The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Part A

Future Nature

— Prologue —

Life is circular. There is always a start — Birth, and there is always an end — Death. In between there are other circular activities, such as breathing for example, which is common to all life forms, from bacteria to palm trees, and from tiny worms to human beings. Finally, there is sleep, which is unique to a certain group of multicellular eukaryotic organisms — i.e. Animals.

Sleep is a recurring activity, usually occurring within a circadian (“of 24 hours”) rhythm. As humans, we know we get tired at night, lie down, close our eyes, stop moving, relax… and sleep. When asleep, we all enter alternating states of consciousness. We lose track of time and become rather indifferent to outer stimuli. Dreams may appear and go. And we may or may not remember them in the morning. Whatever the experience is for each individual, each night, our brain is a primary player in this phenomenon. By altering its own electrical patterns — what is known as Brain Waves — it controls behavior, alertness, and memory.

Transcranial Magnetic StimulationSimple observations tell us that animals sleep as well. We see our dogs and cats lie down, stationary, while their shut eyelids are rapidly twitching from side to side as they dream (about us perhaps). However, scientific research provides the evidence that simpler forms of animals, such as flies and worms, sleep as well — even if “sleep” is manifested differently with these species.

As technology advances more and more, we now have methods of controlling human brain waves, as a way to induce hypnosis-like states in patients or to facilitate concentration in people suffering from ADD. These machines work primarily via sound and light, although future versions could operate on the premise of magnetic waves. There is already an experimental method used in psychiatric hospitals, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which remotely affects a person’s brain patterns.

On the exciting applications of TMS (and other futuristic methods of brain-wave manipulation) on animals, come back for next week’s issue of… Future Nature.

TMS Picture by Revolution Health

Paper Load

Our planet has been undergoing rapid and massive deforestation during the last 50 years. One of the main reasons for this brutal attack on the world’s rain forests is the need for paper. Whether toilet paper, copy paper, or romance novels — our daily use of paper is indispensable.

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Virtual Paper

To solve this problem researchers are working on the development of Virtual Paper. What this term actually refers to is a very thin and flexible screen, that can be held like a normal paper page, yet changes its appearance on demand. You could curl up in bed with it, or fold it into your pocket.

Such technology is probably still ten to twenty years in the future, but it is certain to arrive one day.

Several technical issues would have to be resolved first: how to dynamically inject color onto the page, which materials could be used that are reliable enough and extremely flexible at the same time, how to wirelessly transfer the data onto the Virtual Paper, and how to enable the paper to receive commands from its human owner.

By now scientists have managed to create dynamically injected semi-flexible papers — but only in black & white. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll read this blog on your very own virtual paper. In the meantime, please minimize the use of paper as much as possible, and maximize your efforts at recycling. Remember that you can use both sides of a page, and that most letters today could be replaced by Emails.

Picture by Technology Madness

Dr. Dolittle’s Science

We are not alone in the universe. And no, I’m not talking X-Files.

Future Nature

Mankind always had to share this Earth with countless species of animals. From cockroaches to dogs and giant squids, we had to learn how to get along with, and how to use them for our own needs. For many millennia, humans raised cattle, domesticated cats, and mounted horses with saddles. We were godlike, and they were our servants, expandable and brainless. Then, one day a man named Darwin got up and claimed that humans are but animals themselves!

By now, we all know that animals have intelligence; animals feel pain and joy; animals have social structures and personal identities; and animals even communicate with each other via complex linguistic methods. Animals such as ants communicate via their sense of smell, while squids change their skin color to communicate with their fellow molluscs. But the most fascinating research, in my opinion, is the one focusing on the auditory patterns of such species as whales and elephants.

Both marine mammals and elephants are highly social creatures. Elephants bury and mourn their dead, while dolphins procreate for the sake of pure enjoyment. Communication-wise, elephants can broadcast low-frequency vibrations to a great distance, while whales and dolphins use sonar waves to broadcast unique whistles beneath the water. For many years, science has been trying to decipher their languages.

Can Monkeys Use Language

However, we have been able to communicate directly with certain primates. Chimpanzees in captivity were taught the American Sign Language, and were even able to exchange this knowledge with their offsprings. These delicate and furry creatures proved themselves to be intelligent sentient beings.

As scientific research marches forward, and technological breakthroughs are a common sight, it wouldn’t be long before we could ask our dog “where it hurts”. In fact, many animal psychologists claim to do this sort of thing on a daily basis — Although I’m talking about something much more fundamental here. Imagine having a Canine Dictionary, or a miniature device that translates a cat’s meows into meaningful units of information.

These developments, yet to come, would raise serious ethical issues. Will we see the day when a dog is given legal representation, or circus gorillas form a labour union?

