body that attack our cells. Seriously damaged cells are those that lead to cancers. The citric acid in lemon juice shouldn’t be ignored either; not only does it help battle free radicals, but it is a compound that acts as a catalyst for the absorption of other essential vitamins and minerals in the body. So not only is it healthy in its own right, it helps the other healthy things you eat do their job.

National-lemonade-day2-blogDiuretic – Lemons are one of those foods that can help the body flush out extra fluids, and that’s helpful for many reasons. It can help lower blood pressure and ease a case of uncomfortable bloating. Over the counter diuretics do the job, but often they deplete your body of other things like vitamin B in the process. Lemon juice doesn’t work that way. We know that on the whole, lemon juice and its citric acid like to help the body keep and metabolize what’s good for it. Many people claim that lemon juice helps them lose weight – likely due to the loss of excess water, but it must be stressed that although darn healthy, lemons cannot be directly correlated to long-term weight loss. Think of them as a big picture health tool.

Detoxification – Many people have heard of the lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper cleanse. That is a serious concoction that should only be considered with doctor’s advice. On a more day-to-day preventative level the ingredients in lemon juice can help keep your kidneys and liver functions on the right path. The juice and oil from the peels contain a compound called d-limonene. It acts as an antioxidant that activates enzymes in the liver to fight against and break down toxins. In the kidneys the citric acid in the lemons help fight kidney stones. Again it’s the acids that help correct the alkaline levels, combined the boost it gives to binding calcium that helps your kidneys flush out the right things. Here too, think of lemons in the big picture as part of your healthy diet and not as a magic cure all.

Electrolyte Replacement – When you exert yourself or when you are sick, your body loses important salts, minerals and acids. All of these are important because they contain the ions or the electrical energy that helps your body work properly. The electrical energy communicates instructions back and forth between your cells and neural pathways. While there are many products on the market, you can make your own electrolyte replacement with lemons. Lemon juice also contains calcium and potassium, and those combined with the acids help speed the replenishment of the lost minerals and resets your pH balance. A quick recipe is 32 oz. of water, a pinch of salt, 16 oz. of lemon juice and a half a teaspoon of honey – which adds some sweetness and glucose to speed up absorption of the replenishing compounds.

Insect Repellent –Instead of using chemical sprays to ward off insects, lemons may again provide a natural alternative. Mosquitoes are particularly attracted to sweet smells and warmer temperatures among other things, but they do NOT like the sour citrus scent of lemon. It’s the essential oil of the lemon that is projecting the strong smell so you can make a natural solution of lemon oil and water and wipe yourself down to stay cool and bug free. Be careful though; the essential oil of the lemon is so strong it could irritate some people’s skin so be sure to test your level of tolerance and mix the oil with water or a non-scented cream. It’s no joke to ward off pests like mosquitoes – they carry West Nile Virus and other diseases that are serious health risks above and beyond being itchy.

Nausea – Surprisingly, for some people sipping lemon water can help stave off nausea. Citric acid helps neutralize troublesome gastric acids, much like popular antacids. Again it’s all about that balance between alkaline and acid, and citric acid can act like a regulator to even things out.  It’s not a treatment that works for everyone, and should be tried in moderation as too much of the citric acid can create an upset stomach in its own right.

Stress relief – We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of stress in our overall health. When we are stressed all our systems are knocked out of the balance our body needs. As we’ve learned from the facts above, lemons and the compounds within them love to keep body systems in balance. Plus, the acids in the lemons – ascorbic acid and citric acid help boost the immune system by amplifying the effect of vitamins and minerals you are taking in from other foods. They are like tasty little bundles of peacemaking compounds for your body. Then there is the citrusy smell. Lemon oil has been used in aromatherapy for centuries for its relaxation and calming properties Some sources believe the smell of lemons has the ability to stimulate you and make you more focused and productive, so don’t be surprised if you see some people using a citrus scent at their desks to give them an edge.

The takeaway is lemons are remarkable fuel for the body. Their powerful compounds act as a regulator when needed to reset the body’s pH balance and make the environment for bacterial growth and toxins unfriendly. Amazingly they also boost other vital vitamins and minerals so your body gets to a more overall sense of well being.

So take those versatile lemons and add the zest to your diet or start your day with a warm cup of water with lemon. All things in moderation so don’t go crazy with these simple little fruits. Just augmenting your daily diet with a little bit of lemon can bring a bigger picture of good taste, good health, and a good sense of well being.

Some day in the future, science may find a way to harness the power of these fruits to provide targeted cures, and there is no doubt they are interested in what they see. But until then, just enjoy your lemonade.


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