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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

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.


8 May

When Earth Makes Its Moves

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the Pacific just between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands on Thursday. This follows on the heels of the 7.8 quake in Nepal. A look at daily activity shows smaller quakes happening all over the world, especially in the infamous “Ring of Fire” region around the edges of the Pacific Ocean where tectonic activity is especially high.

What is happening when these earthquakes hit? Though it might not feel like it to us, the crust and mantle –essentially the “skin’ around the earth’s inner cores are always slowly moving. The pieces that make up these layers are bumping up against each other as they travel; the areas where they make contact are called fault lines.


When two plates of crust get stuck against each other, the energy of the movement builds up. Eventually that stored up energy is released with force when the two pieces finally come unstuck. The location where the energy is released is called the hypocenter under the surface of the crust, and the epicenter on the surface. The energy released heads outwards from the center, shaking the earth in waves.

One plate may slip up while the other slips down under the other in what’s called a subduction zone. In fact, in the case of the recent Nepal quake, the way the two plates came to rest caused Mt. Everest to lose height! Subduction zones often become areas of heightened activity.

One of the most challenging things about earthquakes is the drama isn’t over after the “main” shock. After the initial devastation at the epicenter, the earth is still settling and reshuffling itself into place causing further shakes called aftershocks. Some can be quite severe, frequent, and go on for extended periods of time – even years. It’s what makes recovery in remote areas quite hard to manage. Buildings and infrastructure have become unstable and more susceptible to the rattling – even if it is of lesser magnitude.

So can we predict earthquakes? The most reliable answer is to say not definitively. There have been cases in China where monitoring set up in high-risk regions have recorded questionable activity and given officials time to evacuate. However, just as often a quake will come with no warning at all.

The earth is unpredictable. While we have become extremely knowledgeable over the years about where trouble zones are for earthquakes and volcanoes around the world, we still don’t have a full understanding of when devastating events may occur. Fortunately, there are scientists and researchers all over the globe studying the earth’s hotspots with a keen eye, and those who head into the devastation afterwards to gain clues that might help us create informed, reliable warnings in the future.

We hope you’ll find deeper answers in our playlist above, all about when the earth makes its moves.



US Geological Service


The Telegraph


20 Nov

Watch Snowstorm Blow Into Buffalo Over Lake Erie

Buffalo is buried under more than five feet of snow today.

As the storm rolled in over Lake Erie, Alfonzo Cutaia shot this stunning 30-second time-lapse video from the window of his office building:

A second video, by Jason Holler and Joseph DeBenedictis, is possibly even more dramatic, as a wall of snow sweeps over downtown Buffalo:

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23 Oct

It's Thursday, So Here's a Thorny Devil

Earlier this week, we met a spider the size of a puppy. Today, here's another weird creature: the thorny devil.

One of the strangest-looking animals out there, the thorny devil lives in Australia and is able to absorb water through its skin to cover its entire body. Take a look:

If you want to meet more strange creatures, head over to

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20 Oct

There's A Puppy-Sized Spider In The Rainforest

Next time you're trekking through the rainforest in Guyana, look out for a spider the size of a small dog.

Entomologist Piotr Naskrecki spotted the massive South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) on a nighttime walk through the rainforest. As he writes on his blog,

"Although far from being the largest member of the subphylum Chelicerata – this honor belongs to horseshoe crabs – Goliath birdeaters are ridiculously huge for a land arthropod. Their leg span approaches 30 cm (nearly a foot) and they weigh up to 170 g – about as much as a young puppy."

When Naskrecki approached the creature, as detailed in his blog post titled 'The sound of little hooves in the night,' the spider "would start rubbing its hind legs against the hairy abdomen" and made a hissing noise.

See photos of the puppy-sized spider on The Smaller Majority.

Learn about more alarming arachnids on Science Channel:

Trapdoor Spider

Ogre-Faced Spider

Tent Spider Colony

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16 Oct

Earth Just Had the Hottest September On Record

This was the warmest September since record-keeping began 134 years ago, new NASA data reveals, marking "September [2014] as the 355th month in a row that was hotter than the 20th-century average," according to DNews.