Costco’s bring your own shopping bags policy

Costco‘s, one of the worlds’ largest and must successful discount shopping chains, is also one of the most friendly from an environmental standpoint. Besides offering a wide variety of goods, including many whole food items, the chain does not give either paper or plastic shopping bags to sack groceries. Customers have to bring these themselves. There are two philosophies behind the company’s central management’s decision to do away with the ubiquitous shopping bags that people in other stores still use for not only their purchases, but at home as garbage and lunch bags, utility bags, and a world of other uses. Besides saving the chain a tremendous lot of money (grocery bags can cost one store an average of $30,000 per year) the chain is also proud of its overall contribution to protecting the environment.

CostcoAlthough mainly located in the U.S.A. and Canada, Costco also has 31 stores in Mexico, 19 in the U.K., 8 in Japan, 6 in South Korea, and 5 in Taiwan. People who shop in one the company’s wholesale stores have to either bring re-usable shopping bags with them or use cardboard boxes that contained goods sold in the store and are placed near the exits for customer use. The company also passes good buys on to their customers, including their own “house brand”, Kirkland Signature, which is seen on items ranging from food products to automobile batteries and tires. People wanting to shop at Costco purchase an annual membership for around $100 which they more than make up by the discounts they receive on their purchases during the year.

It is currently estimated that the 562 world-wide locations save more than $16 million dollars per year in bag costs and literally thousands of tons of plastic and paper waste. Other large shopping clubs, such as Sam’s Club (owned by WalMart) also supply less shopping bags or none at all. Re-usable bags are available for sale, however.

The problem of shopping bags, made from petroleum based polyester material, has been a major concern of environmentalists for years. These bags not only clutter up garbage dumps, but are discarded at beaches, forest recreation areas and reservoirs. It takes as long as a hundred years for one of these bags to disintegrate and the pollution they cause when disposed in garbage dumps eventually reach ground water aqua systems.

By eliminating these bags at check out counters, stores like Costco’s not only save money but help considerably in protecting the ecology of our planet.

Arranging Our Homes According to Feng Shui

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese doctrine, practiced for thousands of years, which is based on the belief in the flow of energy or “chi” through the universe and in its influence on our daily lives. The Feng Shui tradition, considered by many to be both a science and an art, relates to elements of nature, such as physics, philosophy, astronomy and astrology, with the intent of creating balance and ensuring harmony. It is based on the belief that by providing compatibility between nature and people’s physical surroundings, it can impact on the physical and spiritual ambience and quality of their lives.

This compatibility with nature is accomplished by the way people’s furniture and other objects are arranged, within the space of their home or workplace. According to Feng Shui tradition, good relationships, wealth, success and health are dependant on just the right kind of arrangement of our belongings in our physical environment. Therefore, it requires adherence to a set of principles, which dictate just how to arrange objects so as not to hinder the flow of positive energy in our environment and cause disharmony and negative energy.

The arrangement of objects in our living space is determined with the aid of a special compass, the bagua, which designates how to place each object in the correct position and direction and how to align it with other elements in the environment. The bagua determination of the space is just one of the seven basic steps to promote positive chi energy. These steps include: clearing out clutter; having good quality air and good quality light in your space; defining the space with the Feng Shui bagua; studying the five elements in the home; finding the personal Feng Shui birth element and planning accordingly; finding the personal Kua number to adjust directions and positions; paying particular attention to the state of the “health triangle” at home, namely, the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

In addition, it is recommended to adhere to several basic design tips: avoid long straight entrances to your home’s front door or office door; avoid sleeping with your feet to door of your bedroom; and place a mirror in areas that are stagnant, such as at the end of a hallway, in order to help the flow of energy throughout your home or office.

Good Feng Shui Bedroom Can Promise Rest, Fun, and Love

Chinese Compass
Planning a bedroom according to the principles of the ancient Chinese tradition called Feng Shui, is believed to promote a harmonious flow of positive energy which influences the different functions of the room. It will make the room more inviting, luring, exciting and calming, all at the same time. By planning a good Feng Shui bedroom, one will be able to enjoy pleasure and fun, as well as calm and a good night sleep.

When arranging the bedroom, the basic factors to be considered include the placement of the furniture, as well as airing, lighting and colors. First, the bedroom should not have any kind of equipment which is not related to its inherent functions, and therefore should not have a television set, a computer or exercise equipment. Secondly, the room should have lots of fresh air and oxygen, coming in from open windows. Therefore, plants in the bedroom are considered bad Feng Shui and are not recommended. As for the lighting arrangement of the room, there should be several levels of intensity, in order to provide various levels of energy in the room. This can be attained by use of a dimmer, although candles are considered the best Feng Shui bedroom lighting. The colors one chooses for the bedroom should be of a soothing nature, so that they will provide a good balance in the bedroom. The best Feng Shui colors for the bedroom are the “skin colors”, namely a range of colors from pale white to rich chocolate brown.

As for the décor of the room, the Feng Shui tradition places great importance on choosing the right kind of images, which will provide powerful positive energy. It recommends choosing images that reflect what one wants to see happening in one’s life.
Feng Shui provides clear guidelines for the placement of the bed itself and the quality of its components. The bed should be approachable from both sides; it should have two bedside tables; and it should never be aligned in a direct line with the door. It should be of good quality, with a good mattress and sheets made of natural fibers.

Finally, the room itself should be kept closed during the night, in order to make the most of the flow of energy in the room itself. Therefore, the bedroom doors, including closet doors and en-suite bathroom doors, should be kept closed.

These guidelines, based on the Feng Shui aspiration for harmony and balance, all aim to provide the most positive energy for those using the room, so they can achieve calm, relaxation and love, and inevitably lead healthier lives.

Bagua: The Feng Shui Compass to Balance and Harmony

Bagua is one of the main tools used to analyze the Feng Shui of any given space. Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese tradition which strives to achieve harmony and balance between the forces of nature by designing and constructing the home and workplace according to certain guidelines and principles. Translated from Chinese, Bagua literally means “8 areas”, which are: North, Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Southwest, West, and Northwest. It functions as a unique compass, in which each direction has an Element, Color, and Life Area associated with it.
Feng Shui involves five basic elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water, which interact amongst themselves in cycles defined as either productive or destructive. Each element is associated with certain Feng Shui colors, which when used properly, will bring the desired Feng Shui energy into one’s environment.

The Bagua can be superimposed over a diagram or plan of the home, office, room or desk and serves as a guide to achieving a good Feng Shui. It provides location and specific areas, which address the different aspects of one’s life. Enhancing a specific area by planning accordingly, may lead to an improvement in that area of one’s life. Thus, the Bagua is actually an energy map of any given space and a guide to optimal harmonious energy flow in that space.

The eight Feng Shui areas are:

North (compass reading from 337.5 to 22.5)
Element: Water
Colors: Blue and Black
Life Area: Career/Path in Life.

Northeast (compass reading from 22.5 to 67.5)
Element: Earth
Colors: Beige, Light Yelow, and Sandy/Earthy
Life Area: Spiritual Growth/Self-Cultivation.

East (compass reading from 67.5 to 112.5)
Element: Wood
Colors: Brown and Green
Life Area: Health & Family.

Southeast (compass reading from 112.5 to 157.5)
Element: Wood
Colors: Brown and Green
Life Area: Prosperity & Abundance.

South (compass reading from 157.5 to 202.5)
Element: Fire
Colors: Red, Orange, Purple, and Bright Yellow
Life Area: Fame & Reputation.

Southwest (compass reading from 202.5 to 247.5)
Element: Earth
Colors: Beige, Light Yelow, and Sandy/Earthy
Life Area: Love & Marriage.

West (compass reading from 247.5 to 292.5)
Element: Metal
Colors: White and Gray
Life Area: Creativity/Children.

Northwest (compass reading from 292.2 to 337.5)
Element: Metal
Colors: White and Gray
Life Area: Helpful People/Blessings.

Smart Ways For Muscle Building

Building body muscles requires more than just working out in a gym or health club. Experts in the field of sports medicine and nutrition generally agree that there are three important steps in body building for muscles that not only look good but give your body power as well. These three steps are planned and intelligent work outs, including weight lifting, proper nutrition, and adequate and proper sleep.

First of all, in work outs and weight lifting, a work out plan should be drawn up in advance with consultation from an experienced supervisor or trainer. The plan should include progressive exercises according a person’s age, present weight and height, and overall fitness goal. This plan can be changed or amended as the program progresses, and care must be made not to overdo it in the beginning as the damage to both muscles and connecting tissue can be very harmful. The progress should be gradual and reports should be made to indicate changing fitness status, progress made, etc.

Nutrition is not less important and a proper diet to benefit the workout program should be carefully planned. Certain foods containing sufficient proteins and energy building carbohydrates (carbs) should be consumed both before and after the workout. Following an intensive weight lifting and workout session, foods and food supplements containing protein derivatives are vital to nourish muscles and other tissues that have been strained and even damaged during the workout. The proper diet required can be worked out with the aid of an experienced expert on sports and fitness nutrition.