Furthermore, Slate notes, "the last six months were collectively the warmest middle half of the year in NASA’s records -- dating back to 1880."

El Niño, a period of unusually warm sea surface temperatures, is still to come this year.

What Are El Niño and La Niña?

Global Warming, Shrinking Glaciers and CO2 Emissions

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8 Sep

Newly-Discovered Dinosaur Weighed As Much As 7 T. Rex

Just how big was Dreadnoughtus, a newly-discovered dinosaur that roamed Earth around 77 million years ago?

Absolutely massive.

"It weighed as much as a dozen African elephants or more than seven T. rex," Drexel University paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara, who discovered the dinosaur in Argentina, said in a statement. "Shockingly, skeletal evidence shows that when this 65-ton specimen died, it was not yet full grown. It is by far the best example we have of any of the most giant creatures to ever walk the planet."

The 85-foot-long, 65-ton creature had "a body the size of a house, the weight of a herd of elephants, and a weaponized tail," Lacovara described. As such, Dreadnoughtus' name was chosen because it means "fears nothing."

Dreadnoughtus is part of a group of supermassive planet-eating dinosaurs called titanosaurs.

 How did a Tyrannosaurus rex bite compare with a modern alligator? Find out:

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2 Sep

Cannibal Crickets Are Invading The U.S. (But No Need To Panic, Probably)

Voracious, rapacious crickets are flooding into the United States and there's "no end to the invasion in sight." Good luck, and may the force be with you.

Wait, let's back up.

Greenhouse camel crickets (Diestrammena asynamora) are native to Asia and weren't thought to be common in the U.S. until one was discovered by happenstance in the home of a North Carolina State University.

In a sample of 10 homes in Raleigh, North Carolina, researchers "found large numbers of greenhouse camel crickets, with higher numbers being found in the areas of the yards closest to homes."

"The good news is that camel crickets don’t bite or pose any kind of threat to humans," Dr. Mary Jane Epps, lead author of a paper -- "Too big to be noticed: cryptic invasion of Asian camel crickets in North American houses" -- about the research, said in a statement.

Camel crickets have insatiable appetites for anything and everything -- even members of their own species -- but the researchers say the public shouldn't panic about the foreign invasion.

"Because they are scavengers, camel crickets may actually provide an important service in our basements or garages, eating the dead stuff that accumulates there," the paper's co-author Dr. Holly Menninger, said in a release.

Can't get enough? Meet a reclusive spider with a ravenous appetite:

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28 Aug

WATCH: Scientists Raised 111 Fish To Walk On Land

Screen-Shot-2014-08-28-at-10.50.59-AMFish that can walk on land and breathe air exist, and they're providing important clues to how their ancient ancestors evolved from swimming in the sea to living on land.

In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers at McGill University studied Polypterus senegalus (the Senegal bichir or "dinosaur eel"), fish with "functional lungs and strong fins" that can pull themselves out of the water.

The scientists raised 111 juvenile bichir on land for eight months and monitored changes compared to a control group of fish remaining in water.

"Fish raised on land walk with a more effective gait," lead author Emily Standen told The Verge. "They plant their legs closer to the body’s midline, they lift their heads higher, and they slip less during that walking cycle."

Scientists found major differences between land-raised and aquatic-raised bichir, NBC News reports:

"They found that the land-raised fish lifted their heads higher, held their fins closer to their bodies, took faster steps, undulated their tails less frequently and had fins that slipped less often than bichir raised in water. The land-raised fish also underwent changes in their skeletons and musculature that probably paved the way for their changes in behavior. All in all, these alterations helped bichir move more effectively on land."

So, what does it all mean for the study of evolution?

"This is the first example we know of that demonstrates developmental plasticity may have facilitated a large-scale evolutionary transition," Hans Larsson of McGill University said in a statement, "by first accessing new anatomies and behaviours that could later be genetically fixed by natural selection."

For more, learn how another species of fish also evolved a unique method for getting a meal:

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