Sleep is often referred to as “nature’s great restorer”. A sufficient amount of sleep, usually between 7 and 8 hours is important for helping to restore tissues that are broken down during a strenuous workout session or from athletic competition. If this amount of sleep is difficult due to a person’s daily schedule, then emphasis on “quality sleep time” should be, including taking catnaps during the day. Many sport’s trainers agree that even a 30 minute mid-day nap can be very beneficial if done properly and without any distractions.

Contrary to what many people believe, it is possible to achieve a desired body muscle fitness program without having to resort to taking supplements that may be considered illegal in many sports and body building competition. All that’s required is to simply make a sensible plan using the three steps already mentioned and stick with it until the desired results are reached.

Eggplant: Nature’s Lesser Known Miracle Plant

Eggplant: Nature's Lesser Known Miracle Plant The humble eggplant, found in most green grocers and supermarket, is turning out to be more than just a tasty veggie on your dinner plate. While found to be rich in dietary fiber (8%) and containing ample amounts of potassium, vitamins B1, B6 and C, and protein, this very versatile plant with it large purple colored fruit has also been found to contain a substance that might actually save your life.

Recently research scientists connected with the Royal London Hospital, have found that an eggplant derived extract called BEC5, is amazing effective in treating forms of non-melanoma types of skin cancer, with some cases being cured in as little as three months. The Royal London researches carried out a study in which thousands of patients were given derivatives of the BEC5 extract, and many cases not only improved, but were actually cured. Furthermore, not only were many of these patient cured, but the squamous and basel cell types of cancer they had did not recur. In addition to being effective against skin cancers, the extract has also been found to be effective in treating other skin conditions, including those unsightly blotches known as “age spots”.

Since the studies have been carried out over a 20 year period, literally thousands of people have already benefited from being treated by something that comes from one of our most common vegetables. Eggplants are actually part of the nightshade vegetable family that includes both tomatoes and potatoes. The plant is eaten extensively in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, as well as in man European countries. In addition to the already mentioned nutrients, eggplants also contain powerful anti-oxidants called phytonutrients. The plant is very versatile, even though it has a somewhat bitter taste. By salting slices or cubes of eggplant for several hours, much of the bitter taste can be removed. Very young eggplant fruit is also less bitter, and many people like to pickle them in the same manner as they would cucumbers and other vegetables. Eggplant can be grilled, fried, baked, or boiled; and many delicious salads are also made from them, especially in Middle Eastern countries.

Because this vegetable is relatively low in price, the BEC5 extract is also not expensive as compared to medicines and anti-aging preparations that are supposed to perform the same functions. The extract can usually be in holistic medicine pharmacies and also in whole foods stores that also stock a big selection of natural herbal remedies and products.

The Wonder of Dates

Have you ever wondered why dates are so much mentioned in the Bible and were often used as food by desert camel caravans? The main reason that dates have been so highly rated as a food sources has a lot to do with the nutritional composition of one of Mother Nature’s most nutritious foods.

Dates have been in existence for thousands of years and have probably been eaten by Man and other animals, ever since the fruit itself came into being. There are several varieties of dates, but the most common one is from the date palm, which by its Latin term is Phoenix Dactylifera. Dates are known by the word Tamar in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. The dates from the date palm are very high in carbohydrates, fiber, and potassium. They are relatively low in calories with an average size date containing only 25 calories.

In America this species is known as the California or Perny Date, and is popular because of its candy-like flavor and ease in digestion. These dates can either be eaten in their natural state of made into a number of dessert dishes including cakes, candies, and as a filling for a number of baked goods. A syrupy version also resembles honey.

From a nutritional standpoint, a serving of 100 grams of dates contain the following nutritional elements.

Carbohydrates 75gram, including 63 grams of sugar
Dietary fiber 8 gram
Protein 2.5 gram
Vitamin C 0.4 mg

Dates can be stored for long periods without need for refrigeration. They are an ideal snack for both children and adults, and are easy to carry by hikers and campers.

In addition to being found in most supermarkets, organic varieties can be found in whole foods and natural foods stores. Many organic varieties have even higher levels of elements like potassium, even more than bananas. Dates are one of the most important agricultural produce fruits in Middle Eastern countries. Egypt has the largest amount of dates produced per year with more than 1,170 tons. This is followed by Saudi Arabia with 970 tons and Iran with 880 tons. In fact, dates are such an important food product in many Middle Eastern and Asian counties that many regions are known for the quality dates that are grown and produced there.

In addition to a number of food products, dates are also made into vinegar and alcohol. Date wines and liqueurs are often prized for their qualities. Dates also contain a substance known as tannin which is used in many countries as a medicine to treat conditions such as intestinal problems and in a syrupy form to treat bronchial problems.